June 7, 2017


The Outcast: Tales from the Worst Fisherman in the World : In a family full of fishermen, one hapless angler could hook just about anything except a fish. But that didn't keep him from a lifetime of trying to land the big one (RICK BRAGG, June/July 2017, Garden & Gun)

I should have given up, I suppose, after the goat.

He was not a regular goat. He was more part goat, part rhinoceros, about the size of a small horse, but with devil horns. He looked out on the world through spooky yellow eyes, and smelled like...well, I do not have the words to say. My little brother, Mark, bought him at the sprawling trade day in Collinsville, Alabama, for seventy-five dollars; I would have given him a hundred not to. The first thing the creature did, after coming into our possession, was butt the side of a truck. You have to be one terror of a goat to assault a Ford. His name, my little brother said, was Ramrod.

"Why would you buy such a thing?" I asked my brother. He told me he planned to purchase a bunch of nanny goats to "get with" Ramrod, after whatever courtship it was that goats required. Ramrod would beget little Ramrods, who would beget more, till the whole world was covered in ill-tempered mutant goats. I think, sometimes, we did not love that boy enough. 

Ramrod moved into his new home in a beautiful mountain pasture in northeastern Alabama, and, first thing, butted heads with my mother's ill-tempered donkey, Buckaroo. Buck staggered a few steps, and his head wobbled drunkenly from side to side, but he did not fall unconscious. This, in Buck's mind, constituted a victory, and he trotted off, snorting and blowing, like he was somebody.

My point is, Ramrod was a goat not to be messed with.

Later that year, I was fishing with my brothers in the stock pond in that same pasture. The water was mostly clear, and you could see the bream in the shallows and the dark shapes of bass in the deeper end. For a change, even I was catching fish and pulled in a few nice little bass. My cast, to me, was immaculate, my aim perfect, my mechanics sound, especially for the clunky crankbait I was throwing.

"But I'm not gettin' much distance," I complained to my big brother, Sam.

"It's fine," he said, and with an easy flick of his wrist sent a black rubber worm sailing beyond my best cast of the day.

I decided to put a little more mustard on it. I let my lure dangle about a foot and a half from the tip of the rod, reared back, torqued, and started forward with a powerful heave...and hooked Ramrod, who had crept up behind me to do me some kind of grievous harm, right between his horns.

Ramrod, who for perhaps the first time in his long life seemed unsure of what to do, took off running. My drag, which was not set for a goat of any size, sang.

Sam, who has never been too surprised by anything in his whole laconic, irritating life, gazed at the retreating goat as if this were a thing he witnessed every single day.

"Can't remember if that was a ten-pound test I put on that baitcaster," he said, as if it made a difference.

Posted by at June 7, 2017 7:13 PM