PHILLIPS COLUMN: Memories of summertime fun in the sun

Published 12:00 am Thursday, June 7, 2007

Ninety-eight degrees in June, enough said. It&8217;s hot and there is nothing I want to do more than lay in a pool of water and feel a breeze.

But, with the summer heat comes summer activities. I remember as a child, I would spend my summers visiting my family. I would spend most days with my grandparents. There was always something to do at their house. I was their eighteenth grandchild, the baby girl of the family, so things at their house were very much like they were in the &8220;olden days.&8221;

My grandparents always had a huge garden full of vegetables, just waiting for me to pick. I planted, watered, picked, you name it. If only my &8220;Papaw&8221; had let me get behind the tiller, which, is what I always wanted to do. But that was life at my grandparent&8217;s house. If we weren&8217;t in the garden working, more than likely we were inside the house or out in the back yard shelling peas or shucking corn.

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My grandmother believed in the waste-not-want-not theory and she found a use for everything. If the tomatoes were going to get ripe before they were eaten, then we canned them.

Thankfully in the days when I was a child, times were not as tough as times my grandparents had faced in the past, so not everything was saved. It was just enough to give me a taste of what the past was like.

The thought of planting, picking, growing and even canning vegetables is almost foreign to me these days. The closest I come to those days now is going to visit Back 40 produce or the tomato houses on my way to visit my family in Mississippi. It somewhat saddens me to think that those times are no longer part of my life. But, I can tell you, I sure don&8217;t miss the work.

But when my grandparents and I were not in the garden or doing some type of gardening-related work, we were on the pond or in a lake. My grandfather was an avid fisherman. He could tell you when to put your line in the water and hook a fish any day of the week. Even today, nearly 20 years after my grandfather&8217;s death, when my family and I drive by a pond and see cows in the water, we think of Papaw&8217;s old wise tale that the fish won&8217;t bite if the cows are in the water.

This weekend I hope to use some of my grandfather&8217;s tips and catch a big one like he taught me. Since moving to Alabama, I haven&8217;t had an opportunity to experience the water. I drive by now and again and ponder a day on the water, but it just hasn&8217;t happened thus far.

But, since I do not have an Alabama fishing license yet, I am planning to take advantage of the Free Fishing Day offered by the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR) Commissioner. The day is set by the ADCNR to introduce non-anglers to the sport of fishing and to remind former anglers and teach young anglers about the fun of fishing. Approved by the Alabama Legislature, the law allows an annual free day of fishing when residents and non-residents may fish without a fishing license.

When I first heard of Free Fishing Day, I thought it would be a great opportunity to try my hand at the big catch. Of course, my grandfather would tell me to have patience, the fish might not come to me that fast. Fishing is a relaxing sport, he would say. So, this weekend I plan to see what all lessons my Papaw taught me and see what I can pull in.

I used to tell people that my family redneck fishes. &8220;It&8217;s the kind of fishing you do on a 5-gallon bucket with a cane pole beside a cattle pond full of catfish,&8221; I would explain.

I&8217;m not sure I will be fishing like that this weekend, but I sure do want to try my line in some Alabama water.

Growing up learning how to fish and spending my summers on the water was not only a fun experience, but also a life-learning experience. I credit those fishing trips for keeping me from being a &8220;girly-girl,&8221; so to speak. I can bait my own hook and most of the time, get my own fish off the line. I don&8217;t get all squeamish about grabbing a worm or a cricket and baiting my line.

I encourage others to take part in the Free Fishing Day. Take your child out on the water and show him that Boyd Duckett isn&8217;t the only one who knows how to fish around Demopolis.

Enjoy the place we live and the waters we are blessed with. Take your pole to the river and try your hand at the big one. Catch a few of those summertime rays while you are at it.

If you can&8217;t make the trek to the water hole, find some time to relax in your yard and partake in a barbecue and bust open a melon for some real summertime fun.

Gennie Phillips is managing editor of The Times. She can be reached by e-mail to