Last General Home Local Next


by David Yehudah, Bellflower, CA, USA


I also had a canoe experience to remember. When I was about twelve my best friend Buggy's dad had a huge, aluminum, what they used to call a car-top canoe, and I guess it was if your car was a Greyhound bus. That thing was clumsy and it was heavy, but it would float if you could find water deep enough for it. Anything less than two feet and it drug bottom. We painted H.M.S. Intrepid on the side.

Anyway, we did get to use it sometimes when his dad got enough beer to make him expansive and generous.

There was a creek behind Buggy's house down at the bottom of a steep hill, about a block distant. It wasn't big, but it was deep enough in places to float Intrepid, and we even sometimes caught perch there. The trouble was that Intrepid was not only longer than the bends in the creek, it almost bridged it from side to side in the straight stretches.

However, two things happened at about the same time to change our way of doing things forever. First, we had a five-hundred-year flood immediately followed by a thousand-year flood. The creek became much larger, at least for the next week or so.

Second, Buggy went for a look-see where they were doing some construction on the nearby railroad tracks and found a case of dynamite, along with some cannon fuse and some blasting caps.

Although few have actually seen it done, any country boy can tell you about fishing with dynamite. Buggy got so excited about the possibilities, he even stirred my comparatively sluggish blood into a semblance of activity.

"How big a fish you think we can catch?" I asked.

He held his hands straight out on both sides of him as far apart as they could get without help. "That big!"

"That's pretty big, all right. Did you say anything to your dad?"

"Nahh. You know how he is. He might worry about us getting caught or something. We'll just blast them old fish, scoop 'em up, and get back home before he even knows we're gone."

We dragged the canoe out of the garage and slid it down the hill on the wet grass as quickly as we could. From the way we were acting you'd have thought we were trying to sneak it down the hill.

Buggy tied a rope to the bow, slid ol' Intrepid out into the water, and climbed aboard, quickly followed by yours truly and the sack of dynamite and stuff he'd given me to carry, including a long-handled scoop net. I thought it showed how much he trusted me to let me carry the blasting caps. He even made sure I didn't get close enough to him for him to be tempted to help me carry them.

"Fearless, you wanna get a little further away from me with them caps?" When he was Chief Crazy-Whistle, I was Fearless.

He paid out the rope until we were riding in the very center of the stream, then tied it (the rope, not the stream) off at the bow.

I don't know where Buggy learned to handle dynamite, but he did a credible job of tying about ten sticks together with a cap and a piece of fuse sticking up out of the middle. With a flourish he lit the fuse and dropped the bundle overboard. He then grabbed the rope and started hauling it in hand over hand, pulling the canoe in to the bank.

That worked great until we were almost at the shore. Suddenly the canoe stopped moving slowly forward and started moving quickly backward. I looked up at Buggy, and he was standing there looking at the bitter end of the loose rope in his hand.

From the shape of the canoe we must have been right over the dynamite when it blew. Intrepid arched its back like an angry cat and spit us up on the bank. Mud and debris covered us like those cones dipped in chocolate they sold at the Dairy Queen. With a loud 'thump' the canoe hit the bank next to us. My mother found a fish head in my shirt pocket the next day, the only fish we got from our expedition.

The next day Buggy's dad went down to the creek, shoved the canoe into the water, filled it with large stones, and shot holes in the hull with his .22. Since there never was that much water in the creek again, ol' Intrepid rested on the bottom and stuck up in the air most of the time, but we were too busy trying to call fish on the telephone to bother with it.

The way you call fish on the telephone, in case you're interested, is to connect two pieces of copper wire to the terminals of an old crank telephone and get some idiot kid to hold both of them at the same time and dance around and scream while you turn the crank and cackle fiendishly. I was a freshman in college before I finally quit falling for that. Then I found a cousin I didn't like who could be easily gulled into holding the wires while I cranked merrily away.

The conversation usually went:

Just put one wire in the water over there by that big rock and the other one--Gotcha! Haw, haw, haw.
Cousin Dewberry:
I'm sorry. I won't do it again.
Cousin D: (tearfully)
You promise?
Yeah. Just put it--Gotcha 'gin.
Cousin D:
Ahhhhhh! You promised.

The wires never made it to the water. Once I did break down and try to do it myself, but I was holding one of the bare wires in my hand when I set the phone down and accidentally bumped the crank. The magneto was spring loaded, and all it took was a nudge to make both of us jump.


Editor's note:

Last General Home Top Local Next
Top of