Wednesday, May 19, 2010

More fish tales

Beck Pennington with friend Frances McNeese
May 1969

Fessie considered himself guardian of the fishing holes in the Tombigbee River bottom near his house and farm in Peaceful Valley. Woe to anyone he caught "telephoning" for fish, and I believe he would have killed anybody he caught using cotton poison to kill and catch fish. Horrible to think of poisoning fish, especially in today's "greener" consciousness, but it happened.

For a while, Fessie suspected that someone was telephoning for fish in the river. Highly illegal, telephoning involved using the wires of an old timey wooden telephone box to shock fish. This caused them to float to the top of the water where they could be scooped up in nets. After putting the telephone wires into the water, the old hand crank would then be wound up, causing electrical currents that stunned whatever fish that were nearby in the water. This horrible practice was ruining Fessie's trotline fishing, and he was determined to catch the folks responsible.

Hearing a boat motor one day, Fessie took off for the river and paddled up to the Big Hole. Sure enough, there were the lawbreakers with their telephone and boat full of fish. Although Fessie yelled and cussed at them, they ignored him and went about their business. After all, Fessie was much older than they were and appeared harmless. Fessie put the word out in the community that he was going to put an end to the telephoning of fish in the Tombigbee River.

The summer went one and telephoning of fish continued. Again one day, Fessie heard the boat motor and again he went to the river. This time, along the way, he cut down a twelve foot sapling, stripping it of its limbs and sat down to wait by the edge of the river. When the boat full of men and fish came roaring down the river, Fessie yelled at them to stop. As in the past, he was ignored. This time, Fessie suddenly stood up with his twelve foot sapling pole, swung it, and cleared the boat of its occupants. One of the men swam to the other side of the river, getting away, but the other two were collared by Fessie and dragged to the house where the game warden was called to come get them.

Two or three days and miserable nights later, the other fella finally came out of the woods. He was eat up with mosquito bites and glad to turn himself in, and Fessie gladly obliged. That was the end of telephoning for fish in Peaceful Valley. Word got out that there was a crotchety old man that nobody wanted to fool with. His name was Fessie Pennington.

1 comment:

Kirk Robinson said...

Great story, Mona. Papa Fessie was a watchman over hunting and fishing.