JULY 1, 2004
THE COUNTRY CORNER
FROM the SOUTH
When I born, I black,
When I grow up, I black,
When I go in sun, I black,
When I cold, I black,
When I scared, I black,
When I sick, I black,
and When I die, I still black.
You white folks....
When you born, you pink,
When you grow up, you white,
When you go in sun, you red,
When you cold, you blue,
When you scared, you yellow,
When you sick, you green,
When you bruised, you purple,
and When you die, you gray.
So who you callin' colored folk's ???
One dark night outside a small town in Minnesota, a fire started
inside the local chemical plant and in a blink it exploded into massive
The alarm went out to all the fire departments from miles around.
When volunteer fire fighters appeared on the scene, the chemical
company president rushed to the fire chief and said, "All of our secret formulas are in the vault in the center of the plant. They must be saved. I will give$50,000 to the fire department that brings them out intact."
But the roaring flames held the firefighters off. Soon, more fire
departments had to be called in as the situation became desperate.
As the firemen arrived, the president shouted out that the offer was now $100,000 to the fire department who could bring out the
company's secret files.
From the distance, a lone siren was heard as another fire truck
came into view. It was the nearby Norwegian rural township volunteer
fire company composed mainly of Norwegians over the age of 65.
To everyone's amazement, the little run-down fire engine, operated
by these Norwegian's, passed all the newer sleek engines parked
outside the plant, and drove straight into the middle of the inferno.
The other firemen watched as the Norwegian old timers jumped off and began to fight the fire with a performance and effort never seen before.
Within a short time, the Norske old timers had extinguished the fire
and saved the secret formulas.
The grateful chemical company president joyfully announced that for such a superhuman feat, he was upping the reward to $200,000, and
he walked over to personally thank each of the brave, though elderly,
The local TV news reporters rushed in after capturing the event on
film asking, "What are you going to do with all that money?"
"Vell," said Ole Larsen, the 70-year-old fire chief, "da furst thing ve do
is fix da brakes on dat damn truck!"
The hunter's prey darted into the shadows, just out of reach of Henry Demar's gun.
"Come on, stand up and be counted," Mr. Demar whispered excitedly. "There was a ripple that came out of the weeds. There's something out there."
Dressed in camouflage, gripping his .357 Magnum, Mr. Demar was primed to shoot. But this time, no such luck. With a flick of its tail, his quarry — a slick silvery fish — was gone.
Fish shooting is a sport in Vermont, and every spring, hunters break out their artillery — high-caliber pistols, shotguns, even AK-47's — and head to the marshes to exercise their right to bear arms against fish.
It is a controversial pastime, and Vermont's fish and wildlife regulators have repeatedly tried to ban it. They call it unsportsmanlike and dangerous, warning that a bullet striking water can ricochet across the water like a skipping stone.
But fish shooting has survived, a cherished tradition for some Vermont families and a novelty to some teenagers and twenty-somethings. Fixated fish hunters climb into trees overhanging the water (some even build "fish blinds" to sit in), sail in small skiffs or perch on the banks of marshes that lace Lake Champlain, on Vermont's northwest border.
"They call us crazy, I guess, to go sit in a tree and wait for fish to come out," said Dean Paquette, 66, as he struggled to describe the fish-shooting rush. "It's something that once you've done it . . ."
Mr. Paquette, a retired locomotive engineer, has passed fish shooting on to his children and grandchildren, including his daughter, Nicki, a nurse.
"You have to be a good shot," said Ms. Paquette, 31, who started shooting at age 6. "It's a challenge. I think that's why people do it."
Her 87-year-old great-uncle, Earl Picard, is so enthusiastic that, against the better judgment of his relatives, he frequently drives 75 miles from his home in Newport to Lake Champlain. Mr. Picard still climbs trees, although "most of the trees that I used to climb in are gone," he said. "You can sit up there in the sun and the birds will come and perch on your hat and look you in the eye."
There is art, or at least science, to shooting fish, aficionados say, and it has nothing to do with a barrel. Most fish hunters do not want to shoot the actual fish, because then "you can't really eat them," Ms. Paquette said. "They just kind of shatter."
Instead, said Mr. Demar, "you try to shoot just in front of the fish's nose or head." The bullet torpedoes to the bottom and creates "enough concussion that it breaks the fish's air bladder and it floats to the surface."
Often the target is a female fish come to spawn in shallow water, accompanied by several male acolytes who might also be killed, or stunned, by the concussion.
"If you shoot a high-powered rifle, you can get a big mare and six or seven little bucks," Mr. Paquette said.
Permitted from March 25 to May 25, only on Lake Champlain, fish shooting has probably existed for a century. It also used to be legal in New York, which borders the huge apostrophe-shaped lake.
Virginia used to have several fish-shooting areas, said Alan Weaver, a fish biologist with Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. Now, Mr. Weaver said, the only place is the Clinch River in remote Scott County, where, six weeks a year, people can shoot bottom-feeders like "quill-back suckers and red-horse suckers." Virginia is the only other state where fish shooting is still legal, Vermont officials said.
In 1969, fish and wildlife officials in New York and Vermont banned fish shooting. But Vermonters were loath to sever the primal link between fish and firearm, so in 1970, the Legislature not only reinstated the sport, it also added fish like carp and shad to the target list, bringing the number to 10.
Since then, there have been several efforts to halt fish shooting. But they have been stopped by noisy objections from a small but dedicated bunch.
Your standard of living improves when you go camping.
Your prenuptial agreement mentions chickens.
You have jacked up your home to look for a dog.
You have a relative living in your garage.
Your neighbor has ever asked to borrow a quart of beer.
There is a belch on your answering machine greeting.
You have rebuilt a carburetor while sitting on the commode.
None of the tires on your van are the same size.
You hold the hood of your car with your head while you work on it.
Your idea of getting lucky is passing the emissions test.
Your town put the new garbage truck in the Christmas parade.
Your local beauty salon also fixes cars.
Your doghouse and your living room have the same shag carpet.
You've slow danced in the Waffle House.
Starting your car involves popping the hood.
Your garbage man is confused about what goes and what stays.
You whistle at women in church.
You actually wear shoes your dog brought home.
You've been in a fistfight at a yard sale.
You carry a fly swatter in the front seat of the car so you can reach the kids in the back seat.
Copyright 2000 Claude Dern, All Rights Reserved
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