A shorter version of this story is in my book "A TIME AND PLACE A TIME AND PLACEThe Making of an Immigrant." I have expanded the story and it will be published as part of an e-book in the near future.
How To Grow Minnows
In the branch below the dam we caught minnows. On occasion, one could snatch one barehanded by running it into a shallow corner, but most of the time we used a large white handkerchief. We hollowed out a low spot in the stream then stretched out the cloth and pinned it to the stream’s bottom with a few rocks on the corners. We then squatted on each side of the branch. With hands ready at the water’s edge we watched and waited quietly, motionless, until several minnows came to rest in the hollow of the kerchief. In unison and a sudden snap of the corners we pulled up the cloth. Most of the minnows darted out, but often one or two were caught. We quickly added the prized catch to a canning jar filled with water. It took quite a spell for the creek’s water to settle again, but, we had all day.
When the day’s catch reached a half dozen or more, we carried our cache uptown to my friend’s house and to their family bathtub. We filled the tub half full of water then dumped in our catch.
Now the time came, for all participating men, to hunt for food for the obviously underfed fish. If we were to see them grow to any edible size, in the tub? . . . we had to feed them. Well, down to the branch we returned to catch some morsels of food out of the fish’s natural habitat.
Worms, snails, bugs, flies, grasshoppers, and leeches were a good start. The leeches we realized were hard to find. They stuck on slippery algae under the sheet of water running over the pond’s dam. Those critters, kind of orange-red with a jagged sucking cup on one end, would rather stick themselves to our bodies than be shoved into a jar.
Well, we gathered enough food, what we considered, for the minnows in the tub to grow to some good sized fish. It included all the food groups, worms, flies, grasshoppers, bugs, and snails, all stuffed into the glass jar. Uptown we jaunted, and simply dumped the jar full of creepy things into the bathtub.
While the project still dwelled on our minds we’d check on the minnows before the day was done. However, after a few days we found most of the fish food had died in the tub or had merely crawled out to greener pastures. A week or so later, it was reported that the minnows also had croaked.
This gets me wondering, with my now Americanized brain, why did that family have a tub when no one used it for over a week?
As to the extent of our own washing, most days Mom just wiped and rubbed me down with a coarse, damp rag. She swiftly hit a lick around the face and behind the ears, and checked for black-looking sweat rings on the neck. We washed our own feet, followed by a cursory inspection by Mom to make sure the rust was off before we crawled into bed.
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