Experiences Educating the Children & the Joys of Fishing – Bill Arp, 4/28/1887

Experiences Educating the Children & the Joys of Fishing – Bill Arp, 4/28/1887

I want some chickens that won’t scratch up the flower seed in the front yard, nor wallow in the fresh made beds, nor fly
over in the garden nor take ;tee cholera, nor let the hawks catch their young, nor set two in a nest. I want a dog that wont
bark half the night, and will stay at home and know an honest man from a thief, and won’t tack mud through the hall nor
shake his fleas around. I want a cow that can be turned on the grass and will have sense enough to let the deuterougmus
alone, as Cube calls it. I want some beds that don’t have to be made up, and some dishes that don’t have to be washed,
some lamps that don’t have to be filled, and a book-case that the children can’t get out of order. I want hats and bonnets
that will hang themselves up and stay there until they are needed, and some school books and slates and pencils that
won’t hide and scatter around. I want a piano that won’t have to be tuned every time Mr. Freyer comes around-one that
practice mares perfect and neither moths nor rust doth corrupt. I want a knife and a pencil that the little chaps will give
back to me when they borrow, and some ink that will stay on the table, and some pins that will stay on the table, and
a towel that won’t show the marks of half washed hands. I want a cooking stove that draws well and bakes well all the
time and a cook that don’t quit when she gets ready and never gets sick or has a misery somewhere, or takes the pouts,
and will scour the kitchen floor without being told, and will give the dog some of the scraps from the table. I want children
and grand-children around me who don’t know how to cry and hardly ever get mad, and don’t tell tales and are as smart
as the books they have to study-or if they are not that smart, then I want books made easy. Professor Sanford says
his arithmetic has no key but is a stem winder. Well, if it has no key it oughtent to have any lock. I have to work till
ten o’clock every night helping my chaps to prize it open, but we generally succeed and I reckon it is all the better
that way. I do hate to have to surrender to these children. It is a confession of judgment when I can’t do a sum or
parse a sentence or translate their Latin.

When I get all tangled up in figures or in algebra and can’t untangle I say, “Well children, these modern books are all new
to me. We don’t figure now just exactly like we used to. I studied Smiley’s arithmetic, which had the single rule of three and
the double rule of three that did most every sum in the world. And I studied Murray’s grammar and Day’s algebra, but now
-adays they have got new bboke and short cuts and stem winders and all sorts of readers and eclectics and dialectics and
epilectics and other complicated machines that I don’t exactly understand.” And so I get out of it without losing very much
parental prestige. But the fact is, I have forgotten about as much as I know-perhaps more and still have to keep passing
away. About all the Latin I care to remember now is, “otium cum dignitate,” and want plenty of that. I am going fishing tomorrow
and stay all day. I will rig up a big wagon and take the children along and a basket of lunch and we will fish and frolic and
gather flowers and eat and talk and laugh and get dirty all day long. The signs are all right, for the dog-wood is in bloom
and the wind is in the south and it is the dark of the moon, and I think I see myself just jerking the big bream from under the
log. Carl knows every hole in the creek and he can catch more fish than I can and don’t try half as hard. Jessie wants to
pick flowers, and I’ve promised her she may wade in the branch, but her mother don’t know it. Jessie comes to me and
Carl goes to his mother for favors. What a pity it is that grown folks can’t be children once or twice in awhile and wade in
the branch too. The next time Judge Bleckley goes to Screamer mountain to be a buy again and go barefooted and make
hickory whistles and chestnut fifes and catch spring lizzards and crawfish and climb trees for birds’ eggs, and make black
ants fight, and run ground squir-rels to their holes and dig angelica and kill snakes and rock hornets’ nests and fight yaller
-jackets, I’m going with him.-I’m tired of playing man all the year long without a recess. (Unknown words) sort of hypocritical
life. I envy the children. The scriptures say “unless ye be as one of these little ones, ye shall not get to heaven.” So it’s
time to begin, and therefore I’m going a fishing.

That’s a good scriptural occupation anyhow, for one of the disciples said, “I go a fishing,” and the other replied, “I go
with thee also.” They were just human like the rest of us. I wonder if they had any hooks and poles like we have. Going
a flailing and coming from fishing are two things, very different things. They are no kin. We fix up our hooks and lines
and split bullets and rob every empty bottle and jug of its cork, and dig the back yard all to pieces for bait, and make
great preparations, and’imagine the fish are just waiting for us, and we can see the pole bending with a big one darting
around, and that’s pretty much all there is of it-imagination. But it is the most hopeful thing in the world. We swear off and
swear off, but in a week or so we want to try it again. We most always hang one or two, and sometimes get a big one on
the edge of the bank and he gets away. Right there the dictionary is at fault, for there is no word in it that fits the case-
that expresses the inexpressible goneness of the occasion. It makes a feller sick at the stomach. But I have gotten to
be reconciled to most anything now and don’t take on like I used to. My business now is to comfort others and help them
to be happy-and I believe that pays the best after all. Blessed is he who expects little, for he shall not be disappointed. “Man
wants but little here below, Nor wants that little long.” I don’t say that, but Poet Young said it in his solemn night-thoughts.
And then Goldsmith copied and used it in his ballad of the Hermit. But Sidney Smith was of a lively turn of mind, and
said: “Man wants but Iittle here below, As beef, veal, mutton, pork and venison show.” And next came John Quincy Adams,
who set down on it and wrote: “Man wants but little here below, Nor wants that little long, ‘Tis not with me exactly so,
Tho ’tis so in the song.” I want a good deal. I want more than I get, but I don’t want it bad enough to make a hog of
myself, nor break the tenth commandment. I always admired the happy way in which Daniel Webster used some
lines from Dryden when he said he was thankful that ‘if he could not raise a mortal to the skies’ he had no desire
“to bring bin angel down.”

But still I love to go a fishing, whether I catch them or not. It is a good time to ruminate. The business is so typical of life.
Its hopes and disappointments. Happiness is just ahead of us all we think, and we lay our plans and fix our hooks and
dig our bait and drop our lines in some inviting hole, and by and by the hook gets hung under a root and we worry over
it awhile and pull and the line breaks. Or perhaps we hang something that bites slow and cautious and we haul up a little
dirty old terrapin. Or again we hang a lively fellow and he runs round and round and we brace ourself for a trout and haul
up a slickery squirming old eel. But nevertheless, I am going a fishing.

Last Updated on March 15, 2021 by Bill Arp

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