Appalachia Fishing

Fishing With Daddy

Today’s entry in The Week Of The Fish was written by David Templeton.

Fishing in appalachia



Fishing with Our Daddy written by David Templeton

I don’t think I ever thought about it from what would have been Dad’s memory. We never had fished before. I was… oh …., about ten, maybe. My little brother was about seven and Shirley would have been six years old. I think Dorothy was with us … she would have been twelve. Patty, older yet, stayed home.

Dad worked a lot. He had no trained vocation and with no particular job skills he had to provide for a family of seven kids and him and Mom and he had to take whatever work he could find. Where there’s work men go and he had started out in the coal mines of West Virginia as the looming war with Japan and Germany had driven the mines into massive hiring and he worked the mines and took other odd jobs and overtime and he and Mom began growing a family there in McDowell County and he made enough money to provide. He was sick and didn’t go to work the day Bartley No. 2 at Pond Creek blew up and killed 87 men and he left the mines and moved us to East Tennessee where the war had made many more good jobs in defense plants up and down the Holston River.

After the war, there were Levitt towns (as they were often called) in Kingsport, too and they wanted to buy a home of their own and to have as much comfort as possible and feed and clothe their growing brood. So Dad took other work and I remember by 1948, as Kingsport was returning to a post-war economy, him working two other part-time jobs and the defense plant kept on working so we kids didn’t see much of Dad as he often was home only long enough to get six or seven hours sleep and go back to work. And we loved our Daddy and some late summer evenings Mom would let us go up the street and wait under a street light to see Daddy coming home, walking because he had no car, and we would jump up and down when he came into view and when he got to us we would cling to his hands or his britchey legs and hang onto him all the way home. It’s about all we saw of him was him coming home in those jar fly evenings to rest a while and sleep some and go back out.

So there seldom was a leisure time for Dad. There seldom was a time when Dad could play with us or take us places on Sunday drives and most certainly there were no family vacations. But, sometimes … sometimes Dad did have a car; usually not for long but when he had a car he and Mom would take us for a drive and Mom would make some sandwiches and we would stop at a shaded roadside table and have a picnic and play in the streams of mountain waters running alongside the road and try to catch the little fishes and the crawdads darting away from our jabbing hands. But we didn’t get to fish because Dad didn’t have any fishing poles and stuff and for sure not enough for each of us.

But, onetime … and it must have been a pleasureful time because it is among my best feeling memories … one time Dad went to the store and bought some of those little fishing kits you could buy back then; they had string, and a float or cork bobber and a hook and you would cut a pole and tie the string on the end of it and set the cork and you’d have a fishing pole. And you could buy a few extra hooks and split shots and corks because the first thing you did was get the line tangled in a low hanging limb or get your hook snagged on the bottom of the creek, on a rock ledge and Dad would have to jerk it loose and usually you’d lose the hook and the cork and he’d have to rig up another fishing line of the pole and we’d try again, so it always took extra hooks and split shots and corks and the rigging alone kept Dad busy with set-ups. And, he would have dug a can of fishing worms, a plenty for the time.

This one time he also bought some of those little cans of potted meat and some little cans of Vienna sausages and a loaf of bread and we could enjoy some real tasty picnic food while we fished but it usually meant that Dad would have to help us make us a sandwich or help us open the can of potted meat and spread it on our bread with his… what he called his “fishing knife” and it was like one of those knives we called a Boy Scout knife and it had… oh, maybe a can opener blade and a big blade and a little blade and a spoon and a fork-like part, too. Kind of like those Swiss Army knives you see nowadays.

I’m sure as Dad worked at his bread-wrapping machine at the Dixie Maid bakery there in Kingsport, he would think about his family and us and regret how precious little time he had with us and he would fancy what he might do to spend some good times with us and he determined to take us fishing as soon as he had a day off and in his mind at his machine he could picture the fishing trip, a sunny day, four or five of us kids, fishing poles all set on the bank and propped up on forked sticks and each kid sitting quietly by their pole waiting patiently for a bite and kids feasting on lunchmeat sandwiches and him fishing, too; and a string of good-sized punkin-seed sunfish that Mom would admire when we got home and make us a big supper of fried sunfish and fried cornbread. Quiet… peaceful… bucolic… In his day dream.

