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The Catfish Catchem’ Fiasco

BY MICHAEL REISIG –

As I finish putting a log in the stove and shiver to the anticipation of the approaching northern front, I thought I’d pass on a tale of humid summer heat, and the traditional mid-year pastime of catfishing – a time when everyone is enjoying the outdoors. However, I’m reminded that it seems some people can get themselves in trouble no matter what the season.

In particular I’m thinking about a time when Wilbert Notion made the county news report. Wilbert always had some crazy scheme going – the boy’s just shy of half a loaf but that doesn’t stop him from trying…

As I remember it, Wilbert just loved catfishing, and he was always trying to outwit those slippery creatures. (Personally, I’d bet on the catfish every time, and I’m about to make my point). Wilbert decided to turn his hobby into a business and whip up some special catfish bait he’d devised, bottle it, and sell it. However, most folks (Wilbert included) don’t know that the most important secret in the catfish bait business is how to combine a variety of noxious, organic ingredients and keep them from eventually emitting enough gas to produce an explosion in a sealed container.

I hear he combined cheese, cow blood, old donuts, and several other nearly unmentionable ingredients into a thick, sticky paste in a 10-gallon washtub. Then he bought several dozen half-quart jars with screw lids at a garage sale, into which he put his “Catfish Catchem!” formula. Wilbert screwed the lids down tight, slapped a label on them, and loaded almost a hundred jars into the back of his ’85 Ford station wagon, then headed out to sell his wares to every bait store between here and Tulsa. But it was a very hot summer day…

After four hours on the road, morning stretched into afternoon, and the temperature was pressing 100 degrees. Unbeknown to Wilbert, the jars in the back of the wagon, receiving the brutal part of the afternoon sun, were reaching critical mass as he reached the hilly section just north of Poteau.

He had just crested a good-sized hill when the first of the jars went. The explosion set off a chain reaction, and suddenly jars were exploding like microwave popcorn, slinging shattered glass and catfish bait everywhere. The station wagon (now smelling much like a Guatemalan men’s room) careened down the hill at breakneck speed, jagging and weaving like a cattle-prodded cat. Old Wilbert shrieked as he was smacked in the back of the head by a wad of catfish delight, and accidentally swung the vehicle into the path of an oncoming truck. Jars were bursting so fast that the inside of the car looked like a food fight at a high school cafeteria. Will, who was covered with bait goo and bleeding in half a dozen places from glass shards, screamed and jerked the wheel back the other way, which was both good and bad.

The good news was, he wasn’t killed by the oncoming truck. The bad news was, the quick turn sent him hurtling off the road as the next hill began its incline. He soared through the air like one of those Sunday afternoon auto daredevils, screeching like a baby baboon, covered with Catfish Catchem’, and bracing for the impact.

The vehicle soared over a cattle fence and landed squarely in the center of a small pond just off the highway—a catfish pond.  When those fish caught scent of Wilbert and his Catfish Catchem’-soaked car, well, it was like feeding time at the zoo. Will, who lost part of an ear and a little finger, said he was real pleased just to have escaped with his life. I heard when they pulled the car from the pond, the catfish had darn near eaten away most of the upholstery.

I suppose the moral of this story is, “ain’t nothing foolproof for a really good fool” or “stinking and driving don’t mix.”