For as long as I could remember, Daddy would take my brother and me fishing. We’ve fished stocked ponds, learning how to pick up catfish without getting stung by their whiskers. We’ve fished from docks, and when we were a bit older he got his first boat. That’s when the serious fishing began. He really wanted the bass, and got pretty good at catching ‘em too when he didn’t have us kids underfoot. But mostly, when he had his boat full of us kids, Mom, and the dawg, we just all fished for bluegill. They were easy and thankfully plentiful, since they’re also tiny. And in my childhood memories, they were the best tasting.
We used to camp at the lake, finding an isolated point to tie the boat, that was sloped good for kids to swim, but had a flat spot somewhere for our tent. We had a couple of favorite points during those years. Ya know how smells are the strongest memory triggers? If I close my eyes and think back, I can still remember lying in the tent around dawn, starting to wake. I could smell them bluegill frying, that Daddy had caught just minutes before. He’d be back out in his boat, in the morning fog, reeling more in, while Mom was at the fire with her iron skillet frying the last batch he caught. Bluegill naturally smell and taste like butter, all by their selves, without having to add anything to ‘em. Don’t reckon I’ll ever get a breakfast like that again.
Over the years, Daddy got really into the bass fishing, doing the local tournaments with his upgraded boat that cost more than all our vehicles put together. That thing was slick! But he still found time to load it up with the family and take us fishing too. We tried to do the bass thing, but none of us were ever any good at it. He’d use the trolling motor to quietly and slowly guide the boat along the steepest banks, full of overhanging trees and bushes. And on those afternoons, he spent a lot of time untangling our lines and hooks from those trees, where we had swung back over our shoulders to cast, but snagged branches instead. He used to grumble, half disgusted and half amused, that we were ‘squirrel fishing!’
So fast forward many years, decades even, and I’m a grown-ass woman playing this online video game, the World of Warcraft. As with most any topic you can think of, there’s podcasts out there about the game. One of my favorites to follow is this one specifically aimed at players playing the ‘hunter class’ of game character. It’s relatively new, and doing a great job already, and they’ve quickly established this running joke of ‘chasing squirrels.’ It’s their euphemism for going off the show notes, and following conversational tangents wherever they may lead.
Yeah, well, the WoW podcasting community is very interconnected, and it didn’t take long before that phrase caught on, and it’s now commonly used in several WoW shows not specific to hunters. And we all totally understand what they’re saying.
And folks who aren’t in that loop get it too. ‘Chasing squirrels’ evokes images of futile attempts to catch something that’s too fast and unpredictable. ‘Squirrel fishing’ might not be as instantly clear to anyone not from around here, but the humorous futility and absurdity still gets communicated. A knitting podcaster that’s also one of my faves recently relocated from the Midwest to North Carolina, and apparently she stumbled upon the phrase, ‘squirrel fishing.’ She laughingly reacted to it on Facebook, but didn’t tell the context in which she’d heard it. But she really didn’t have to, did she? It expresses plenty that we all recognize, all by itself.
It’s becoming a part of my everyday vocabulary these grown up days. At work, when little problems need fixing or mysteries solved, and especially on days when we get several of those at once, I’ve taken to calling that, ‘squirrel fishing.’ It’s those things that distract us from the real work at hand. I’ve joked about trying to find one of those signs with the silhouette of a squirrel and that red circle over it with the slash through it, like a ‘no squirrels’ kinda thing, and hanging it on the door of our office. But then I’d have to knit a stuffed squirrel toy and put in on my desk, just for snickers. Or milky ways.
Um, why babble about any of this? Dunno. But it was on my mind, and now I can officially call this squirrel sufficiently chased. That, and it's just funny how many times I typed the word squirrel.
One of these days, remind me to tell y'uns about that one squirrell that used to watch TV with us.