The Uliginous Trophy: A Temperance Short Story

“Time is but the stream I go a-fishing in. I drink at it; but while I drink I see the sandy bottom and detect how shallow it is. Its thin current slides away, but eternity remains. I would drink deeper; fish in the sky, whose bottom is pebbly with stars.”      Henry David Thoreau, WALDEN


It was a late Spring day when Jamie Piper, Tommy Thompson and Bobby Owenby with Boxcar, the dog, made their way to the old fishing pond.  In actuality the pond was several acres on the Williams Farm on the outskirts of Temperance.

The Williams Family helped in the founding of the town back in the 1830s.  The patriarch Powell decided that he wanted to create a place for the boys to fish.

His words were engraved on the sign post by the pond.  “Every boy needs to know how to fish and enjoy the months of Spring and Summer. Youth is precious and it soon slips away into adulthood.

Of course, one of Powell’s granddaughters named Betsy erected her own sign about 1858 which stated categorically:

With all due respect, Grandfather Powell, girls like to fish as well.  Many times they can do it better than the boys!”

Betsy with her husband Edward Ballew would open the first fish hatchery on the winding Powell River, named for her grandfather.  Their grandchildren still operated the business.

Each Spring the Williams family would check on the fish population of trout and bass to make sure there were plenty for the season.  If not, they would visit Betsy and Edward’s Hatchery for a fresh supply.

Back to the trio of boys: as Jamie and Tommy baited their hooks from the old Butter Nut Coffee can of worms on the dock, Bobby and Boxcar were checking the reeds and rushes. Tommy asked Bobby, “What are you looking for over there?”

Bobby turned and simply said, “Uliginous life.” He turned back to his quest with Boxcar beside him.

Jamie and Tommy looked at each with the same expression: “What the heck is uliginous life?” They shook their heads and went back to their hooks.

As Bobby searched the rushes and reeds, Boxcar became fascinated by a couple of playful dragonflies and decided to follow them.  Bobby did not notice his companion abandoning their search for uliginous life.

At the dock Jamie and Tommy were waiting for the first fish to bite.  Sometimes fish are a bit more wary than boys could imagine.

“Can you see what Bobby is doing, Tommy?”

Handing his Montague fishing pole to Jamie, Tommy stood up and glanced around.  He saw Boxcar following the dragonflies.

Looking closer, he saw the top of Bobby’s blonde head moving.  Sitting back down and taking his pole, he sighed, “He hasn’t found his, what was again?”

“Uliginous life,” Jamie replied.

“He is a funny fellow.”

“Very smart funny fellow.” They both laughed and went back to fishing.

About thirty-five minutes later Jamie and Tommy had captured four trout—two stove top size and two camp fire size. Over in the rushes Bobby was closing his Swiss Military Canvas Messenger Bag containing something he had found.  Boxcar had rejoined him.

Walking back to the dock, he asked, “How is your aqua pursuit going?”

Tommy pointed to the four trout in the water bucket.  Bobby examined them carefully, and stated, “Two future anglers in the making.”

Looking at him, they noticed his bag moving.  “What you got there, Bobby?” Tommy asked.

Bobby pulled out . . .

“A croaker,” Jamie explained.

“Scientifically,” Bobby began. “It is a leopard frog.”

“There are no leopards in these parts except when the circus comes to town,” Tommy stated with a grin.

Bobby smiled.  “True, but there are over 4000 species of these exquisite creatures on this planet.”

For the next fifteen minutes Bobby began with the Vieraella herbsti ancestors of current frogs and proceeded to explain about the differences.  Both Tommy and Jamie were always amazed about Bobby’s encyclopedic knowledge of almost everything.

“If I may,” Bobby asked, “have a Lumbricus terrestris for this growing boy?”

Before Tommy could ask his obvious question, Jamie pulled a worm from the fishing can and gave it to Bobby.  Jamie remembered that was an earthworm from his sister Trudy who had begun reading a biology book which Bobby had loaned her.

The frog appreciated the delicacy. Boxcar found a new friend in the frog.

“What are you going to call him, Bobby?” Tommy asked.

“Leonidas, the Sparta King, who held off King Xerxes at Thermopylae with 300 men against thousands.”  For the next ten minutes Bobby gave Jamie and Tommy a Greek history lesson.

Well, as we leave the boys to their adventures and lessons, may you have an enjoyable late Spring and Summer.  Remember one important fact from Betsy Ballew—”girls can do anything and in most cases better than boys”.


G. D. Williams © 2017

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