By Amy McCollom
When I was a kid, about ten years old or so, my folks loved to go fishing. All summer long, most evenings and especially on the weekends we would all jump in the Trail Duster and go dip our lines in a creek or river, or head down to Oakland to the lake. My dad loved catfish, so it was always a good fishing day if we caught several of those to put in the freezer.
We kept a big deep freeze out in the garage, and that is also where dad kept all of our fishing rods and cane poles. He would store them up in the rafters overhead so they didn’t take up space when Mom wanted to have garage sales and stuff.
We lived down on a little street in Tuscola called Timmons Drive. It was a long street that curved on both ends with a deep ditch behind our house. If it rained hard for a couple of days, the ditch would get full of water and it was like our own little swimming hole. Kids from all over the neighborhood would put on their swimming suits and slosh around in the hip deep water behind our house. My dad didn’t like that his garden got flooded about every summer, though.
Well, one Friday night after one of our fishing trips, we got home really late. It was after midnight by the time we had packed it in and came home, and everybody was dog tired. But we had caught a big ol mess of fish, and most of them were catfish. My dad was tired and didn’t feel like cleaning all those fish then, so since it had been raining, and the ditch was full of water, he said,
“Shoot, I’ll just dump the fish out there and catch ‘em with a net tomorrow morning and clean ‘em then.”
So, that’s what he did, and we all went to bed.
I woke up from the noise. It was early, around 7:00 a.m., I think. Too early to be up and at ‘em after getting home late from fishing in the dark. But something was going on outside of our house. I followed my ears into the kitchen where I saw my mom and dad peeking out the kitchen window into the backyard.
I asked them what was going on, and my dad said there were a bunch of people out back on the street behind our house. A bunch of people! He got dressed and told mom and the rest of us to stay put. Then he went out back to talk to somebody.
My mom continued to watch out the kitchen window, and she kept muttering to herself “Oh … my God…Oh my….Oh my…”
I heard a lady with a high-pitched voice shrilling and screaming, so I ran and peeked out the back door.
There was our neighbor, mean old Mrs. Maleblochevic (or something like that, I called her Mrs. M) yelling and pointing at the ditch, grabbing a man by his shirt sleeve and dragging him along the road with her. There were people taking pictures of something in the ditch full of water. There were a couple of police officers, some men wearing hardhats, some of the neighbor kids in their swimming suits, I think even the Mayor was out there. Mrs. M was screaming louder now! “They’re coming up from the river! See! See! Something needs to be done! Do you see this!”
My dad came back in the house after talking to several people and told my mom what was going on. Apparently Mrs. M was walking her little white poodle when the dog started barking at the fish in the ditch. Mrs. M had been complaining to the city for years about the flooding problem in our part of the town, and when she saw the fish, she just about had a heart attack. She called the Mayor and the chief of police and the newspaper editor and everybody came to see what was going on.
The city workers and water works engineers could not understand how fish were making their way into the drainage ditch but there were some serious changes needing to be made. I guess it even made it into the newspaper.
Of course, my dad had sworn us all to secrecy, lest any ill feelings should come of it. But not long thereafter, our drainage problems on that end of town did get work done and did improve for a while. I kind of missed swimming in the ditch with the neighbor kids.
So, I said all of that to say this; always suspect something fishy until you have proof otherwise. And the obvious, expected answer isn’t always the true one. Never stop thinking.