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In between adventures involving calves or tarantulas, Uncle Ernie took us exploring the Imperial Valley. We took trips to the Salton Sea, to the nearby mountains, and to one amazing phenomenon he called “the mud pots.” They were pools of mud and hot water that bubbled to the earth’s surface, an area now known as the Salton Sea Geothermal Area, but I thought they looked like things you might see on Mars in a Tom Corbett, Space Cadet episode.
We got to see the huge All American Canal and local irrigation canals that would later serve as our own private swimming holes and manmade Sunbeam Lake in Seeley, where we fished for bass, catfish, and bluegill. We all had our own fishing poles, and Dad taught us right from the beginning how to tie on a hook and bait it. Sometimes we used a cheese mixture Dad made, and sometimes we used worms. I think I spent more time untying tangles and knots in my fishing line than I did with a hook in the water.


I did catch a few sometimes, though, and take them home where Mom and Auntie Honey would fry them for dinner. Catfish was okay, but I hated all the bones in the bluegill. The fact of the matter is I never did grow to enjoy fishing like my brother and my dad did. They loved to fish. They loved everything about it, from getting up before dawn to proudly delivering the catch of the day to Mom for dinner. And even if we didn’t have fish for dinner, they always thought it was a great day of fishing. I remember one time Dad was fishing at Sunbeam Lake and had hooked what appeared to be a big one. He fought it all the way into the shore, and when the bass reached shallow water, it gave a desperate leap and spit the hook out. When Dad saw the fish flop and spit, he wasn’t about to let it get away. Into the lake he went—hat, glasses, boots, and all—splashing into the shoreline mud. The bass didn’t have a chance against that kind of determination.
Oh, I always went along and dutifully baited my hooks and untangled my knots, but truthfully I would have been happier staying home and reading a book. Years later, with two boys of my own, like my dad before me, I took them fishing and taught them what Dad had taught me: the nine-loop hook knot and how to gut and clean the caught fish. They both took to fishing the same as Dad and my younger brother. They still love fishing to this day, and my seven-year-old grandson is following right along in those footsteps.
NEXT WEEK: WE LEARN HOW TO SHOOT AND SOME TRASHY BUSINESS.