In reality, there on that creek bank, it went different once the fishing poles were made up and a worm slid onto the hook and the bobber set and the line out in the water and the pole resting on the fork. It went different very quickly, as each of us would mistake any movement of the bobber as a bite and jerk the pole and jerk the line all the way out and into the leafy tree limb and Dad would have to get the fishing line freed from the tree limb and lose the worm and the hook and sinker and he would have to rig it up again with another hook and split shot and bobber and a fresh worm and help get the line back out in the water and by then two more of us would have tangled lines or an worm-empty hooks and from then on all Dad would get done would be that of servicing everyone’s fishing set-up or getting a line loose or taking a Horney head off the hook and explaining to us that it was not a good fish to keep, and mosquito bites, and dropped vy-eenies, and Johnny has to pee, and all this before a half hour had passed and Dad’s patience became exasperation and rather than order us to GET IN THE CAR!! He would finally gently say, “Kids, this isn’t a very good fishing hole. Let’s get everything in the car and drive on up the road a piece and see if we can find a better place to fish”. And, we be happy to get in the car because “fishing must not be all it’s cracked up to be” and Dad would drive around a while and finally say, “Kids, let’s just go on back home for now and we’ll stop at the Piggly-Wiggly and get some salt Cod and we’ll ask Mommie to make us some fish and cornbread and some fried potatoes and we’ll try fishing some other time.”

And, we were all happy and we had had a good day with our Daddy and he was with us and we loved him all the more. And it became happy memory, one that I recollect and think about when my grandkids want me to take them fishing. I sure miss my father and his tender heart and the patience that God gave him before he took up family fishing.


I hope you enjoyed David’s post as much as I did! It reminded me of some of the not so perfect fishing trips I’ve been on before-trips where I was the cause of the angst. And I love David’s use of the words ‘britchey legs’. Britches (for pants) is one of those Appalachian words I’m so familiar with-I don’t even think about it.



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  • Reply
    August 3, 2012 at 12:33 pm

    where about i kingsport did you live i grew up there and i still live here i remember the places to work back then the old cotton mill called j p stevens -tennessee eastman -holston ordinance -kingsport press modern bakerrental uniform and many more this just brings back memories from my childhood

  • Reply
    kenneth o. hoffman
    August 3, 2012 at 1:57 am

    thanks david, and tipper. of course the story reminds me of dad and my first fishing trip. to walker valley Wa. dad carried me on his back and showed me how to bait my hook. caught my first speckeled trout about 8 in. long. one of my most memorable days of my life. 1943 was a good year. happy birthday tipper. k.o.h

  • Reply
    brenda s 'okie in colorado'
    August 2, 2012 at 11:54 pm

    I enjoyed this story so much. What a wonderful patient Daddy you had. I loved the usage of britchey legs and vi-eenies. We used both when I was a kid. I know most people these days think Vienna sausages and potted meat are gross, but I still love them. My Granny made me many sandwiches for my lunch and vacation picnics with vi-eenies mashed up on white bread and mustard. We stopped at many shaded roadside tables on our vacations.

  • Reply
    August 2, 2012 at 5:32 pm

    That was wonderful story. Your Dad was a man of infinite patience and love. Reminds me of my Uncle. He loved to fish. One time Grandma, Aunty and Uncle and I were on a Sunday drive. Uncle saw a stream and was itching to go fishing. We tried to make a make do pole using what we had. I remember a safety pin was used as a hook. No fish caught but we all laughed at our creative fishing pole efforts.

  • Reply
    dolores barton
    August 2, 2012 at 3:45 pm

    Such a precious story! I am glad the memory has stayed with you all the years since. It’s also a good story for your grandchildren. We didn’t have much material things back then.

  • Reply
    Stephen Ammons
    August 2, 2012 at 3:28 pm

    Thank you David and Tipper
    This story brought back some very good memories of my childhood with my mommy and daddy. Daddy worked for the Great Smokey Mountains National Park several months out of the year. There was always a 3 or 4 months that he would be layed off and he would usually work at a furniture plant in Bryson City. On several occasions I remember daddy would go into the park for a week at a time with a crew to check out the central part of the park and repair camping sites. I can’t remember going fishing with him but I am sure he did his part. When he was home he was busy cutting heater wood, splittin stove wood for the cook stove,working in the garden or plowing a field for planting backker or corn. One thing I do remember very well was that when his crew went back into the park he would take a fly rod with him and a metal can of flies. He told me on more than one occasion that he might be able to take me with them on one of the trips but he didn’t live long enough to do so. Or I was too busy chasing girls at Nantahala Village and this I will regret until my last breath. My first experience with beannie weenies and potted meat had nothing to do with fishing. Me Daddy and a couple of more men were digging a hole under Hightower church to set a furnace to replace the coal burning stove. After a few hours of digging the preacher came by and brought us lunch and it was a can of beanie weenies, a can of potted meat, crackers,a honey bun, and a pack of cookies. They was also couple of cans of soda pop. I remember looking at daddy and asking if that was all for me or if I had to share, then I noticed that everyone had to same.I know this doesn’t have alot to do with fishing so I will add one more point. Daddy did try to teach me to use a fly rod on several occasions but the fly would always seem to sprout wings and leave the end of the line.

