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Skiing On The Catfish Pond
by Wes Wilson

I have heard that our brains never forget or lose any information, but rather as we become older it becomes more difficult to retrieve that information—something to do with receptors or something. Having said that, my noggin was jarred the other day by a rather inventive e-mail, and my cranial computer space that I thought was full to the max, came up with a rather obscure file hidden behind many years of family, friends, and work. I remembered the time well.

As farm boys in the early '70s, on Sundays, or even some weekdays when the crops were laid by, Rodney Mills and I had one thing on our mind come summertime: getting to Lake Whittington as fast as possible, and water skiing till our legs felt like rubber. When we did not have a boat, we would drive down the boat ramp to the water’s edge, honk and wave down one of our boating friends, or sit there dreaming of the day when we could go skiing anytime we took a notion. Then Rodney’s daddy, Mr. Emmett, bought him a ski boat and we were set for life, or as much as two teenagers could be set for life. We appreciated that boat.

Once though, toward the end of the summer, Rodney’s boat motor had some particular ailment that could not be easily cured and we were landlocked yet again. It was hot as blue blazes, we had outgrown skinny-dipping in the rice wells, and tired of bumming boat rides off of friends. The idea came quite suddenly as we circled one of the Mills 100 acre fishponds in my daddy’s Ford Bronco. We had a ski rope, we had skis, we had ski vests, and my daddy’s Bronco had a metal rack secured to the top.

We tied one end of the ski rope to that metal rack and threw the rope handles as far out into the fishpond as we could. Rodney took off his shirt (after all, it was his daddy’s fishpond), then waded into the water. I threw him both skis, waited for him to get set (no small task in the mud and waste-deep water), and then I tightened the rope and took off. Rodney popped up like a cork, and there we were--skiing down the bank of that pond. But as you know, catfish ponds are not round, they have sharp 90-degree turns with hardly any banking, and these particular ponds had risers, tall steel culverts, all around. I would slow for the turn and Rodney would have to drop, we would move to the other side of the turn, reset, and off we would go again.

I guess we accomplished something that day. We were worn out (Rodney more than I), we had cooled off, and we had stayed out of trouble for that afternoon, but Rodney said those catfish felt funny with their fins brushing up against him as he stood ready for take off. And the other thing, well, I guess he held on a little too long one time, or I was going too fast, and he went face first into the muddy pond bottom.

Oh well, so much for a faded memory, long summer days, two boys, imagination, and a heck of a lot of space to fill.


Wes Wilson is the author of A Jealous God and numerous short stories. He's a native of the Mississippi Delta, where he lives with his wife and two children. Contact Wes at Wesnall@cableone.net


From: Wallace
I seem to remember one summer when Rodney and I pulled you (with the trusty bronco) through the catfish ponds. I remember my trepidation, 'cause I could imagine you going head over heels to land on one of the dead catfish that were scattered around the edges of the ponds. But thankfully, since God looks after fools and drunks (and there was a good chance that we were doubly qualified) you made the circuit with out so much as getting damp below the knees. Thanks for the memory and the reminder.

From: Dee
Good story, Wes. It’s tight. It’s easy to read and imagine.

From: Ramona
Thanks so much for sharing [this story] . . .

From: mbm
Wes, I’m still laughing. I can actually picture you two doing this and having fun, too.

From: Larry and Judy
Very good story. Enjoyed it. Always heard, where’s there’s a will there’s a way.

From: Laura-Katherine
I really like that. I love and miss y’all soo much.

Wes Wilson has signed the contract for his second novel Nor Gloom of Night. This book, like the first, will be a mystery set in the Mississippi Delta, available through bookstores, Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.com by the fall of 2003. For an excerpt, visit Wes' website WES WORDS.

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