My son Elijah Truman is many things, and among the strongest of his early understandings is his rightful place within the food chain…at the very TOP!
He’s three, and he’s had an affinity for animals since he was a baby. He’s enamored with dogs and cats,
zoo animals…and fish. He and I have been fishing together since the very beginning. When he was 3 months old, I would strap him into one of those forward facing baby holders and go fly fishing up and down the salt creek. In the evening he would play on the beach while I caught dozens of bluegill and sunfish for him to pet and play with at the lake in our neighborhood.
In Montana last summer, he stood in the great Gallatin river with his Buzz Lightyear pole in his hand, hoping to catch a lunker. He reminds me of my Dad in his ability to stare a hole in a bobber, even when the fish are laughing at him from below. I took up fly-fishing as a result of my own inability to sit and hope, rather than hunt and think…
Anyhow, He and I and Adam Truman (my brother) took a trip to a local fishing lake that’s rumored to have lots of catfish in it last weekend. You would think a kid that loves to hold and touch and play with animals the way he does would struggle with the whole…”let’s catch some dinner” side of the fishing experience. Not so much, he loves every aspect of fishing.
He loves the anticipation, the battle, the relationship between he and the fish as he pets it and talks to it…and he loves the victory that is found in sinking your teeth into it at the dinner table. It’s hilarious, and a telling thing about our early understanding of the reality that we are positioned squarely at the top of the food chain.
Catfishing can be a lot like sitting in a chair, staring at a stick when they aren’t biting, and they weren’t biting for the first two hours. Eli is a patient angler, especially for a three year old but by now he has decided to empty the worm container into the cup holder in his chair and imagine a world where worms are the main characters.
He was lost in his own mind holding both hands out full of worms and pretending they are fighting and talking to one another when it happens…
Adam: “Whoa! He’s got one!”
Eli: “Huh?!…FISH?…FISH ON MY BUZZ LIGHTYEAR POLL! WOO HOO!”
Adam: (quickly picking up the pole and sliding in behind ELi to assist him)…”Ok buddy, here we go, let’s real him in!”
Eli:(mostly making high pitched sounds of giddy-ness)…. “Dad! I catch fish on my Buzz Lightyear pole!…Real real real!”
Me: “WoooooHoooo! GREAT JOB BUD! You can do it, just take it easy!”
Finally, the fish came within site near the shore which was down about 8 ft below where we were standing. I qucikly scurried down the embankment and grabbed the line and pulled the fish in towards me. Once it was all the way onto the shore I reached out and picked the fish up by the fishing line (totally dumb rookie move). Just as I tried to swing it up to the elevated area where Eli and Adam where, the line snapped and the fish fell to the ground and landed just next to the water with half it’s body actualy in the water. My heart sank and I wondered if it was even reasonable to think I could maneuver down to it and then grab it without it simply flicking it’s tail and swimming off. To end my doubts about whether or not I should try, Adam yells “John!, get in there and grab him!!!!” He was right, I don’t know what I was thinking, I jumped down to it and thrust my hands down onto it to make sure it couldn’t escape. Eli is squeeling with joy as I make my way back up to the bank. He rushes up to me with his arms thrust out expecting me to hand over this big catfish so he could hug it and play with it….he was right, thats exactly what I did!
I placed the fish in his arms while explaining where the “pokies” were and that it would hurt very much if he got stuck by our new friend.
He heard me loud and clear and proceeded to walk around with it for a few minutes while constantly looking down at it and petting it’s head like it was a new born baby. When I asked him what we were going to do with it, he plainly looked at me and said…we’re goanna take it home and cook him up and eat for dinner with mommy.”
I affirmed his response with an “AMEN”.
We explained that we needed to get the catfish into the bucket so it would stay fresh and he understood and immediately made his way over to the bucket and tossed it in.
Lunch- time presented itself so we decided to call it a day and head over to “Boiling Crabs”… for some seafood practice. Adam and I split a pound each of fresh Cajun boiled shrimps, crayfish and clams which Eli enjoyed playing with…he had chicken fingers.
All three where among the best I’ve ever had, so much so that like a weirdo I took the leftover “boil” as a doggy bag so I could cook my own crustaceans in it the next day at home along side our fish feast.
Eli watched intently as Adam cleaned and bagged the fish mumbling with excitement about how we were going to have it for dinner tomorrow.
The next evening, Adam and I made a feast. We roasted Asian white-sweet-potatoes, Chinese eggplant and asparagus… in olive oil and spices, and fried up the fish Eli caught in panko breadcrumbs, along with a fresh ling cod filet and a fresh tillapia filet so Rebecca could enjoy the bounty as well. The special treat for Adam and I was our re-do of the cajun boiled shrimp using the leftover juices from the day before.
The meal was absolutely delicious and also satisfying for Eli at an entirely different level. It was like his 1st conquest of nature for the sake of nourishment:) It was cute how he got so serious about the idea of using the fish to feed mommy, like it was his job to catch the fish to feed her, and he did his job:)