I’ve caught fish everwhichaway they can be.

On the Chattahoochee River I’ve used nets, gigs,

trot lines, and bare hands. Even electricity.

One day Braleigh and me caught so many

that two-ended punt boat nearly went under.

We were boys and didn’t know any better.

Catfish were plentiful as water for all

we could figure. That was back then.

We’d wrap the copper pipe and drop it in,

then use the telephone battery to make a wet cell

of that whole muddy dogleg of the river.

The small channel cats would rise, then

recover, but big whites and blues would float,

belly up, and we’d haul ’em in, fill the boat

to the oarlocks with fresh fish to eat or sell.

Their backs shined so bright it was a wonder.

But let me tell you this: it was also a danger.

If you caught the coil wrong or touched iron

binding on that old craft with a live wire,

it was enough to knock you on your ass.

A man could get killed just trying to catch fish.

Of course, such a method was a sin against Jesus

and man, fish and fresh water, but we didn’t savvy.

We were just free as gnats for the summer,

a little enterprising and a little hungry.

Besides, we hadn’t heard of sport or mercy.

That was a cooter’s age ago. That was then.

catfish

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