Appalachia

Catching Spring Lizards

lizard in creek


My nephew who was two years younger than me caught spring lizards for our spending money. We would catch 3 or 4 dozen a day. Mr Fred Barton who had the monument company in Marble would buy our lizards to sell as fish bait to fishermen. We would always put in one or two extra for fear we may have miscounted. Miss Julie always instilled in us to give a good measure. One day I ask Mr Barton why he never counted them, he replied “I know you Davis kids are honest.” That was a good compliment for hard worker who could catch those lizards. I wonder sometimes if the branch and creeks near by had any seed left to produce. Such wonderful memories, my nephew is 75 and I am 77.  We always split our money. Our jeans were always jangling with change and marbles. Miss Julie was beginning to think she was rearing only a tom boy not a lady. Dad would always come to my rescue when she tried to make me into a lady saying “Oh Miss Julie she will outgrow her tom boy ways.”

—Mary Lou McKillip – 2019


I hope you enjoyed Mary Lou’s memories. I have memories of hunting spring lizards when I was a child too. I never sold them, but my older brother did. I just loved turning over a creek rock to see a shiny lizard streaking away to safety. Actually I still love to see lizards and can’t resist looking for them when I’m at the creek 🙂

Tipper

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16 Comments

  • Reply
    SusieQ ❤️ Donnie Ray
    May 5, 2021 at 7:09 pm

    I did enjoy Mary Lou’s memories , along with the memories of others that shared…Growing up we lived near creeks, and ponds…. we caught tad-poles just to watch them turn into frogs…we caught craw-dads for the sheer fun and challenge… For money we picked blackberries which sold really well. My husband lived on a dead end street by a railroad track running parallel to a huge golf course …so as opportunity arose the young boys earned money as caddies, along with mowing neighbors yards. Fun memories:)

  • Reply
    Gigi
    May 5, 2021 at 1:45 pm

    We had all kinds of crawl dads and salamanders and lizards where I was raise. My grandson son today loves to catch all this and more if he can. Every time he comes on Thursday he goes to the creek and tries to catch what ever he can. He would stay there all day if I would let him.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    May 5, 2021 at 12:19 pm

    I never worried that my spring lizard buyer wouldn’t take my count. My worry was how he graded them. We got ten cents a dozen for small lizards, twenty five cents for medium and a dollar a dozen for large. We kept the different sizes in different buckets. When we took them to the buyer he counted them back into his container. Most of what we called large he called medium, what we thought were medium he called small and what we called small he say were too small. We tried different buyers but they all graded them the same way. We were lucky to get a third of what we though we deserved but we were just kids, what could we do? I wish we had known Mr. Fred Barton. Sounds like he would have been fair!
    Sometimes, when we were plowing we would find red puppies. Fishermen really wanted them. The buyers would take them all and pay for all them as large. But, red puppies are uncommon. You might find a dozen in a season. I don’t know it for a fact but I was told that fishermen had to pay a dollar each for red puppies. That was sixty or so years ago so I don’t have any idy what they cost now.

  • Reply
    dee
    May 5, 2021 at 12:01 pm

    My cousin and I sure enjoyed playing in a creek near our house. It could entertain us for hours. Someone mentioned catching horny heads in their creek. My mother would tell about her and her sisters catching horny heads in their creek. That would have been back in 1925 and i just wonder if there are any of those fish left in the old creek back in NE MS. Love those old stories.

  • Reply
    Walter Holokai - The Hawaiian Hillbilly
    May 5, 2021 at 10:57 am

    When I was 10 or 11 I sold salamanders & frogs. Mostly to kids but occasionally to Dads going fishing. I did it for a couple of summers and always made over a hundred bucks which was a lot for a kid. When I was 12 I got a real job as a shoeshine/cleanup boy in a barber shop along with a paper route.

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    May 5, 2021 at 10:11 am

    Tipper–I caught and sold spring lizards (yeah, I know they are salamanders but they’ll always be spring lizards to me), along with night crawlers and minnows. Mrs. Simonds at Simonds” Bait Shop would buy all I could provide and it was a really fun way to get a bit of pocket money.
    I had a classmate with whom I’ve stayed in touch over they years who, a few years back, really opened my eyes on the spring lizard front. She and her entire family hunted them on a regular basis, and they were an important part of the family’s livelihood. Interestingly, they hunted them at night and with a quite different method than the turn over rocks, grab, and catch methods I employed.
    Today many types of spring lizards are protected, including the red ones with black spots which brought a nickel apiece if they were three inches or more in length (they were pure poison on smallmouth bass). Still, you might be surprised just how plentiful they are. Shine a flashlight on the ground sometime in a backcountry campsite, for example, and see how many pairs of lizard eyes are looking at you.
    Thanks to Mary Lou and you for resurrecting some mighty fine memories from boyhood.
    Jim Casada

  • Reply
    Kat Swanson
    May 5, 2021 at 9:49 am

    Me and my ugly brothers tried to catch blue tailed lizards , not for bait, just cause we did not like them. When we got to go to my aunt’s house on Indian creek, we caught crawdads. As coal miners kids, we learned early on to make a bit of money by collecting pop bottles. We also made what were called dummies, long skinny sleeves filled with sand, for my dad to use in the mines when he was the dynamite man. We were paid a penny for each one. That would buy you a pack of Kits….my taffy addiction at the penny Candy counter of the store we walked by going to school. I did pretty well at these two businesses….and have the dental work to prove it.

