The Gross National Debt

Friday, April 20, 2012

Frydee Funnee

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I miss Icky


It's not the most manly thing in the world to do, but every time I go quail hunting, I get a little misty-eyed. It's easy to blame it on the dust, smoke, every now and then (when I get invited) the gaseous emissions from the hay burner engines pulling the wagons.

But, I must confess, it's none of that. I'm missing the best quail hunting buddy a person could ever have and it was not a human or a dog, although I have hunted with some finds dogs like Sebastian, Darth Vader, Plato and Quarter.

Nope. I'm missing Icky.

Icky was short for Ictalurus Punctatus. He was the world's only quail hunting channel catfish.

I got Icky when he was nothing but a fingerling, just about the precise size necessary for a good eating catfish. I don't know what came over me that day on the river, but when I hauled Icky up and threw him in the bucket, I just stood and looked him for a long time.

I had not named him yet as I didn't often give names to the main course for supper. The longer I stood there, watching the catfish swim around in the bucket the more I was just convinced I could not put him in the fish fryer.

Finally I quit fishing for the day and just went home with a single little catfish in the bucket. At the house, I drilled a hole in the bottom of the bucket. I stuck a cork in the hole.

Every day I dropped a little corn in the bucket for the catfish to eat. Now I don't know what came over me, but every day I took that cork out and let just a little water run out of the bucket. Every day that water got a little lower and every day the catfish got a little bigger.

Finally, the water was completely gone. That catfish just walked around the bottom of the bucket, as best he was able to.

I had to take him out of the bucket then and put him in a pen. That catfish would rear up on his tail and hook his front fins through the fence. He'd grunt at me and grin when he saw the handful of corn in my hand.

One day I took him out of the pen. Now by this time, I'd named him.

Icky took one look and me and hightailed it toward the pond across the road at the far end of the field. I figured that was the end of it, but Icky got down to the edge of the field and stopped.

His whiskers started twitching and his head was slinging back and forth. I just watched as he scooted along the dog fennels. A few minutes later, Icky stopped. His head went up and one fin stuck straight out.

I just watched as a covey of quail bobbed along in front of him. When the quail would get too far ahead, Icky would ease forward, keeping the covey in sight, but being sure not to spook them.

That was all I needed to see and in a flash I had a shotgun and was down there. The covey busted and I got a double, fully expecting Icky to die of fright.

But no. Icky was tearing through the dog fennels toward where one of the birds was downed. He brought that one to me and went and got the second bird. I'd be lying if I said those birds were brought in with not a feather out of place. He chewed the birds to pieces.

I had a talk with Icky right there about how to handle a bird and I could tell by how his head hung down he was sorry and would not do it again.

When Icky jumped the rabbit, I will admit to finally being surprised beyond belief. You should have seen that old catfish tearing through the briars after that rabbit.

I still get all choked up when I think about that.

Icky and I hunted a few seasons together. We were down on Little River on my uncle's place one day hunting and had to go through a swampy area.

Icky was crossing a log when he slipped. He fell in the water and drowned before I could get to him.

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