In spring and summer, when my grandfather needed a break from the cows, he went fishing. His mother, Lydia Jane Hall, recorded some of his outings in her journals.
Saturday, May 24, 1913 – “Cloudy and Rainy. Ellsworth, John, and Edgar gone to Paug Pond fishing. Had extremely good luck – caught several large pickerel, the largest weighing over three pounds – enough fish for a dinner for three families. Never brought home so many before.” – Lydia Jane Hall
Wednesday, June 24, 1914 – “Damp foggy morning, very warm until toward evening, then a little cooler…Ellsworth and Agnes spending the day at Paug Pond fishing with John and Mabel. Came home with sunburned faces and few fishes.” – Lydia Jane Hall
Sunday, May 24, 1921 – “A fine day. Ellsworth went early this morning with John Leavenworth to spend the day in the fields by the trout stream…I have been sitting on the walk enjoying the works of nature. Henry, Ellen, Mother Norton, Norton Van Dyne, Jane, and John came to see us. Ellsworth and John home safely with the speckled beauties.” – Lydia Jane Hall
Ellsworth passed his love of fishing to his children. My mother loved to fish, and she was good at it. Her brother, my uncle Francis, must have loved it too.
Monday, May 5, 1924 – Francis has a new fish pole and has caught one fish – thinks he is smart.” Lydia Jane Hall
When my brother and I were young, we dug night-crawlers for bait and sat on the bank of the cow pond or at the edge of the reservoir to watch our red and white bobbers and wait for a bite. I remember hoping I would catch a speckled beauty and not a spiky bullhead. But the speckled beauty I remember best is the one kept in the cow trough near the bullpen.
The bull lived in a stall on the lower level of the barn. His presence dominated the space. I knew bulls were dangerous, and I had been warned to be careful, but I visited him anyway. I liked to look through the slats of the pen and watch the big ring in his nose shake as he snorted and stomped. Then I’d go back outside to visit the fish. Someone – maybe my grandfather or my uncle – kept a trout in the cold spring-fed water of the cow trough. I don’t know why the fish was there, and I’m sure it wasn’t always the same fish, but after the excitement of the bull, it calmed me to put my hand in the cold water and try to touch the fish as it swam around and around in its watery exile.
On Monday: The Front Door