Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Bluegills and Bluegrass

After meeting Ronnie, I took a little walk around the backwater lake by which we are camped and will spend the next couple of nights in preparation for a show in nearby Lexington. This little park is operated by the city of Shelbysville and is a favorite fishing spot for the locals who began to filter in around 4 o’clock and take up their positions at the various docks and benches that dot the shore of this tiny deep green lake. Ronnie had wet my appetite for fishing and I was wondering what they were catching and what they were using for bait.

As I wandered around the lake in the gathering dusk, watching the fisherman cast their lines, I stumbled across a large green fruit with a convoluted skin that looked something like a human brain. I picked one up and found that it had a strong but not unpleasant odor similar to a slightly sour orange. I had never seen one before and took it with me as I continued along the trail that ran along the bank.

Still curious about the fishing, I approached a black couple who had parked their chairs by the side of the lake and were quickly filling their bucket with fish. “Evening” I said, “Catching anything?” “Got some nice Blue Gill and a few Crappies” the man answered as his companion kept up her serious fishing without so much as a glance in my direction. “Watcha using for bait” I queried as I had never actually fished for either one. “Red wigglers” he replied and held up a can that had small red worms busting from the rich dark soil it contained. As worms are easy to come by, I was already planning the next evenings’ possible fishing trip and asked him how he cooks them. “Just cut the heads off and fry em’ up good” he laughed. I could just imagine the look on Kate’s face as the smell of fish filled the Airstream. “Works for me” I replied with a slight grin at the image in my head.

Seeing as I had a local here, I held out the fruit I had dragged along with me “What the heck is this?” I asked. “Bodark” he drawled. “Least that’s what we call em’. Technical name is Hedge Apples.” “Never seem or heard of em’. Odd looking things, are they edible?” I wondered. “Nope, but they do a hell of job getting rid a bugs. Just quarter em’ up and stick em’ in the corners. No more bugs!” he exclaimed with a sparkle in his dark brown eyes as a smile spread across his face. “An they’s walnuts in them trees over by the outhouse and hickory nuts just down the road” he offered. I thanked him for the tips on the fishing and bringing me up to speed on the local fruit and nuts. “Names Johnny” he offered as I began to wander off and stuck out his calloused hand. “John” I said and he laughed. “Can’t be all bad then.”

Later I would find out that these fruits are also known as an Osage Orange and that they were used to grow hedge rows all over Kentucky before the advent of modern fencing. Prized for being “Horse High. Bull Strong, and Hog Tight” they were tall enough that a horse could not jump it, stout enough that a bull could not push through it, and woven so tightly that even a determined hog could not find its way through. Still an odd looking thing though.

Tomorrow I think I’ll grab my fishing pole and a bag for some nuts, and see what I can come home with. Perhaps there will be walnut crusted pan-fried blue gill on the menu at the Airstream Hotel!

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