Monday, July 21, 2014


Country living has some advantages over city living.  I can just walk a few hundred feet from the house and wet my line in a pond and catch something like this green perch.  (When sport fishing, I use hooks on which I've flattened the barbs, to make the release part less traumatic for me and the fish.   This big fellow has almost certainly been caught at least once before, as that's how my Dad restocked the bank tank, which had completely dried up a couple of years ago:  by relocating fish caught in the front tank.)

Since moving here, I've had to make multiple trips out to the storage warehouse in Mexia where 95% of my personal belongings are kept.  Mostly I'm there to either put up stuff that I can't use here, or dig up stuff that I need here.  The search efforts often involve opening a lot of hastily-labeled boxes, some of which have been so abused that they're in need of replacement.  So I'll put some effort into repacking goods and reorganizing the warehouse and relabelling the boxes.  It's hot, sweaty, dusty work, and tedious, even dangerous, when done alone.

Last week I was in there to find some things and put up some things and rearrange and relabel.  I was looking in particular for clothing that could be used to make me presentable for job applications and interviews and business luncheons and award ceremonies and international diplomacy.  But mostly, I guess, for job applications.  I found the clothing, and, serendipitously, found, atop the clothing, a sweat band that I bought to use with the exercise equipment (and so, of course, was hardly used at all, all nice and bright white).  I put it on so that I wouldn't have to use my grubby hands to sweep sweat from my face while I worked.

My apartment, the one with the extensive computer network and the well-planned hobby workspace and the kickass man cave and pet space, was a marvel of organization, for reasons involving the vast panoply of shelves I'd collected over the past decade.  I had walnut shelves and pine shelves and cherry-wood shelves and white-painted shelves and butterscotch-painted shelves.  I had steel shelf racks and chrome etageres.  I had hidden shelves tucked away beneath my coffee table's top, for stashing remote controls and whatnot, and I had ugly shelves of particle board and plywood for my robotics and rocketry projects.  With the right shelving, in the right amounts, you can turn a medium-sized two-bedroom apartment into a workshop and multimedia center with enough chick-friendliness to justify calling it "home."

When I'd first stuffed my belongings into the warehouse, I'd leaned my queen-sized mattress, on edge, against the back wall and stacked about fifty pounds of wood shelves on the top edge.  I ended up with a rather irregular, troublesome arrangement of belongings, since it required two trailer loads to move everything, and the layout couldn't be fully planned in advance.  So on that last trip, a week or so ago, I was trying to shift the irregular stuff--the furniture and the exercise equipment and the curvy, slopy television that is impossible to stack things on--toward the back, so that I wouldn't have to move it out of the way on future visits when all I wanted access to was the boxes.  I was up against that mattress, up against that back wall, trying to wedge some chairs and barstools into the corner, when I leaned too far into the mattress and tipped that stack of shelves over, right onto my head.  Fifty-odd pounds of painted and stained-veneer particle board fell squarely onto the back of my head, as a unit.   If I hadn't been wearing that sweatband--and if it hadn't ridden up high on the back of my head--the impact might well have killed me.  It certainly would have scrambled my brains but good, knocking me out, pitching me forward onto my face on the concrete floor, with possibly more shelves and boxes landing atop me.  I might have remained there, passed out, slowly succumbing to heat exhaustion or suffocation, for hours until the Fam decided to come check on my status.

As it is, I very nearly lost consciousness.  The impact was padded by the sweatband, and the stress distributed over a larger part of my skull.  Even now, a week or so later, my cranium aches, but not nearly as badly as it might had things gone differently.  I had to lean back into that mattress to keep my footing, and it was a good twenty seconds or so before I was again fairly in possession of my faculties.  When I could logically string together the sensation of impact, the blackness and the seeing of stars, the THWACK of the shelves landing on the concrete floor, and my current lightheaded, slightly tilted circumstance, I decided to put my hand up and feel my scalp, to detect any swelling or bleeding that might be underway.  When my fingers touched the terrycloth of the sweatband, I--only for a moment--thought I had in fact been scalped, and that a senseless, dead flap of skin was now hanging down from the point of impact, presumably exposing shiny white cranium to the dusty air of the warehouse interior.  The latest version of the Visible Head.

The sweatband might have saved my life; it probably at least protected me from serious injury.   Finding it, and feeling the urge to put it on, strike me as yet another aspect of synchronicity.  Or of serendipity, at least, and in this instance, I think they're essentially the same thing.

Fast-forward to today.  I've been helping Dad put together a little shelter for a picnic table out by the front pond, for relaxing in the shade when fishing or just hanging out at the pond, watching the fish chase the dragonflies.  We had some thunderstorms a couple of days ago, and it's been humid and overcast much of the time since then.  The fish, normally most active at morning and evening, have been operating as if it's morning all day, and they've been splashing and jumping and slapping the surface while we worked.  When we finished the main effort early this afternoon, I decided to try it out for real by bringing my rod and reel, and setting my tacklebox and my camera down into the shade.  I tied a few leaders, using those flattened-barb hooks, and set up an experimental bass rig using a soft-plastic swimbait (too light to cast effectively, so I threaded a small bullet sinker onto the leader).  I first caught a large grasshopper and used it with a bobber to test the bluegills' response, and got a resounding Aye.  They like grasshoppers.  After several strikes, once the grasshopper got too worse for wear to draw any self-respecting perch, I switched over to the bass rig.  I alternated between casting deep, across the middle of the pond, and casting shallow along the banks.  I got strikes on all the deep casts, but nobody wanted to let me set the hook.  (I'm finding you have to play the rod a bit differently with these flattened-barb hooks.  I'm still working on the technique.)  On my third near-shore cast, something hit the swimbait hard, just two feet from the bank, in water that probably wouldn't have come up midway on my shins.  After a brief but vigorous struggle, I landed this largemouth.

This is probably the biggest bass I've ever caught.  I suspect this catapults me from the rank of dilettante squarely into the category amateur.  I couldn't weigh or measure it, so I quickly photographed it before releasing it.  My hand should provide a sense of scale, but unfortunately the photo's perspective doesn't do the fish justice.  The body seems to taper off too rapidly.  My best guess is that it was fourteen inches in length and in the neighborhood of four pounds.  The bass population of the front pond consists entirely of fish that my Dad and I caught about five years ago in a cousin's pond and relocated; prior to that point, there was nothing but assorted perch, mostly bluegills.  He has since relocated some of those original bass to the back pond.  None of the bass were extraordinarily large when originally caught; they've evidently thrived quite well since.

I was wearing the white sweatband when I caught it.  That's two good things that have happened while it was soaking up perspiration for me.  I'm thinking I should start wearing it more.  Do I start calling it my "lucky sweatband" now, or do I wait for something else cool to happen?

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