Thursday, January 22, 2009

Monster Cats

It seems unreasonably cold in southeastern Utah this winter. Having been spoiled by more moderate thermo-scores, I often find myself seeking hot spots to mitigate my shakes and shivers. After a quick trip to Salt Lake City, Laurie and I were returning to Blanding late Wednesday night, when we discovered the car thermometer was at eighteen degrees Fahrenheit. "Dang," I foolishly complained to my sometimes less-than-compassionate companion, "I'm freezing, and just can't seem to get warm." My dear wife answered without hesitation or reservation,"Oh don't be a sissy, you are getting to be such an old man!" There are times when I don't know why I even speak to that woman!

Hot Air Balloon over Bluff Utah
Hot Air Balloon over Bluff, Utah.

To be fair, the comment was not altogether unwarranted, and may have emerged from my constant haranguing on the drive to and from the city. I was, however, only trying to keep the conversation engaging and lively on a long and routine run. What I intended as thoughtful discussion came off antagonistic and disruptive to by my wife who was trying to concentrate on the road. Isn't it funny how two people can see things so differently. Anyway, Laurie's comment caused me to to become more introspective and I drifted back to a warmer, more carefree time; to summers when Craig, Steve and I roamed the small river valley of Bluff, unfettered by time, space or responsibility.

At that time, my brothers and I would trip around town in our bare feet, looking for adventure in places like Mrs. Bourne's rustic storage shacks. This eighty-something year old woman would scour the countryside for treasured relics by night and store them away from the light of day in her dilapidated out buildings. Only we knew how to breach the back door to rediscover and liberate those bent, broken and mostly useless thingamajigs.

Bob and Opal Howell's door yard was of interest as well. Their prim and proper daughter, Margaret Ann, could generally be found tramping about the property. I remember Margaret Ann was usually encased in pink chiffon, white lace and black patent leather Shirley Temple shoes. She was prone to spontaneous emotional combustion, was easily ignited, and man could she cuss a blue streak. Highly entertaining!

Our good friend Roy Pearson owned and operated the local gas station near the highway. Roy knew how to keep us in check and was always good for a job emptying the trash, stacking tires, sweeping the floors and cleaning the glass. Payment was usually a small handful of quarters housed in his deep pockets.

We would then make haste next door to Clemma Arthur's Turquoise Cafe and spend our liquid assets on powdered donuts and orange soda. Reinvesting in the local economy came naturally to us. Because she had a den of bad news bears that did not tolerate any nonsense, we did not cause much of a fracas around Clemma or her business. Her boys, and for that matter her daughters, would slap us silly at the slightest hint at impropriety. They were just older than we, but did not like to be trifled with. No indeed!

Roy was also good for more education and entertainment down by the river. He fished a traut line for "Monster Cats". Roy taught us that a burlap potato sack filled with fermented, "tender vittles" could become a powerful catfish attractant. You simply tied one end of a stout rope to a tree or bush, secured the other to the sack and chucked the bag into a deep river hole. The heavenly aroma of chum emanating from the open weave of the sack would waft downstream and draw in catfish from as far away as Lake Powell.

The persistent, hunger-stimulated cats would besiege the fabric for days at a time. Roy would then lay out a suitably supple fishing line, with multiple baited hooks in close proximity to the potent gunnysack patiently anticipating catfish fillets. This may just be the origin of the term "bait and switch", but I can't be sure. I do know that the practice is effective, at least where ravenous catfish are concerned. We were wise enough not to steal from our friend, but, in our minds, checking the size and number of his catch did not constitute theft; just curiosity, even when the fish got away.

Psychological experts claim that we are the product of our experiences. Somewhere, somehow I must have picked up the antagonistic trait. Whether it comes from growing up in a free-spirited environment, being associated with an outrageous bunch of Bluffoons or just the luck of the draw I cannot say. The fact is, I have it, and it is as ingrained in my being as surely as is the town of Bluff itself. I consider myself fortunate to have a thoughtful, loving mate who tolerates me (to a certain degree), and is spirited enough to let me know when I have crossed the line into no-man's land. If, however, that woman ever calls me an, "old sissy" again, as the kids say, "It is on!"

With Warm Regards,
Barry, Steve and the Team.

Copyright 2009 Twin Rocks Trading Post.

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