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Possumhaw: Observations of a crappie fisherman


Shannon Bardwell



"I've managed to convince my wife that somewhere in the Bible it says, 'Man cannot have too many shotguns and fishing poles.'"  


-- Norman Schwarzkopf 




When the lakes, creeks and rivers fill up and when the flowers bloom and the grasses green Sam's out to find the first crappie "spawners." Every few days the big brown delivery truck leaves a package from "Monk's Crappie," Sam's favorite fishing supplier. 


Once I asked the local owner of a sportsman shop if he carried much in the way of fishing supplies. He said, "Nope. Fishermen are a secret bunch. They don't want other fishermen to see what they are buying. In fact, some tournament fishermen have their bait delivered right to the dock."  


The spring crappie spawn is the highlight of a crappie fisherman's existence. Our freezer has been so filled with previous seasons' crappie spawners that care had to be taken when opening the freezer so as not to have a frozen bag of crappie fall out on your foot.  


One day Sam decided to take all but a few bags of crappie to church and hand them out like party favors. This went over big. And all I had to say about it was Sam had to get busy catching some more crappie, which Sam agreed to with a smile. 


When Sam returns from a fishing trip we sit down with a cup of coffee and he tells me all about the trip. He'll say whether he put in at Charles Younger landing or Leroy's landing or Stinson Creek or Camp Pratt or maybe took a run over to Grenada Lake. He'll tell me what and how many fish he caught. I learned early on "caught" is different from "kept." Also, he may have brought his catch home or he may have given the fish to another fisherman. It's all in the catching for Sam.  


This year after a couple of fishing excursions Sam said, "I've seen the oddest thing. First I hear them and then I've seen like herds of squirrels running through the woods up on the banks where I'm fishing." 


He googled squirrels and did some reading but nowhere found where squirrels gathered in groups; they were referred to as solitary mammals. It did say a group was called a dray, or a drey or a scurry. These were terms used for nesting squirrels with two to eight kits, but not communities of squirrels.  


The research showed squirrels to be very curious creatures and highly intelligent, as anyone would know who has tried to maintain birdfeeders.  


Sam was convinced perhaps the herding up was mating season so he called a neighbor, considered a squirrel aficionado and a learned man of the woods. The neighbor confirmed it was a mating ritual, observing sometimes 10 squirrels in a run. He said an older hunter always told him not to shoot the female; then he could shoot all the males he wanted because, regardless of the shooting, they'd keep on coming.  


Sam asked, "Well, how do you know which one is the female?" 


The learned neighbor paused, "I guess she'd be the one with long hair and wearing a dress."


Shannon Rule Bardwell is a Southern writer living quietly in the Prairie.


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