Excerpt from the book “They Call Me Orange Juice” by Audrey McDonald Atkins
Ahhh … summertime.
My summers were spent at the home of my maternal grandparents, Granny and Baw to me, under the watchful eye of Sarah, their housekeeper and my companion. Most of the morning, I would wander around their expansive yard, playing house under the scuppernong arbors, catching tadpoles in the goldfish pond, or picking blackberries with Sarah for a lunchtime cobbler.
In the afternoons, though, when Sarah had gone home for the day and Granny was busy with the Garden Club or playing bridge as nice ladies are wont to do, my Baw would take me on all sorts of glorious adventures. One of our favorites, fishing.
You may not realize it, but some of the best bait in the world is the Catawba worm — the fat, green, juicy larvae of the sphinx moth — and we just happened to have a Catawba tree in our pasture. No amount of plastic worms, fancy flies, or spinnerbait can compete with a wriggling Catawba worm dangling off a hook in tantalizing captivity. So up the ladder I would go with the cricket cage to pluck the unsuspecting critters from their host leaves. Sometimes when I’d squeeze one too much, it would excrete a dark, yellow liquid all over my little hands, and I’d nearly fall off the ladder screeching in delight and dismay if one were to “pee” on me.
Bait in hand, we would load up in Baw’s old pickup truck, me sitting in his lap to “drive” us, and head out to wile away the afternoon with our Zebco rods and reels or, more often, just a cane pole. That evening, hot and sunburned, we would come home with our catch, usually a few nice bream or a catfish or two, to be cleaned and stowed away in the refrigerator for lunch the next day.
Nowadays, in the summer, as I sit in traffic trudging from meetings to music lessons to the grocery store listening to the sirens and horns and rap music, I long for the days of sitting by a pond with my Baw, listening to the quietude, sharing secrets and maybe a Peach Nehi, the endless days blending one into another like a hot and humid dream. Maybe tomorrow, I’ll rise up singing … and dust off my Zebco.
Born and raised in Citronelle, Atkins shares stories about growing up and living in the South in her book, “They Call Me Orange Juice,” and at her blog folkwaysnowadays.com.