One of my first such memories was a trip to Mrs. Black's pond with Hal, one of my best friends growing up. Mrs. Black was my first grade teacher and she let some of us boys fish her pond. I was not long out of first grade, I was probably about 10 years old, and Hal was two years older.
It was the end of May and I think school was out for the year. Hal and I had ridden out bicycles the two miles to her place, carrying out spinners and cans of red wigglers we dug behind my family's chicken houses. We also had stringers with us for any fish we caught - we ate everything we could land back in those days.
Hal and I started fishing the deep water near the dam where we usually caught catfish, but nothing bit. After working our way around the pond to the shallows in the upper end, we started catching bream on every cast. We soon realized we had gotten on a bream bed, something we had heard out elders talking about but something we had never experienced.
The bed was a long cast away from where we had access from the bank, and we had to get past the bushes growing on the edge of the water. I will never forget Hal dragging a board out and working to fix it just right so he would not get his feet wet. I was a little different, I just took off my shoes and waded in! The mush between my toes did not bother me, but it would gross Hal out. I lived on a farm, but Hal was a town boy!
We caught a nice bream on every cast. It got to be a joke, but also a contest, to see where we could cast and catch one. At first we put all of them on stringers, dreaming of how much we could brag when we got home. Then reality hit and we remembered we would have to clean them all, so we started letting every thing go that was not hooked too deeply.
We each took over 50 bream home that day, and it took us what seemed like hours to scale and gut them. They tasted great the next night, and we had plenty to feed both families and several friends that were invited. Dad was a great fish cook, and he handled the frying chores outside while mom fixed everything else in the house. We ate on our screened in back porch.
Mom fixed cole slaw, French fries and ice tea, and her hushpuppies were great But I always liked her hushpuppies better than anything else at a fish fry - even more than the lemon pie that always followed for dessert.
I wish all kids had a chance to grow up wild in Georgia like I did. Those trips to local ponds instilled a love of fishing in me that is still strong 40 years later. And I am sure I avoided getting into trouble many times because I was fishing rather than getting into something I should not have been doing.
Society changes but kids do not. Help them grow up in ways that help them stay away from some of the current evils, and you will help them stay away from trouble for the rest of their lives!
Memories like those are precious, and I would not give anything for them. Hal died a few years ago, so we will never fish together again. Mom has Alzheimer's and has not recognized me for over two years, much less being able to cook, so I will never eat her hushpuppies again. And dad died in January, so he will not cook any more fish for me. All will live on in my memory as long as I am alive, though.
Bream should be on the bed this week. Take your kids fishing!