  • Reply
    Joy Newer
    August 2, 2012 at 11:20 am

    Wonderful,Wonderful story, God bless you David.My Mother and Dad worked so hard they never got to take a vacation,They made sure are needs were met. Really have enjoyed this week of Fishing on the Blind Pig & Acorn. Grandmother Joy.

  • Reply
    August 2, 2012 at 11:06 am


  • Reply
    August 2, 2012 at 9:54 am

    I have enjoyed all the fishing stories. What a special memory that David has of his hard working father. The story brought a tear to my eye, because it made me think of the special times that we shared with my parents when we were children. It made me think of the times that my Dad and Mother would load us up in his old truck and head for the creek. They would stop at the store and pick up bologna, bread, chips, and a cold drink for each of us. I can remember how good those bologna sandwiches tasted! We would eat our treats and wade in the water and just enjoy all being together.
    My daddy wasn’t much of a fisherman. He just never cared much about it. He was a hunter. He loved his hound dogs and hunting. My mother was the one that took us fishing. She still loves to fish and she is eighty-six years old. She could always catch fish. I believe she could catch a mess of fish out of a mud hole. All she ever used was a cane pole with a line and a hook. She never used a cork or a sinker. I would get so aggravated when I couldn’t get a bite and she would laugh and tell me that I had to learn how to hold my mouth right. Those were such good sweet times spent with them.

  • Reply
    August 2, 2012 at 9:45 am

    The picnic in the wide spot brought back memories of my mom and dad cutting a watermelon on the tailgate of their truck while it was parked in a shady spot and calling it a picnic. He never took us fishing, but I took him many times after he retired. The simple life that brought so much enjoyment is sadly gone forever. Imagine today’s children looking forward to a five mile trip just to share a treat. The only time we had Vieenies was when I was older and daddy had a better job in the coal mines.
    Thanks David for sharing such a heart-warming story.

  • Reply
    Ethelene Dyer Jones
    August 2, 2012 at 9:18 am

    Thanks, David Templeton, for your wonderful memories of your dear, hard-working Daddy and the fishing excursions. It is fillled with nostalgia, truth, and pathos, but does not decry the way of life we had to live as we did what we could to “make ends meet,” and at the same time find some respite for the long hours of work, the small financial rewards of our labor, and the ever-present desire for at least some semblance of pleasure and togetherness. Well told and memorable! Thank you!

  • Reply
    August 2, 2012 at 8:52 am

    A child could not have a better life than this. A kind and patient father is one of the many wonderful gifts that God has given some of us. If you have that you have wonderful memories no matter what your financial background may be.

  • Reply
    Steve in Tn
    August 2, 2012 at 7:42 am

    Thanks for a good reminder of how cushie our lives have become. All of our country fathers worked hard, for little reward other than family. They left us in postion to have a better life than they did. It will be difficult for us to do the same for our children.

  • Reply
    Charles Fletcher
    August 2, 2012 at 7:34 am

    David told his story like it should be. A very good memory of what it ment to be poor and still enjoy the treasures that God gave us.No fancy stuff. Just the facts.
    Thanks David / Tipper for a very good story.
    Charles Fletcher

  • Reply
    August 2, 2012 at 6:45 am

    This story with all those memories is so familiar. I think I speak for most when I say we all have been there. David surely has a wonderful bank of tender memories; I have enjoyed this so much. Thank you David and Tipper.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    August 2, 2012 at 6:10 am

    Loved Dave’s pictorial this morning! I had no problem providing my own illustrations. Potted meat and vi-eenie weenies. Saltines and sardines. Eating the sardines and saving the juice to dip your bait in. Beanie Weenies. Cut a limb and whittle it down thin and flat to use as a spoon. Eat all the beans first and save all the weenies as a special treat at the end.
    My Daddy also worked in a bakery before the War. His family had moved to Indian Trail and he worked at Merita Bakery in Charlotte. He learned to make bread. Light bread! Like with yeast and proofing and all that stuff. And doughnuts too! Yeast doughnuts! I can still see them now swimming in that huge cast iron skillet that covered half the top of that old Rome Eagle stove. Dark golden brown on the bottom with their white tops still waiting for their turn. No glaze needed. Maybe a sprinkle of sugar. I think I gained a pound or two just thinking about it.

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