  • Reply
    Randy
    May 5, 2021 at 9:29 am

    Some of the happiest times of my youth were playing and fishing for horny head minnows with a short cane pole sometimes using hooks made from safety pins.. I read one time , maybe a story by Havilah Babcock, that there should be a law requiring a boy to be raised near a creek that he could play in. The fish we called horny heads were small minnows that were used for bait by some of the older neighborhood men. If you caught one 3 inches long it was a trophy. The larger ones would have small bumps on the top of there head. I never tried to catch spring lizards for some reason.

    I have promised to show my young adopted nephew how to fish like this this summer. My heart breaks for him when I think of his former life. He is beginning to come out out now because of the love that is being shown to him by all of the family members he is around. He and my grandson have became good friends.

  • Reply
    Rick Shepherd
    May 5, 2021 at 9:25 am

    When I was eight years old in 1955, I picked enough blackberries to sell making $5 so I could buy my first steel rod and open fishing reel…..I fished the Ohio River bank below Lock and Dam 47 at Newburgh, Indiana about a hundred miles downstream from Louisville, Kentucky…..It was a boyhood dream come true but oh the backlashes I would get using that open reel if I didn’t cast just right….Thank you Mary Lou and Tipper for sharing such good memories…..They are like a breath of fresh spring air!

  • Reply
    aw griff
    May 5, 2021 at 9:25 am

    We had a spring right close to our house and we often caught spring lizards there but didn’t fish with them. For fishing we would go to the creek and catch mud eels.
    Last summer my grandson and his friend came to the house all excited about something they caught in the branch over in the holler. It was a spring lizard and they had it in my favorite soup bowl.

  • Reply
    Rick Shepherd
    May 5, 2021 at 9:22 am

    When I was eight years old in 1955, I picked enough blackberries to sell making $5 so I could buy my first steel rod and open fishing reel…..I fished the Ohio River bank below Lock and Dam 47 at Newburgh, Indiana about a hundred miles downstream from Louisville, Kentucky…..It was a boyhood dream come true but oh the backlashes I would get using that open reel if I didn’t cast just right….Thank you Mary Lou and Tipper for sharing such good memories…..They are like a breath of fresh spring air!

  • Reply
    Sallie the apple doll lady
    May 5, 2021 at 8:47 am

    We caught spring lizards too, and I remember teaching our city cousins and others how to catch them. The mystery of turning over rocks to see what might be hiding was so much fun. We had to place our hands just so in front and back to anticipate which direction the lizards would dart. And they moved fast and were slippery. It was as if they knew their fate! Sometimes I think we were surprised when one was captured because it happened so quickly. Of course we had to be gentle, too, so they were not hurt. We trapped minnows and caught crawdads as well but crawdads were not my favorite to catch. I didn’t like their pinchers. It was fun watching them dart backwards to safety. I have since learned that turning over and moving rocks and disturbing habitat is not good for the critters that live in the creeks but we did not think about that then.

  • Reply
    Margie G
    May 5, 2021 at 8:42 am

    I’m a lover of salamanders. I would never disturb them if I could avoid it. My husband grew up next door to the serial killer- Arthur Shawcross. They played in the creek (crick if you’re from NY) right behind his house unbeknownst that he was a killer at that time. When I asked his mother about it, she said I put my trust in God and their guardian angels. That’s all there was to it she said. Be careful at the creek. It ain’t what it was in 1900….

    • Reply
      Wanda Devers
      May 5, 2021 at 12:04 pm

      Wow! I had to look him up . I wonder if he behaved badly as a boy. I’m glad your husband was safe from him. This shows you never can tell about people.

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    May 5, 2021 at 8:15 am

    I write our grandson a story called “Boys Making Money” about the various ways we did growing up. My brother and I collected pop bottles in our wagon in the summers. One summer we collected copper and got all the way up to nearly $15. As teenagers we dug sang but altogether never got as much as a pound. We never sold fish bait or, as best I recall, blackberries or huckleberries; not sure why not unless maybe we couldn’t get enough within walking distance.

    We did catch spring lizards for fish bait for our own fishing trips.

    Things are sure different now. With Etsey and Ebay, etc folks can have their own business wherever and sell to the world, as Chitter and Chatter do. I think overall it is a good thing because it opens opportunities that otherwise wouldn’t exist.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    May 5, 2021 at 7:21 am

    Creeks are a wonderful place for kids, I remember. We moved a lot when I was little and I always tried to find the creek where ever we lived. I loved, love, water it is so soothing and you can always find cool things like lizards and rocks. To this day I cannot be near a creek without picking up pretty rocks, and it seems that my granddaughter, Chitter has the same habit of picking up rocks!
    When I saw the picture on today’s post I automatically thought it would be about Chitter. That picture is soooo her! She loves the creek, rocks, and lizards!

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