LookBack7.2

A water snake seems to be enjoying the cool water of a Trousdale County creek.

This month we are going fishing!

Many a barefoot child has walked down a country lane to the creek to fish, using a handful of worms carefully dug up from behind the barn and clutching a cane pole freshly cut by his grandpa!

Trousdale County is blessed with farm ponds, creeks and the mighty Cumberland River — take your pick of fishing spots!

Fishing goes way back in Trousdale County. We know this because excavations of Native American sites have shown that their diets included fish!

Of course a smart country lad doesn’t always need a fishing pole, a hook and a worm for bait.

The late Vander Wright wrote a letter to the Vidette and wrote about an unusual method that he once used!

“In the back of our house was Little Goose Creek. I liked to play in the water… One time I was in the creek when Clyde Burnley called me up the creek.

(Clyde Burnley was a prominent businessman who was an executive with the old Willard Tobacco Company, maker of several brands of chewing tobacco.)

He had found a big catfish under a bluff and his hands were too big to pull the fish out. He showed me how to put my hand on top of the fish with my fingers behind the fin and pull it out.

(There is a name for this: grabbin’. It is also known as noodlin’.)

From then on, I grabbed all the fish in that hole of water.”

While grabbing for fish is not an exact science, there are a few techniques and Mr. Burnley taught them to the young Vander.

“He would take a broom handle about two feet long and probe under bluffs and tree roots.

If there was a catfish there, he would try to push the stick out.

If there was a bluegill, he would flutter and if there was a turtle, he would bite the stick…”

Armed with his new knowledge, young Vander Wright taught two of his friends how to go grabbin’.

“After I caught fish close by, my friends, Durea Shoulders, Odell Coker and two more went down the creek. When we got to Miss Carrie Rodgers’ she would stand on the side of her creek with her .22 rifle and tell us to get out of her creek.

We had to get out on the bank until we got past her farm.

Down the creek was a large rock in the middle of the creek. We would run up and down in the creek. The fish would go under the rock.

We gathered around it feeling for the fish. We all got a hold of something. We thought it was a big fish, but it was the biggest water snake I ever saw in the creek!

That was the last grabbin’ we did!”

Water snakes, a collective name for a number of snakes that live in and around fresh water, are generally harmless. But they can look pretty intimidating and have scared off their share of boys wading in the creek.

More aggressive and territorial is the aptly named cottonmouth.

Technically known as a water moccasin, the name ‘cottonmouth’ comes from the white color of their mouths when they open wide.

A cottonmouth is poisonous and therefore to be avoided and because they are territorial, they will actually chase you away from their little spot of creek or pond.

Speaking from experience, either a cottonmouth or water snake can scare the living daylights out of you!

Picking up a flat rock in the creek that I thought would be good for a stepping stone, I exposed a water snake that was lying peacefully coiled up. I laid the stone back down and set a record for speedily leaving a creek!

Water snakes can bite, so leave them alone if you decide to go grabbin’.

As for Miss Carrie Rodgers, with her loaded .22 she was the more dangerous of the three.

Vander reported that 20 years later, he and a friend were walking up the creek to find a good fishing spot and Miss Carrie was still guarding her stretch of creek with her rifle! Only this time, she recognized the men, and she told them they could fish “in her creek” anytime they wanted!

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