Fishing Calmly During Turbulent Times

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The Story

The weekends were always special. They were a time for families to get together, enjoy each other’s company, and cook good food. Many businesses were closed on the weekend, so most folks were home with their families. This highly anticipated and well-deserved reprieve for those who were underpaid, overworked, and more than likely, disrespected, was celebrated between family and friends. A vigilant, proud people, marginalized by their counterparts and denied basic freedoms and opportunities in the Deep South, they persevered and laid down their burdens, if only temporarily, to celebrate what they did have: their faith, one another, and the good times.

Ma ’Dear and her friends seemed to cook pan-fried whole White Perch or Sac-a-lait every weekend. We would listen to popular R&B music on a big wooden stereo system and dance around playfully while the adults laughed, talked, and sipped their favorite “adult beverages.” The fish were no larger than the size of an adult hand, but they were, and still are, my favorite fish to eat when I can get some. We were instructed on how to remove the tiny fish bones and given slices of bread, just in case a bone became lodged in our throats. I am unsure if this actually helped, but we did as we were told to do. They would also cook homemade hushpuppies, fries, and potato salad. Of course, I would eat everything except the hushpuppies!

These gatherings are forever etched in my memories. I can still visualize my grandmother in her big dresses moving around the kitchen while preparing our favorite foods. She lovingly crafted the most flavorful foods. She would scoop out huge clumps of lard from a big can, which she used to fry fish, chicken, frog legs, and other dishes like homemade onion rings, perfectly golden-fried and crispy. She seemed to put a bit of lard in most of her food. I questioned the reasoning behind this practice when I was in my teens; this was good eating back then, but not always healthy.

We went fishing a few times when I was younger. I looked forward to casting my line and being near the water, but I didn’t dare to touch those slippery, slimy, gooey earthworms that seemed jarringly faceless. I could not determine their heads from their tails. When we went fishing with our cane poles, if nobody put a worm on the hook for me, I’d just watch everyone else fish. We would fish for hours. I never caught the “big one,” but on occasion, I’d reel in a fish too small to eat. I’d hesitantly toss it back into the water for another lucky fisherman to catch on a later day. In retrospect, it was really never about “the catch”; fishing was more about the fellowship, the fun, and the escape from everyday life. And because of that, fishing days were always good days.

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