One a particularly hot day back in my developmental stages, Cousin and I were sitting with the Old Man in my grandparent’s living room, absorbing moisture from the water cooler in the window.
“There’s nothing to do,” I complained.
The TV was on, but no one was watching the snowy screen. The sound came through all right, though.
“I can fix that.” The Old Man pointed toward the screen. “Go out and turn the antenna.”
“It’s awful hot out there.”
“It’ll be hotter in here if you don’t.”
Ignoring Cousin’s smirk, I went through the kitchen, out the screen door, and grabbed the thick pole rising up beside the porch. Reaching maybe fifty feet into the hair, the antenna had somehow turned away from the signal coming from Sherman. Using both hands, I gave the pole a twist.
Cousin’s voice came through the screen.
A flush of heat washed over me.
“You come out and turn it then!”
The Old Man’s voice took over.
“Go back just a hair.”
I twisted the other direction.
“That’s it! Now, spray some water on the straw and it’ll be cooler when you come back in.”
The sun pounded my head and shoulders as I used the hose to wet all three sides of the cooler. “I hate the summertime.” That chore finished, I went back inside. He was right, it was a little cooler, but I was still bored.
“There’s nothing to do.”
“Read a book.” Already tired of my complaining, the Old Man spoke with a sharp tone, telling me I was getting on his last nerve. “You’re always wanting more time to read, or I have a better idea, if you don’t have anything to do, you can go clean out the smokehouse.”
“I’m going up to the hay barn.”
The Old Man stretched out on the couch.
I grabbed my BB gun and Cousin followed me outside. We took our time walking up to the pole barn. Open on three sides, there was enough of a breeze to make it tolerable. Feeling tired and listless, I crawled through the pipe gate and sat on a hay bale.
“There’s nothing to do.”
He kicked at an empty paper feed sack.
“School starts next week.”
“For once I don’t care. I’m bored.”
Seeing a dirt dauber nest on a rafter, he took careful aim and shot it. The mud nest exploded and small larvae fell to the ground. Satisfied with his results, he shot another one. With nothing else to do, I joined in and after several carefully placed volleys, we had a handful of potential bait.
Looking up, I saw a huge red wasp nest.
“You know, those wasps that haven’t hatched are good fish bait.”
“We have enough here.”
“I want to compare the two.” I was smart enough not to shoot the yellowjacket nests. Those guys have really bad tempers and are mad all the time, especially on hot days. Red wasps won’t come after you like their cousins.
It took half a dozen shots to finally sever the stem. The paper-like nest dropped, and I raced forward to pick it up. We rushed outside, just to be safe, and trotted down to the smokehouse for our fishing poles.
The next step was to circle the barn, in case the wasps were still looking for us. We wove through the bull nettles and down to the pool. A large red oak shaded one end, and we settled down beside the muddy bank.
The rich summer aroma of cow flop, hot mud and sun-cured grasses filled my head as I picked the top off one of the wasp nest cells. Apparently I picked one that contained a wasp that was just ready to emerge. It crawled out and grabbed ahold of my little finger.
Terrified, I shrieked and jumped up, shaking my hand in a blur of motion to dislodge the insect. One foot went into the soft mud and I staggered into the water, getting wet and muddy from my knees down.
It was pleasantly cool.
“You’re gonna scare the fish.”
I sloshed back out.
“That scared pee-waddlin’ out of me. Feller ought not have a stinging critter grabbing aholt of his finger when he’s trying to fish.”
Cousin threaded a dirt dauber larvae onto his hook and pitched it into the water. The bobber settled as the rings spread across the pool. “You won’t catch me digging in one of those things. Dirt daubers are safer.”
Being cautions, I picked the top off another cell and pulled out a fat larvae. Baiting my hook, I pitched the bobber out close to Cousin’s. Two minutes later, both went under and we pulled in two smallish bass.
For the next hour, we caught an equal number of bass and by the time the oak’s shade stretched over the water, the afternoon was gone. A distance voice called from the house, telling us supper was about ready.
Anxious to tell what we’d caught, we trotted back to the house to find the Old Man sitting on the porch.
“Where y’all been?”
“Fishing.” I told him about shooting down the nests in the barn, the larvae, the shade, smells, and fishing. Cousin picked up the narrative and explained how the fish hit bait that hadn’t cost us a penny.
He tucked a chew of Redman into his cheek and grinned.
“You boys learned a lesson today.”
“What was that?”
“There’s no reason to ever be bored. Just get up off your butts and piddle around for a little while, and pretty soon something’ll come up.”
Thinking back, he was right…as he always was.
Reavis Z. Wortham is an award-winning outdoor writer with family ties to Lamar County. He is the author of “Hawke’s Target.”