Stupid Is As Stupid Does
Garry's Outdoor Kicks & Grins - July 2022
I was reading an article the other day that absolutely depressed me. Back in the late 1940s, the Zero Hour Bomb Company made explosives to start oil flowing on the oil rigs of Oklahoma. Their patents were expiring and they needed to diversify in order to stay in business. Along came an inventor who offered an alternative to the baitcasting reel that would not backlash and the company picked it up and gave the world the Zebco 33. Now, I knew all that. What I didn’t know was where the inventer got his idea.
Seems he was in a meat market and noticed that the twine they used in packaging did not come from a revolving spool, but from a stationary one attached to the wall. Now, it occurred to me that I do not know how to set the timer on my dryer, and this guy came up with an idea that revolutionized fishing over 70 years ago by walking into a meat market. I could have spent several days and nights in that place and never, ever, ever have thought of such a thing.
Summertime and the livin’ is easy, and the day after my epiphany, Ducky and I were sitting on my deck late in the afternoon enjoying the results of some refiner’s hard work at a Kentucky distillery. I told him I was as dumb as a ‘No Dogs Allowed’ sign at an Institute for the Blind, and related the story of the Zebco 33 and how the inventor got the idea and how stupid that made me feel. He told me I should not give it a second thought because he had always known how stupid I was.
I took great exception to that statement and retorted with “OK, Einstein, how does a radio work?”
He shrugged his shoulders and said, “Simple. It’s magic. The radio itself, theoretically, is full of elves and leprechauns and….”
I interrupted, “Alright, bar is closed,” screwed the cap back on the bottle and set it behind my chair.
“Seriously, Duck, doesn’t finding out stuff like that make you feel stupid?”
He took his glasses off, put the end of one earpiece in the corner of his mouth and stared off into the distance. He actually looked intelligent there for a second. For a second. Then he said, “No, I feel stupid when I drive my boat 10 miles up the lake to my favorite fishing hole, raise the outboard, put down my trolling motor, work my way to the back of the cove and discover I left both my rods in the truck.”
“You didn’t,” I said.
“’Fraid so. And then I ran out of gas on the way back.”
“Ducky, that’s really dumb.”
He wasn’t through. “And I forgot to recharge my battery the night before and couldn’t use my trolling motor, so I sat in the middle of the lake most of the afternoon before a DNR boat spotted me.”
“Ducky, that’s not stupidity, it’s senility. Stupidity is when you tell your fellow competitors where you caught that limit of huge bass. And there’s a full day left in the tournament. Stupidity is when you tell a game warden he looks like an alligator gar. Stupidity is when you ask your mother-in-law not to tell your wife about your new $3,000 shotgun.”
“Well, I’m glad to know I’m just forgetful, not ignorant.”
“No, no, no. Ignorance is something else entirely. The root word of ignorance is ignore. It means you know the truth, but simply choose to disregard it. Like most politicians. Stupidity and senility can be excused. Ignorance can’t.”
“So when we were kids and headed out fishing that day and I almost killed myself racing y’all on Dead Man’s Hill when my bike fell apart and my Dad called me ignorant, he was wrong?”
“Indeed he was. You were just stupid.”
“I’m glad to hear that.”
“I know you are.”
Ducky then related a few risque stories of girls he had dated in college that we can’t print in a family publication, and we analyzed, since they were too young to be senile, whether they were stupid or ignorant. Most, we determined, turned out to be neither. They were brainless. Especially since they had been dating Ducky. After that little discussion, Ducky slid his empty glass across the patio table and said, “I’ll drink to that” and I retrieved the bottle from behind my chair.
“Last one, Duck. Remember, we’ve got to get up early in the morning for that drive to Lake Eufaula. Besides, you don’t want to turn into Uncle Romer.”
“My Uncle Romer. He used to get plastered every Friday night. Needless to say, that severely perturbed my Aunt Louise. One Friday he came home late and wanting to get sympathy rather than the usual tirade from her, he fell onto the living room floor and moaned, ‘Louise, honey, I think I’m dying. Please, darling, pray for me.’ Louise, knowing full well he was drunk as a skunk, but feigning concern, dropped to her knees, clasped her hands under her chin and said, ‘Lord, please help my poor old drunk husband.’ Uncle Romer sat straight upright and said, ‘Dang, Louise, don’t tell Him I’m drunk!’”
Ducky said, “Last one.”
The next day we were on Eufaula worm fishing the points. It was hot. I mean sweltering hot. And we weren’t having any luck. Ducky suggested we try easing back into the winding creek beside the point we were fishing and I quickly agreed. He pointed us there with the bow-mounted trolling motor, and when we hit the shade of the overhanging trees, it was absolutely delightful. We hadn’t gone 20 yards before we each picked up a yearling. Encouraged, we moved even deeper into the narrowing creek, enjoying the occasional strike and the canopy of coolness above us. Eventually it got so narrow that there was only a few feet between the boat and the bank on each side and the limbs were getting lower and as I was making one final cast, my worm wrapped around a twig and got hung. That was the first time I had looked up. I wish I hadn’t.
You have probably heard the song “Black Water Hattie” with the line “And the snakes hang thick from the cypress trees like sausage on the smoke house wall.” I am convinced Patrick Simmons was sitting in a bass boat in that very creek when he penned that verse. I said quietly, “Duck.” Without looking back at me, he replied, “Yeah?”
I said, “No Ducky, I mean duck. And back us the heck out of here.” He turned and looked at me then, following my gaze upward and his eyes got as big as some of those reptilian heads staring back down at us.
Ducky’s mouth began moving but nothing came out. I slowly got out my pocket knife and cut the line attached to my hung-up worm at the reel, not daring to stand up or even reach up to free it. I am not mathematically proficient enough to even calculate the number of snakes in those trees. The closest I can come is lots and lots and lots and lots. We scrunched our shoulders, getting as small as we could, waiting for, nay, expecting one or more to fall on us at any moment. Ducky began to slowly reverse our route. He was muttering, almost incoherently, a constant mantra to the trolling motor and battery, “Please don’t quit, please don’t quit, please don’t quit.” I think he threw an “I love you” in there a few times.
Given my proclivity for fear of snakes, I am actually surprised I did not just divorce myself from the real world and go clinically insane. I think the only thing that saved me was the fact I did not look up again. After one or two Biblical eternities, the creek widened enough that Ducky was able to turn the boat around facing back toward the lake. He jerked the trolling motor up, made a single bound to the steering console, fired up the outboard and gunned it. We left that creek into open water like we were fired out of a slingshot. We didn’t stop until we reached the landing.
As we loaded the boat on the trailer and stashed our gear in the truck bed, not a word was spoken. I think it’s called traumatic verbal paralysis. We then climbed into the cab and still sat silent for a while. Finally, I said, in a voice still noticeably shaky, “Well, I can now predict the future. I know what my next nightmare will be about.” Ducky countered with, “I learned a lot about myself today. I know I am not senile enough to ever forget that place. I know I am not ignorant enough to overlook it. And I know I am not stupid enough to ever go back there again.”
Order Garry’s hilarious book “Dixie Days – Reminiscences of a Southern Boyhood” at Amazon.com. Enter by title and author. Soft cover $12.