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Sunday, 8 March 2015

Crooked Mick goes fishing

I said I was going to tell you about how Crooked Mick broke the world rod-casting championships, and I will, provided you can stop interrupting me with your questions.  Is that too much to ask?  Right, here goes.

Mick was really keen on fishing.  It all started when there was this Murray Cod that'd got up onto the Speewah in a flood and settled down to breed.  Well whatever was in the Speewah soil, it must have been in the water, and worked for these cod as well, because they grew to a size to match anything else that the Speewah could produce.

The whole shearing shed were getting tired of sheep, they said.  It was bad enough having to shear the blanky things, they said, but why did they have to eat them as well?  The station manager said if they wanted anything else, they'd have to catch it for themselves.  So Crooked Mick decided to catch one of the cod.

Well every line he tried just snapped, as soon as the bait was taken, and when he tried a chain, the hooks just got bitten through.  When he used case-hardened hooks, the cod just pulled and bent them out straight.  So naturally, Mick went for bigger and tougher hooks, and that was when the chains started snapping again.

The rest of the shearers laughed, and that made Mick more stubborn than ever, and he went out to the back shed mumbling, and carrying several hundredweight of chain wrapped around his left arm, and a couple of larger bits as well.

All you could hear after work for the next three nights was hammering, clanging, and frequent swearing.  Mick didn't have a bellows for the forge, and his dog had to heat the fire by panting, and it kept stopping for a drink, which didn't help Mick any at all, but I've told you before about how lazy that dog was.

Just as a side issue: if Mick'd kept an eye out, he could have had the cod there and then, because when that dog drank, it cleared a two-mile stretch of the river for five to ten minutes, leaving all the fish flapping on the mud till more water flowed down.  Still, Mick was single-minded, and only looked up to swear at the dog and to tell it to get back to panting, or sometimes to slow down the panting because it was blowing the fire out.  Like I said, the dog was a bit short on commonsense.

At the end of the three nights, Mick had finished a fishing rig that no cod could ever break.  It was so heavy, in fact, that Crooked Mick and his dog couldn't carry it by themselves, and so Mick had to whistle up two of the other station dogs to help.  Between Mick and the dogs, they dragged the gear down to the river, trampling over a young and rather silly ram that got in the way, so Mick grabbed that and used it as bait, spiking it on this huge anchor-like hook he had fashioned.

Some of the other shearers reckoned Mick had gone a bit mad, and that he was going to wait till the cod came up and brain it with this anchor, but Crooked Mick knew better than that.  Them cods had brains, he'd tell you, and wouldn't be fooled that easy.  Instead, he attached the gear to a gum tree that was so big all the Speewah dogs could use it at the same time, wrapped the chain three times round, and threw the hook into the river, making a splash and a wave that would smash up four freight steamers two days later, and three hundred miles downstream.  Then he sat back to wait.

He didn't have to wait long, as the fish soon snapped onto the bait and pulled back.  Mick grabbed the end of the "line", and held on with a grim determination.  Nothing gave way, so the fish pulled harder, and now it was firmly hooked.  "The die is cast!" cried Mick, who had been given the rudiments of a classical education while they waited two and a half years for the rain to stop, one wet season.

"The die is cast!" he cried again, in case anybody had missed it the first time.  (Mick really was quite vain about his education at times. Even when it was silly: I mean it was the rod or the bait that was cast, and that was a while back.)  Then the fish pulled again, and Mick was almost pulled off his feet.  After that, it was on for young and old.

The fish pulled, Mick pulled, and the gum tree just sat there in the middle.  Then all of a sudden, the whole trunk snapped through, and this time Mick did go over, but he never got wet.  He gripped the stump with his legs, and pulled.  And he pulled, and he pulled.

He pulled with all his strength, all through that night, but when it came time for breakfast the next day, he was no closer to pulling that fish in, and he had to let go, and get back to work.

This caught the fish by surprise, and it flew across the river, up the bank, and skidded, flapping all the while, half a mile across the plain on the other side, where they sliced it up with cross-cut saws that afternoon, and the whole shed lived on fish for a week, until it started to go off, and a crow got the rest of it.

There was just one problem of course, and that was that all the pulling had dragged the bed of the river two miles from where it used to flow, but the boss didn't mind, because three paddocks that used to be dry now had river frontages, and they used the bones of the fish later on, and built a ten-room hut over them.

Didn't last, though, because those cod are tough.  Next time a flood came through, the bones just up and swam away.  So if you ever catch a really big cod with corrugated iron right down its back on both sides, that'll be the one.  Anyhow, that was how Mick got the fishing bug that led to him setting a world record for rod-casting, but I'd better leave that story till some other time.

* * * * *

Note: there is a whole book of these stories, which I am currently pitching to publishers, but they will probably appear in an e-book.

There will be quite a number of these on the blog, all with the tags Speewah and Crooked Mick.

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