Thursday, April 22, 2010

Warning: Catfish were harmed in the making of this post.

Today we returned to the pond. Never fear, we were very careful this time to remove all of the dangerous fins. Here are the pics.

This is the Fish that Dan caught.

Here it is again.
Not much for a noodler, but not too bad for a kid. 

This is the Fish that the 2nd Mate caught.

And again.

Getting him off the hook. 

Ruler, what ruler?

Back to the pond. 

Wait for it....

Got him. Not bad. 

The fisherfolk and their catch. From left to right, 1st AB's little one, 2nd Mate's, and the 1st AB's big ones. 

AKA, Dinner.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

A word over the campfire and concerning Fish.

Well, Spring is here, and has finally brought some warmth, and greeness, inspiring us to try out the newly opened-for-the-season parks.

Last week, we hit a KOA. These were, at one point in time, anathema, "Hotels without walls" and all that. But sometimes, a hotel without walls is exactly what the doctor ordered and this was one of them. A nice place to ease us out of the winter routine and back into the camping life. A pleasant place to remind ourselves that we are a crew, and a chance to air out the tent, who came away with a new name. That's right. The tent's name is now Peggy. The boys spent the entire stay lounging around reading and fishing. They caught several stringers of chubs out of a creek that no one has ever really caught anything out of.We cooked s'mores every night, and tried out s'mores with chocolate-swirl marshmallows. The Commodore says that they taste like coco puffs, but everyone else liked them.

 A fire is a very humanizing thing. almost as humanizing as making bread. 

 The Setup: Tallulah in the back, Peggy, and then the sewing machine on the table so that the Commodore could make some new curtains. 

The First day in the park, we decided to go sightseeing in the nearby town. The Admiral was still at work, and since we had no other mode of transportation, we packed up Tallulah and went to town. We discovered the Starved Rock Lock and Dam and settled in to watch for passing barges. We were wandering around the museum part, when the Commodore's communication device went off. It was the Admiral, wondering where his house had gone. The Commodore calmly informed him that we had left the coordinates on the kitchen table. Hmmm. And then she asked the lady at the desk what the address of the place was. The Admiral's GPS failed him anyway, and he took the very, very long way home. 
The next day, we set up Peggy, and went out again. This time, at least, when the Admiral came back to the campground, he had a tent to wait in. 

Finally, the night before we left, the crew and I (minus the 2nd Mate, who opted for luxury) slept in the tent in freezing weather for the first time. We had done so for four nights by that time, in steadily lowering temperatures and had discovered that air mattresses are perfectly horrid in cold weather. The best way to keep warm is just to all cram in under as many blankets as possible.
By the time we left, we had gotten back into the swing of camping, or at least kamping, so much so, that we had even recovered the skill of lighting the fire with only one match.
Note: It is very important to use only one match. I do not really know why, only that it is shameful to use more than one. It is kind of like the pegs-in-the-board game, only easier. It does not count if the match doesn't light because you scratched all of the stuff off of the top while trying to light the match on the fire ring. It does not count against you if you subsequently use an entire newspaper shredded into tiny bits to keep the fire going until it decides to catch on the sticks. It does count against you if the wind blows your match out. That first flame is delicate and must be guarded carefully.

So then we departed from that pleasant place and moved on down the road to Keokuk, IA. Here at Hicory Haven campgrounds, we have found the usual conveniences along with a bonus. There is a pond, full, the owner assures us, of large, savory catfish. Catfish is a particular favorite of both the Admiral and the Commodore, and most of the crew members.Fishing, therefore, became not a luxurious pastime, but a race for the delicacy. So it began. The Commodore and the younger crew members fished between their school work hours. The Commodore took every smelly food in the house and threw it together to make bait. At last, she went out to catch a catfish, leaving the crew to clean up supper. The Admiral was stricken by a bout of worry, and insisted that it was not safe for the Commodore to fish alone. I, as Captain, was ordered to go and stay with her, and for that reason, I witnessed what happened. The First Mate came down to ask a question, which the Commodore could not answer from the pond. She left her pole in the care of the first Mate, and went to the house. Dutiful sailor that he is, the Mate became entranced watching fish strike the far off surface of the pond. I, as Captain, was paying somewhat more attention to his line. I knew that it was useless to watch my own line, as the fish had been swimming around it and picking bugs off the surface of the water for at least a quarter of an hour. I saw the Mate's line tighten, and called a warning to him. He responded admirably, and hauled the creature ashore with great skill. Knowing that catfish are extremely good at leaping off of a line, and knowing that they are dangerous to touch, he proceeded to pin the beastie to the ground with his feet. I, as the Captain, called to him to hold on, and ran for the Admiral. It was recently stated by one of his co-workers that there are not many things that will make the Admiral run. I am amused to add that a catfish is on the list of those things. At some point during the First Mate vs. the Catfish struggle, the fishing line got broken, and the fish was once again  in the process of escaping, but was held back again by the First Mate's feet. Fortunately, the Admiral arrived in time to secure the fish and we returned to Tallulah triumphant. The Admiral had to leave early in the morning, so he decided to skin the fish at once and have done with it. He was rather in a hurry, and forgot, as anyone might, to cut of the top fin. There was a great deal of banging and fighting the fish, and in the process, the catfish flipped himself off of the table and right onto the commodore's foot. Fin first. There was a great deal of commotion then, as the Commodore was bleeding quite profusely from the wound in her foot, which we imagined must be very severe. Fortunately, I have, for some years been worried about injuring myself and having to create a makeshift bandage. I was ready at once with cloths and a bandanna to staunch the flow of blood. The Admiral hastily rectified his error and removed the dangerous fin, then left the fish to the First Mate to be readied for storage. He then took the Commodore to the closest hospital. The emergency room was very busy at that time. Of course, it was only natural that someone would ask the Commodore what had happened. She admitted that she had been impaled by a catfish. One of the persons waiting then informed the Commodore that he had frequently been spiked by catfish. He caught them by hand, a practice known as catfish noodling. The Emergency room staff were very sympathetic. The doctor googled what to do for catfish spikes, and discovered that although the amount of blood shed looked as though the Commodore had a four inch gash in her foot, she had actually only sustained a puncture wound. Then, the x-ray tech kindly pointed out what a shame it was that she got spiked, because "it's a great night for catching catfish!" And so it was, but we did not care to do any more fishing just then, and we have not got back down to the pond yet. Perhaps Friday, says the Commodore, when she can hobble a bit better.

The First Mate, slightly nervous about his fish.

Just look at that catfish. 

And the official measurement is...umm...well, he's longer than the ruler.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Special Post

A special news alert.
The Commodore has chosen to present her own version of the events of our trip. Her point of view can be found here : Almost by Bread Alone.
The younger members of the crew have decided to offer their opinion on the entertainment available to them while journeying. Their opinions can be found here: 3 Boys and Some Books.

Special note to the Master of Swampwood: All you have to do is click on the colorful words. You will be immediately transported. You really should click, they have some more pictures there.