Who is the dumbass that first decided to go noodling? And who's the other dumbass that decided to call it noodling?
Before I dive too deep into this rambling, I would like to be serious for a moment and congratulate my little brother on graduating high school. Pretty sure everybody figured Pops would have strangled ya by now. Hell, escaping that is a feat in and of itself. But I am damn proud of ya.
So now all 3 of you folks that are gonna read this know why I headed up to Nacogdoches the first weekend of this month. Not like it's any of your business anyway. Ya nosy busy bodies. Go on, GIT!
Where was I?..Oh yeah. So Shaunita and I loaded the mutts into the little Honda Egg, and blasted off north to the town of my birth. Aside from a flame engulfed tractor trailer, a hotel bonfire gone wrong, and an invisible major accident all in H-town (I'm pretty sure that H stands for "Howthehellcananyonestandtoliveinthisgodforsakenwadofbuildings,crappystreets,andhoardesofpeople") the trip was an overall breeze.
The family is all good, thanks for asking. Everybody is getting on in years, the little cousins are getting big, the older folks are getting wrinkles, you know the routine.
So on to the real story, the one you (yeah, the one person that will read this) came to see.
"Let's go noodlin'" says the once little, but now towering brohemoth. So, I thinks about it for a minute...man, do I really want to go out there and wallow around sticking my hand in random holes I can't see into. Insert crude joke here. :) But what I really needed was to spend time with the bro. Just a good, quality bonding experience, as our last few visits had gone a little too quickly and time was spent at opposing leisurely activities, myself being in bed just as the young 'un was rising. So, we load up and head on out to the lake. I must remind you that it has been years since I last noodled and this was likely prior to the development of completely rational fears, such as checking the bite strength of a snapping turtle, playing footsies with a gator's mouth, or getting my nipple bitten off by a beaver. I mean, could you imagine going through life with one nipple? So the young 'uns are in the water, splashing around, going under, and coming back up empty handed. Things aren't looking so good until Blake hollers "fish!" and comes up with a respectable little blue cat. On the stringer that one goes, not before I managed to lose my grip on it and slice my palm with it's pectoral spine. ALL of the freakin' gafftops, hardheads, and other manner of toothy, spiny, and otherwise razor sharp fish I handle every day, and I get sliced by a spine...AMATEUR!!!!!!!
Finally I can't take it any more. Nipples be damned, I gotta get in that water. Within minutes, I become the catfish radar. I can feel their presence before I even touch 'em. Sometimes you get to where you find a hole, and you can just feel that it's right (Minds out of that gutter perverts). Belly crawling over the rocks, I'm finding fish left and right, but they continue to elude me, escaping from one of the 2-5jillion exits.
So as I am gently caressing this mystery fish, telling her everything is gonna be okay, I call in the reinforcements. "YOU! Block that back hole! You! Cover the sides! This kitty's not getting away!" I take my time and gently maneuver my hand around, trying to locate her mouth. A belly, a rib cage, a whisker....there she is...CHOMP!!!!!!!! I'm not sure what I expected. Everything was going fine. I stick my hand in the hole, feel the fish, fish swims away. No biggie. Now, I've got one vised down on my fingertips and for some odd reason, she ain't happy. Betwixt the tears and the snot bubbles, I managed to inform my noodling SWAT team that I was ready for extraction.
Like any pro fisherman, I had her lipped perfectly. There was only one problem. When I put my hand in the hole, it fit. Now that I was trying to take it out, the hole had gotten too small. Simple solution, I just get my crew to remove a few rocks, and out comes fishy. Rock option #1 was slightly too large to extricate. Rock option #2 then sent rock option #1 settling into place, thus making a too small hole even smaller. The good news is, my head was above water, so I had full capability of letting loose every curse I could think of to express the excruciating pain that was exuding from my now crushed metacarpals and phalanges. The OTHER good news is, I still had a death grip on my prize whose bubbles of laughter were popping in my face. One, Two, Three, and open comes the hole just enough to bring the cat up. And as soon as she saw daylight, all five pounds of her set to writhing, and my pro bass grip was rendered useless. Up she came and down through my bear hugging arms she went.....I was heartbroken. Defeated. Awash with shame and agony. "It's alright, you'll get another one" wasn't going to replace what I had lost. The day was ruined.
But later came redemption. Meanwhile, we continued to prowl around the rocks, each one of us in turn yelling the top secret code word "FISH" upon the discovery of a holey inhabitant. Blake was pulling them out left and right.
The boy's got talent, and a reckless confidence that just makes you feel like you're not doing your part. My next fish was much like the first. A cool confident search for all exits, blocking them in turn and feeling for a mouth. Well, I found it. Should have called that one Bam Bam, because she had a vise grip on my thumb and was not letting go, rather chomping repeatedly as if to chew it off. At one point I wasn't even holding her, just pulled her out with my thumb firmly clamped in her jaws. It was kinda like a sick version of a chinese finger trap. The one thing I can say is that since I gently maneuvered her out, she didn't have a mark on her. Blake's fish looked like they had been run through a meat grinder.
It's getting later on in the day, so we start working our way back, covering all of the holes that we might have skipped before. Suddenly, I come upon one that just has that feel. A nice concealed entrance that goes back a little way before opening into a large cavern. I reach in, waving my fingers around further and further into the cooler water, feeling for the slightest sign of a BAM!!!! OW S#&$!!!! My right ring finger had been cleanly bitten off at the first knuckle! I had found a snapping turtle, pissed it off, and it ate my finger with the ferocity of a cornered tasmanian devil! My gawd, what am I gonna do without a right ring finger!?
Well, I pulled my hand out and there was the finger, minus a little bit of skin, but Christ almighty, that little fish hit it like she wanted to take it right off. I didn't catch the fish, thus claiming the redemption that I truly wanted, but I was reminded of exactly how stupid this whole noodling thing was.
On to the next hole.
Then I hear our cousin Chase holler "FISH, OMYGAWD ITS A BIGGUN!" as no other Okie could slur it. Blake and I fiercely dog paddle to the scene and secure the perimeter. I follow chase's hand down and feel around for other exits, find one and stick my arm in it, whereupon I feel the fish right away. Her body was as big around as my leg! Alright! I make quick action to press her up against the side of the hole so she can't escape, while both the other two boys are feeling around for a mouth. Chase finds it, and she clamps down. I can feel the tremor of the bite, but oddly enough, when he pulls her out, my fish doesn't move...."THERE'S TWO!! THERE'S TWO!!!!!!" Blake is promptly back in the hole and extracts another 10 pound flathead.
It was around this moment that I got that warm fuzzy feeling of the comfort of knowing that quality bonding time was being well spent, and that even if I didn't see another fish, I know that I saw my little brother for the man that he was becoming, and I could not have been more proud.