Like I’ve pointed out before, my grandfather owned a dairy farm and frequently I’d spend a week or more up at the farm, away from my Dad, Mom and sisters. It was pretty nice and I learned a lot. It was a working dairy farm, meaning the cows had to be brought in and cleaned and then milked, (by hand). Now the layout of the farm to understand my story is to note that the main road went straight past the farmhouse with the barn diagonally across this main (dirt) road. About 100 yards to the left down the road, a smaller road turned off to the right and meandered down over a hill and across a small stream, ending at the 20 acre field on the left, an old farm pond on the right and big timber straight ahead. There was a bridge across the stream and down to the left, about 100 feet, a nice clean farm pond with fish in it. Near the bridge was the best Gooseberry bush in the world. Deep red, striped and delicious! Being the youngest in the area of the farm I could get into trouble, I could experiment, I could chase animals domestic and wild, I could get dirty; it was heaven. Frequently Pop Hayes would ask me to go get the cattle from the 20 acre field around 4 p.m. so they would be in the barn ready to clean and milk. The distance to the 20 acre field was a little over a mile. On occasion Mom Hayes would give me a cookie or half a sandwich to tide me over till supper time. Being a frequently made trip, I played along the way, catching frogs and bugs and often feeding the catfish in the nice farm pond with a bit of my cookie or sandwich. One summer, I was there for a longer than usual period and I noticed the fish would swim up the stream to the bridge in anticipation of being fed. Now, the milking thing was really on a schedule and the cows knew it better than me. It never occurred to me that the cows knew their own way to the 20 acre field, as well as their way back and when. Sometimes if I was too late, I’d meet them heading up the hill towards the barn. That pond held such a fascination to me. That long stay however was enlightening to me. One day I had only a few crumbs for the fish and when I came to the bridge the fish were flopping up on the side of the stream out of hunger. I scooted them back into the stream, but a few days later, I had eaten all of my cookie and as I was crossing the bridge, I heard the now familiar sound of a fish flopping out of water, and here was this good sized catfish had made it all the way up onto the bridge after food, I was totally shocked when it fell into the water and drowned.
And so went the story as it was told to me while I was sitting on Pop Hayes’ lap, and as it was told to him by his grandfather and his. My very first shaggy dog story.