During the honeymoon in Outlander, Jamie takes Claire fishing. What is unusual about this fishing trip is the way in which Jamie catches the fish. He has no pole and no bait other than his own fingers. Head to head they lie at the waters’ edge while Jamie demonstrates how to tickle a trout. Claire watches in rapt fascination as Jamie slowly lowers his hand into the water and then just as slowly begins to move his fingers. Claire describes how the filtered and refracted light makes Jamie’s fingers look as if they are part of the waving plant life found under the water. Hypnotized or lulled into a false sense of security, the trout ventures near Jamie’s fingers and is promptly flipped onto the bank for breakfast. This scene is a wonder. I can picture the entire event including a smiling Claire with a mud and leaf wrapped fish in her lap. It makes me curious to know if Diana was taught how to tickle trout or something similar, I know I was….
Armed with a bucket and cup, I half slid down the grassy slope to the edge of the shallow meandering stream. I plopped my little body down on the bank and rolled my worn summer jeans up to my knees. Bending over my skinny battered and bug bitten legs, I inspected a half healed scab. Satisfied with its progress, I looked over the bank at my hunting grounds and I liked what I saw. There were plenty of medium sized river rocks. Blockish and gray, they were scattered across the bottom of the stream. This was good. And, …there was a small wooden bridge with room to crawl underneath! I loved hiding under little bridges all shady, quiet and cool. I could see myself spending time underneath its shelter with my arms wrapped about my knees. I would watch yellow sunlight reflect off the water and become the fairies that danced across the roof of my own magical cave. “Later”, I told myself, as I once again noticed how many rocks there were.
The creatures I sought were fast and easily startled. My strategy for capturing them had been taught to me by my father the hunter, fisherman and all round expert woodsman. I was to move slow and steady being careful to not muddy the water because I needed to be able to see. So, I decided to start upstream near the bridge so as to let the waters’ flow carry away any mud I managed to stir up. I grabbed my cup and slid in to the cold water that barely came over my ankles. I felt the rough, sandy and pebble laden stream bed on the bottom of my feet and I slowly and carefully approached a likely river rock. My prey were fast, but they were predictable. They swam backward. This would prove to be their undoing and I smiled as I thought of how many craw dads I would catch this fine day.
Many rocks meant there were many craw dads and many craw dads meant lots of bait for bass. It was really only the smaller ones that were good for bait, but catching a big one was fun. Crouching, I placed my cup upstream directly behind the rock. This was the tough part , the part that required skill and cunning. If you weren’t stealthy and quick they would just swim to another hiding place. So, I had to be able to get my fingers underneath the side of the rock without the craw daddy noticing and then… quickly flip it to the side while holding the cup steady. I took a deep breath, and slowly slowly I slid my fingers under the rock and…flip. Instinct. The craw dad swam backward right into my cup. I quickly tipped the cup up and then poured him into the bucket. I determined that he was just about the right size as he swam backward around the bottom looking for a place to hide. Feeling sorry for him, I put a couple of rocks inside. He quickly hid and I went back to work flipping and scooping up craw dads.
I didn’t catch them all , but it was a good day. Disappointed that I still hadn’t found the big one, I decided to take a break. Bigger craw dads were hard to find. Not many lived long enough to get big and of course, they lived under bigger rocks. Bigger rocks were heavy and I was little. Sighing, I sat next to the bucket and pitted my twig sword fighting skills against the captured and their little snapping claws. They were good. While finding a new “sword” to replace the one the craw daddies broke, I had an ephiany. I could use a stick to flip the heavier rocks! “Look out big craw”, I thought and smiled at my own cleverness. “If I were him where would I hide?”, I wondered. Scanning the stream, I noticed a larger slightly flatter rock near the side with little tiny fish swimming around its edge. It made sense, a ledge to hide under and food. “If I was craw dad, I’d hide there”, I thought. I found a sturdy stick and went big game hunting.
As I wedged my stick under the side of the larger rock, I came to understand that there were issues with this new theory of craw dad catching. How was I supposed to push down on the stick with enough force to flip the rock and still have my cup at the ready? I thought about stepping on the stick, but quickly realized I would be too far away to scoop. “What if pushed down on the stick with my knees?”, I pondered, “that would put me closer to the water and the craw dad”. Deciding this was doable, I arranged myself over the stick cup in hand. Once again, I realized that my logic was flawed. The rock was too big and the force on the stick wasn’t enough to flip it over. What I did do , however, was peek under the rock long enough to see what I believed to be the world’s largest craw dad claw ever! He was huge and I had to see all of him! No longer worried about my cup and driven by adrenaline, I put both of my hands under the edge and pushed up. The momentum of my efforts carried my body along with the rock and I found myself face to face with the biggest craw dad I’d ever seen. He wasn’t happy and I was startled to see that he wasn’t swimming away. Instead, he was taking a defensive stand and was ready to fight…me. This time, I did the swimming backwards. There I was lying on my stomach in the stream with water dripping off my chin, I had to look again. He was beautiful in a monstrous kind of way. Not the mottle pale green of his smaller cohorts, he was instead so dark a green as to be almost black. And, he still wasn’t moving! I snorted as I realized that with claws raised and his tail tucked he reminded me of a Kung Fu master. And, I was definitely the “grasshopper” in this scenario. For a second, I thought about trying to catch him. But, to tell the truth, he scared me! For amusement , I would often let the smaller craws pinch my fingers just to watch them hang on. It didn’t really hurt, but these claws? Nope. I wasn’t getting near them.
Sadly, I realized no one would believe me about his size without the proof, but I couldn’t do it. With that thought confirmed, I had a second confirmed thought. I was just as convinced that even though I couldn’t catch him, someone else would. I had to prevent it from happening! I pulled myself off the bottom of the stream and approached the big craw with a smaller rock in my hand. The rock wasn’t a weapon, but a tool. I needed it to flip the rock back over, but I didn’t want to smash the craw. This rock, if placed right, would catch the bigger rock before it could come down on top of him. As I approached to undo the damage to his home, the craw circled snapping his dangerous looking claws. I gathered my courage and put the rock where I knew it needed to be. I did my own circle behind the craw and flipped the bigger rock back over onto the smaller rock. There! He was safe from discovery! Feeling pleased with myself, I went to sort through my bucket. It wasn’t a total catch and release, but I put quite a few of the larger craw daddies back in the water. I watched as each scurried to find a new home and then picked up my bucket to head back to mine.
Sometimes, a book can make you reflect upon the wonders in your own life; tickling trout, catching craw dads or learning from the people that you love. r