Wednesday, April 05, 2006

"You Get a Line, I'll Get a Pole..."

It turns out that old song just represents the trappings of the bourgeois elite. Who needs a line and a pole to fish when God gave you two perfectly good hands? (Editor's Note: If God did not, in fact, give you two perfectly good hands, dude, I'm so sorry; I didn't know.)

I speak, of course, of noodling, the most abhorrent practice to take place in water since Rob Schneider scored with Kirstie Alley in the hot tub at the local homeless shelter.

Catfish have come to dominate my life lately. Here is how it happened:

Last Tuesday I went over to the other side of the office and saw an empty plate with a container of tartar sauce on a woman’s desk. (Sidelight: said woman mysteriously stopped working here today.) I asked her if she had had fish and chips for lunch, and she said it had been catfish. I said, “I see catfish on the menu at a lot of places and I’m scared to try it because I’ve never had it before.” She recommended it. A neighboring woman overheard us and asked if I had seen the documentary movie, Okie Noodling. Despite my urgent pleas that she desist, she went on in great detail about exactly how noodling is done.

I came back to my desk and spent some company time looking up noodling on the Internet. It turns out that a former Miss Teen USA once told the judges that she enjoyed hand fishing, a synonym for noodling. And yet, she still won, which goes to show the judges had no idea what hand fishing was.

Quick synopsis of noodling: you get in the river and dive under the bank to stick your hand in a hole, hoping it has a catfish and not a snake or a snapping turtle. Should you turn out to have found a catfish, you let it bit your arm, then you grab it by the gills and try to wrestle it to the surface before you drown. I guess there is some debate among noodlers whether or not you should use a glove. Without a glove, a catfish can tear the flesh from your arm, but with a glove, it’s harder to tell when you have a catfish.

I went out of town that evening, driving to Columbia, Missouri with a coworker. One day our meeting ended a little early, so he wanted to go to Bass Pro Shop, a mammoth outdoors store, complete with its own ten-acre outdoor lake. He browsed for fishing things while I realized there was a whole nother sect of the Common Man with whom I had nearly nothing in common. I love baseball and bratwurst, but when they start to delve into sport hunting and NASCAR, I bow out.

Well, in Bass Pro Shop was an enormous fish tank with a lot of different fish bumping their heads into the glass. Up swam a sizable catfish (although according to the Internet, they can get much, much larger). It was easily the ugliest fish I had ever seen.

But on Saturday my family and I went to some buffet restaurant in Nauvoo and they had catfish. It was the perfect situation: if I hated it, I hadn’t just wasted my entrĂ©e. I could go back and get more of something else. So I tried it. And it was surprisingly good. I made Persephone try a bite, and then I even talked Crazy Jane into it. (Grunty Joe refuses to eat most things that aren’t applesauce or bread.)

Now I want another opportunity to eat catfish. The draw might be powerful enough to entice me to go noodling. And let’s hear it for the coolest Miss Teen USA ever, Kristi Addis.