Telephoning Catfish (As told by Kenny Lewis)

I suppose the statue of limitations has run out on this story, so maybe I can tell this without Joe or me going to jail. As I’ve said earlier Brown Parker was one of my Dad’s best friends as was Joe Alderson. Brown lived in California and he and his wife owned a very successful Commercial Laundry business. Every summer they traveled back to Smithwick for two weeks of vacation. He almost always brought his boat and a case of Jim Beam whiskey. It was always a happy time for the community.
Cec and Joe made sure they had ample time off to spend with him doing the things they enjoyed most. One of them being illegal, which made it more fun and that was telephoning catfish. My Dad grew up on Lake Travis and knew all of the spots that the big Yellow Cat’s liked to hang out at. It didn’t really matter whose boat it was, Cec was always the boat driver. Each person had a job. Brown and Joe both worked the dip nets, Mom usually got drafted to crank the phone. This one particular day she couldn’t go, so I was the next draftee.
5 O’clock somewhere was Cec’s motto for drinking, so by 9 am he was well on his way. We’re headed down the lake to a well known spot called Big Rock. Our driver works his magic and wraps the long wire around the Landmark, which is some 20’ below the surface. Now it’s my turn. I start the cranking process. As I’m cranking I notice five Black Men sitting on 5 gallon buckets on the opposite bank some 150 yards away, all fishing with poles. It takes 3 to 4 minutes usually for the fish to start floating to the top. That’s when the action starts and it sure did that day. First bubbles and then fish start popping up all around us. Our somewhat intoxicated driver fires up the engine and with Joe on one side and Brown on the other, they start scooping them up and dumping them into the boat.
Since the Crank Man is the lowest on the totem pole your reward finally starts now because all you have to do is sit and watch the action and there is plenty of it. The fish are only stunned for a short period of time; therefore you have to work as fast as possible. Those three were a team, running full speed in circles, zig zagging in every direction and causing quite a commotion.
I noticed we had attracted the attention of the pole fisherman across the lake. First one stood up trying to get a better line of sight then another and another, until all five were stretching their necks to see what we were doing, even to the extent that the fist one up was now standing on his bucket. When all was done we had completely covered the bottom of the boat with fish ranging from 5 lbs. to 40 lbs. After all of the equipment was put away Cec cranks the engine and to all of our surprise heads straight for the five guys. He runs the boat up onto the bank, walks up to the front of the boat and pitches two catfish weighing 10-12 lbs. each to the fisherman. Walks back and cranks the boat, backs away and drives off without another word.
I remember looking back as we went around the bend of the river and seeing all five of them standing there waving their hats in the air. I have often said that I would bet there are still a couple of old gentlemen sitting on the front porch of a house in East Austin telling the story of the time they went to Spicewood and watched four crazy White Boys catch a boat full of fish.

Kenny Lewis

2 thoughts on “Telephoning Catfish (As told by Kenny Lewis)

  1. I’ve tried to explain to some of my friends how fun this method of fishing was, (or how fun I heard it was). This story does a good job of doing that. Thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

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