From Chicken Soup for the Country Soul

Goin’ Fishin’

For years, Uncle Mike and I fished the little lake near home every chance we got. As we grew older, though, our families and work became more and more important while the fishing trips got fewer and farther between. One unforgettable weekend, Uncle Mike and I did manage to find time for a fishing tournament—by default, mind you—our wives were on a church retreat and we men were home alone.

The first day of the event was a Saturday. Fishing conditions couldn’t have been better—cool water, a light breeze and just a touch of cloud cover. We spent the whole time catching and releasing fish too small to keep—a typical day of fishing for both of us. When we decided to pack it in, the final tally was just three fish—seven pounds total. On the second day, the weather wasn’t quite as friendly. The wind blew so bad we allowed ourselves to drift into a large cove for shelter. There, we strung a long line between two trees so we could steady our boat before the start of a relaxing day of drowning worms.

It wasn’t long before we noticed a young boy in an aluminum johnboat at the very back of the cove, almost to the lone dock. He had paddled out a little way and was tied up to a big tree at the edge of the water. As we drifted in his direction—without a bite for what seemed like forever— we noticed the lad catching a fish every few minutes. You know how it is; when you’re frustrated, you want to know what bait a “lucky” fisherman is using. As we got closer, Uncle Mike and I watched as the boy baited a hook and dropped his line straight down by the big tree. Just like before, only four or five minutes later, he caught what appeared to be another bass in the several-pounds range. Unable to resist our curiosity, Uncle Mike and I had to talk to the young angler.

“Whatcha usin’ for bait?” I inquired.

“Stinging worms, sir.”

“What was that?” I asked, not sure I’d heard him right.

“Stinging worms,” he repeated.

Uncle Mike and I looked at each other. Neither of us had any idea what a “stinging worm” was. As we watched the boy bait his hook again, we noticed him jump and yank his hand away from the bait can. Then he reached in again and pulled out a large brown worm. This called for a closer look, and we eased up alongside the johnboat.

“Can we see those worms? We might need to go buy us some,” I said with a grin.

“Sure, here. But you can’t buy ’em. I got these under a log behind my house.”

Uncle Mike reached over and took the can. We both looked inside at the same time. In a fraction of a second, we knew—snakes. These were small rattlesnakes; and about ten of them were left! Uncle Mike asked if he could see the boy’s hands. We soon saw that they were covered with small welts—snakebites.

Uncle Mike said, “Son, these aren’t stinging worms. These are baby rattlesnakes, and you need to go to the hospital—now!” The poor little angler’s face went pale.

“My mom and dad are at home. I gotta go see ’em,” the frightened boy blurted. We immediately untied his boat and towed him over to the dock. As we helped him out, we noticed he had turned white as a sheet. He said his right arm and stomach were starting to hurt. I picked the boy up and carried him to his parents’ house. His mom was in the kitchen preparing lunch. We immediately called 911 and kept the boy quiet until the ambulance came. I rode to the hospital with him and his mom, carrying the can of “stinging worms” to show the emergency room doctor. The little guy was very lucky. Although he got quite sick and the pain was real bad early on, he recovered completely.

No surprise—Uncle Mike and I didn’t place in that tournament. Usually when I skip church to go fishing, I reckon God isn’t going to let me catch anything anyway. However, on that particular Sunday, he had other plans for us.

T. J. Greaney

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