By: Lee Murdock
As an angler, you always bring something back from a fishing trip. It might be great pictures or sometimes it might even be soggy clothes and a chill. It is the stories about things that happen outside of the ordinary that I always remember most.
When I was about thirteen years old I was asked to join my father, a Baptist Minister, and a family friend who worked as a U.S. Forest Service Ranger, on their annual trip to fish on the Cherokee Indian Reservation in the mountains of North Carolina. The waters of the reservation always got heavy fishing pressure on the weekends so in a quest for some quiet water we decided to fish a part of the river that was a bit harder to access due to the road being so rough that you either had to walk in or take your chances in a 4wd vehicle. We decided to walk in and fish our way up stream.
We had fished most of the morning with good success and were making our way back down the road to get a bite of lunch, when we happened upon a rusty old blue truck making its way up the treacherous path. As we met the oncoming truck it sputtered to a stop and out jumped three excited gentlemen of Native American descent. Being only thirteen years old and being raised in the household of a Baptist minister, I had no idea why the gentlemen seemed to be so happy as they staggered out of the old truck. Later in life I would come to realize that they had been smashed.
My father was not sure of what to make of the zeal with which our new found friends approached us and quickly engaged them in conversation. They then proceeded to show us a gigantic tree stump that they were hauling in the bed of their pickup truck. The apparent leader of their intoxicated band then climbed into the back of the truck, and in a premeditated show of manhood, attempted to hoist the massive stump over his head. With much groaning he was able to lift it about 1/8th of an inch off the bed of truck before giving up. Each of his compatriots then took a turn at the same feat with approximately the same level of success and groaning. It was all I could do to contain my laughter, but being that we were in the middle of nowhere and in the company of a group of intoxicated Indians I thought it wise to refrain.
The feats of strength being concluded, the lit warriors asked us if we would like to purchase some "Speckled Trout". Neither I, my Father, nor the Forest Ranger knew what to make of this offer of commerce. I half expected them to pull a bucket of small brook trout from the cab of the truck but instead, much to our surprise, they produced a mason jar of clear liquid. One of the merry band exclaimed that what they were selling was "rare, like speckled trout!" and could be had for $20 a quart. Even in my youth I had seen enough episodes of The Dukes of Hazzard to know that it was moonshine in those mason jars. Both my father and our friend the forest ranger declined to make a purchase and when pressed as to why revealed the fact that the men had just attempted to sell non tax paid liquor to a Baptist Minister and a U.S. Forest Ranger. The gentlemen were noticeably moved and appearing much more sober, made a hasty retreat back down the road from whence they came. I suppose I will always have a special place in my memory for tree stumps and speckled trout.