Gone Fishing

Kenny Livingstone came over to my house one morning and stood at the back door and started to call, “Hey Jo-hn-nie-ee!” Ma called, “John, Kenny is out back calling for you.” I went to the door and said “Hey, Ken, what’s the matter?” Ken said, “Why don’t we go fishing. Let’s dig some worms and go down under the dam.” I said, “O.K. Come on in the house and have a piece of knickebrod. Ma, can Kenny and I have a piece of hard bread?” “Certainly you can” she said with a big smile. Ma took out two large rings of hardbread. They were about ten inches in diameter with a one inch hole in the middle and then she spread a thick layer of peanut butter on each. She handed one to Kenny and gave me the other one.

Kenny never had that wonderful Swedish delicacy at his house. When he came to our house he had that treat and sure did love it! Kenny was so delighted when Ma handed him the piece of hard bread that he even said “Thank you Mrs. Agren.” We ate the hardbread, getting some of the peanut butter on our fingers and mouth which was rubbed off on our shirt sleeves. Kenny’s treat broke and a big piece of it fell to the floor. It landed buttered side up so he just picked it up and resumed his repast.

I said, “Kenny, lets go out in the hen yard and dig worms. My father showed me where the big ones are. Get a shovel out of the shed and grab an empty can for the worms. Come on in the chicken yard, Ken, the worms are in the hen yard. Don’t let the chickens out when you open the gate or we’ll have to chase them all over the back yard!”

We dug for a little while, shooing chickens away when they wanted to scratch in the newly turned soil and eat our worms. When our worm can was full we got our fish poles together and headed for the Ten Mile River Dam.

We each wore our knee boots where there was a small pocket about three inches long on the right side of the right boot where the manufacturer had inserted a pocket knife. The pocket had a flap with a snap. The snap permitted a boy to button the knife flap to the boot. Because of this, the knife would always be dry. You couldn’t fish unless you had the boots and the knife!

Our fish poles were nothing more than long sticks of bamboo with a few yards of string attached. We made daubers out of cork from the top of an empty bottle, carefully running a narrow slit to half the depth of the full length of the cork. This cork made a good, easily adjustable dauber. We each had a few extra hooks just in case a line got caught on a rock or something on the river bottom.

A path ran north and south on the Rumford side of the Ten Mile River at varying distances from the river. We got on the path in back of Jodat’s house that ran along in back of Carpenters and then Gustafson’s house. Near here was the Tyler Ice House, another place where we had many great adventures. A little south and west of the ice house, behind the “Rumford High House” was the “Sand Pit”, another popular play ground. Beyond the sand pit was the dam with clear water spilling over it all the time. When we got near to the sand pit we could hear the roar of water spilling over the falls. At the waterfalls site one had to yell to make himself heard because the rushing and falling water made so much noise. At the dam, there was a small declivity down which one would crawl to get below the dam. At the fishing site below the dam there were many places from which to launch a line. Often there were other fisherman and on this day Joe Aikens and George Charlton were already fishing. They each had a string of perch and hornpout.

Below the dam, there were all kinds of fish and a pleasant odor of Ten Mile River water. There was mist and foam below the dam as the water sped on its path south through the “Arcade Woods” and down to the rapids at Hunts Mills. Water splashed down over the dam and into the pool at the bottom where we intended to fish.

When Kenny and I got to our fishing site I took a big wiggley worm out of the can and held it up to show Kenny. “Hey, Ken”, I shouted over the roar of the water, “How about this beauty?” Kenny replied, “Yea, that one looks like a winner!” I held the squirming worm tightly between the thumb and forefinger off my left hand and carefully threaded it on the hook; just like Pa had taught me. I brought my pole back over my right shoulder and let the hook, worm and dauber fly out into the rapidly moving water. Our cork dauber with fish hook and worm attached would tend to drift south, down stream with the current. The dam was a great place for a couple of youngsters to enjoy the out of doors and get next to nature and be introduced to the exciting sport of fishing.

The minute my dauber, hook and worm hit the water there was a bobbing of the dauber, indicating that a fish was interested in the morsel at the end of my line. I let the fish have some fun and then brought up a small perch.

By this time, Kenny was ready to get his line into the water and, following the usual pole over the shoulder system, got his line out into the stream. My perch was let back into the river, not big enough to keep. Kenny now had a strike. The dauber was pulled under water and ran south for a minute. He pulled in a good sized pickerel. Ken took the jack knife out of its pocket in his shoe and cut a forked stick out of a nearby wild cherry tree. The pickerel was strung on the cherry fork stick. One branch of the wild cherry wood was passed through the fish’s gills and out the mouth.. The fish couldn’t go anywhere with the stick through his breathing apparatus. Now the pickerel could be placed back in the water and kept fresh until we were ready to go home. We had a great time under the dam and before long we each had a string of fish and were ready to leave.

We walked home by going up the Newman Avenue hill, past the Rumford Chemical Company mill houses and the Rumford Chemical Company high house. Fishing under the dam with a childhood friend was a great way for two youngsters to spend a beautiful summer’s day. There isn’t much that is better than a can of worms, a fishing pole, a good friend and an interesting place to fish when the fish are biting!

Note: Kenny was a “snipe” on the USS Heavy Cruiser Astoria. He was killed in August 1942 when his ship was sunk by the Japanese during the war in the Pacific.