Story type: Essay
I fixed myself and went out trout fishing on the only original Kinnickinnick river last week. It was a kind of Rip Van Winkle picnic and farewell moonlight excursion home. I believe that Rip Van Winkle, however, confined himself to hunting mostly with an old musket that was on the retired list when Rip took his sleepy drink on the Catskills. If he could have gone with me fishing last week over the old trail, digging angle-worms at the same old place where I left the spade sticking in the grim soil twenty years ago–if we could have waded down the Kinnickinnick together with high rubber boots on, and got nibbles and bites at the same places, and found the same old farmers with nearly a quarter of a century added to their lives and glistening in their hair, we would have had fun no doubt on that day, and a headache on the day following. This affords me an opportunity to say that trout may be caught successfully without a corkscrew. I have tried it. I’ve about decided that the main reason why so many large lies are told about the number of trout caught all over the country, is that at the moment the sportsman pulls his game out of the water, he labors under some kind of an optical illusion, by reason of which he sees about nine trout where he ought to see only one.
I wish I had as many dollars as I have soaked deceased angle-worms in that same beautiful Kinnickinnick. There was a little stream made into it that we called Tidd’s creek. It is still there. This stream runs across Tidd’s farm, and Tidd twenty years ago wouldn’t allow anybody to fish in the creek. I can still remember how his large hand used to feel, as he caught me by the nape of the neck and threw me over the fence with my amateur fishing tackle and a willow “stringer” with eleven dried, stiff trout on it. Last week I thought I would try Tidd’s creek again. It was always a good place to fish, and I felt the same old excitement, with just enough vague forebodings in it to make it pleasant. Still, I had grown a foot or so since I used to fish there, and perhaps I could return the compliment by throwing the old gentleman over his own fence, and then hiss in his ear “R-r-r-r-e-v-e-n-g-e!!!”
I had got pretty well across the “lower forty” and had about decided that Tidd had been gathered to his fathers, when I saw him coming with his head up like a steer in the corn. Tidd is a blacksmith by trade, and he has an arm with hair on it that looks like Jumbo’s hind leg. I felt the same old desire to climb the fence and be alone. I didn’t know exactly how to work it. Then I remembered how people had remarked that I had changed very much in twenty years, and that for a homely boy I had grown to be a remarkably picturesque-looking man. I trusted to Tidd’s failing eyesight and said:
“How are you?”
He said, “How are you?” That did not answer my question, but I didn’t mind a little thing like that.
Then he said: “I sposed that every pesky fool in this country knew I don’t allow fishing on my land.”
“That may be,” says I, “but I ain’t fishing on your land. I always fish in a damp place if I can. Moreover, how do I know this is your land? Carrying the argument still further, and admitting that every peesky fool knows that you didn’t allow fishing here, I am not going to be called a pesky fool with impunity, unless you do it over my dead body.” He stopped about ten rods away and I became more fearless. “I don’t know who you are,” said I, as I took off my coat and vest and piled them up on my fish basket, eager for the fray. “You claim to own this farm, but it is my opinion that you are the hired man, puffed up with a little authority. You can’t order me off this ground till you show me a duly certified abstract of title and then identify yourself. What protection does a gentleman have if he is to be kicked and cuffed about by Tom, Dick and Harry, claiming they own the whole State. Get out! Avaunt! If you don’t avaunt pretty quick I’ll scrap you and sell you to a medical college.”
He stood in dumb amazement a moment, then he said he would go and get his deed and his shotgun. I said shotguns suited me exactly, and I told him to bring two of them loaded with giant powder and barbed wire. I would not live alway. I asked not to stay. When he got behind the corn-crib I climbed the fence and fled with my ill-gotten gains.
The blacksmith in his prime may lick the small boy, but twenty years changes their relative positions. Possibly Tidd could tear up the ground with me now, but in ten more years, if I improve as fast as he fails, I shall fish in that same old stream again.
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