Playing With Dynamite – The Deep Hole

Today’s guest post was written by Ed Ammons.

Dynamite in box

About a mile below the swinging bridge at Needmore, near the mouth of DeHart Creek, there is a sharp bend in the Little Tennessee. Downstream of this bend a set of shoals arises that dams up the river and creates a pool of deep, slow-moving water. We called it the Deep Hole. The Deep Hole was said to be bottomless and inhabited by catfish as big as a man.

During the summers Beanie’s father Luther kept a trotline just upstream of these shoals. A trotline is a line that spans the river. Fishhooks on shorter lines were spaced along it. The trotline is weighted so that it will sink to the bottom and allow the baited hooks to float downstream. Luther used a boat he had built at home to tend the trotline. The boat was flat bottomed, heavy and meant for shallow water. It had no motor, oars or paddles. It was propelled by a long pole that was meant to push against the bottom of the river. However, if the current was slow enough you could use your pole as a paddle like kayakers do. But the pole was long and heavy, and any progress upstream was very slow. Normally you would let the current carry you downstream.

Luther would pull the boat, using the line, hand over hand, across the river in one direction to check the hooks for fish and then bait them coming back in the other. When the trotline was baited, it needed to be tended often. When hooked, catfish often will roll over and over in one direction until they twist themselves off the hook or break the line. If this happens you might have to untwist or replace the line and/or hook while at the same time holding the boat against the moving current. It is no easy task.

Me and Beanie decided that was entirely too much work. We had heard about dynamite being used as bait and we had access to plenty of it. Having never seen it used, we would be forced to learn on our own. We knew that the dynamite itself, unless it was sweating, was relatively safe if kept away from the detonator, but we didn’t know how much we needed. We decided to start out small.

Dynamite is relatively soft with a consistency of Play-Doh. It is rolled in paper or cardboard to create the familiar “stick”. If you need less than a stick, you can cut it easily with a knife. Often half or quarter stick is enough for legitimate tasks. We decided we would start with a quarter stick and if necessary, work our way up. So, we load up the boat with everything we need. Dynamite, detonation caps, wire and a battery. By now we had worked our way up from the clunky old Jeep battery to a new 9-volt lantern battery. You know, the kind with the springs on top.

Off we go! Beanie’s in the bow with all the supplies and I’m at the stern with that long heavy pole trying my best to maneuver that lumbering river yacht upstream to the deepest place I could find. Finally, we reached a place where I could barely touch bottom and have enough of the pole above the surface to still hold the boat in place. That is where we were going to fish!

Beanie pushed the cap into the little piece of dynamite. He made several loops of the wire around the piece so that the current wouldn’t pull the cap out of the dynamite. We were ready to fish now! Beanie lowered the “bait” over the side and let out the wire as far as it would go. Now we are treading in unknown territory. We were in a boat floating almost directly above a quarter stick of dynamite primed and ready to explode. Will it provide us plenty of fish for the freezer and the table or will the rescue squad spend the night searching for our remains? We are about to find out!

Beanie sticks one lead to the battery and then the other. There is a dull thud and a slight vibration in the boat. Had the dynamite fallen off or what that all the energy it had? We look all around for fish floating to the surface. Nothing! We wait. A few bubbles float up. They smell like dynamite. Still nothing! Beanie pulls what was left of the wire back in. It’s time for bigger bait. A half-stick! 

Beanie arms the dynamite with a longer lead while I, using the pole like a paddle, maneuver the boat to an even deeper location. We are going for the big fish. Over the side goes the dynamite and down to the bottom. Beanie touches the wires to the battery.

The boat shutters and the water trembles while beads dance across its surface. Its over! The boat is intact and so are we. But do we have fish. We look around and fish begin floating to the surface. The surface is dotted with fish. Good fish! Fish all around but none near enough to reach. They are floating belly up. We have done it! But we can’t count them if they are not in the boat. They are drifting slowly downstream toward the shoals and so are we. I struggle to get close enough to grab them, but as we approach, they turn back over and swim away. We decide to ground the boat on the shoals, get out and grab them as they float by. Again, I struggle to get the boat to the shoals before the fish. None made it to the shoals. They were only stunned. They all turned back over and went back to doing whatever it is fish do. The only fish that hung up on the shoals were a few red horses. Red horses are good to eat but only if you like bones.

Had we failed? No! A fisherman never fails unless he can’t find someone or something else to blame it on. We were just using the wrong bait! At least the wrong bait for that stream! 

Let me know if you want to know what happened with the rest of that stick of dynamite.         

I hope you enjoyed Ed’s second dynamite story as much as I did. If you missed the first one go here. I sure hope Ed tells us what happened with the rest of that stick 🙂

Last night’s video: How to Say its Cold in Appalachia.


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  • Reply
    February 9, 2022 at 3:13 pm

    I know where that swinging bridge is but never visited the spot where Dehart’s Creek joins the Little Tennessee. Somewhere very near there is where my dad and his 6 siblings were born. Sadly, I’m not sure exactly where as my grandmother sold the place and left it in 1898. I have visited the Tabor Family Cemetery where her family members are buried and the Maple Springs Baptist Church where my grandpa is buried with his 7th child, who did not survive infancy, is buried beside him.

    I would have loved to have been along on that outing to try and bring the catfish up.

    Ed, please share more stories with Tipper and with us.

  • Reply
    Kathy Gautier
    February 2, 2022 at 2:56 pm

    OMG, I do love to read Ed’s stories! It is truly amazing all of us that grew up years ago made it. But we did survive and we are all the wiser. Everybody have a DI-NO-MITE day and come back safely tomorrow.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    February 2, 2022 at 11:16 am

    Of course, those boys will have another go at it, that’s what boys do! I love the story and it sounds exactly right for two boys. I am interested in “the rest of the story” !

  • Reply
    February 2, 2022 at 10:14 am

    Yes Ed. tell us about the rest of the dynamite.
    This brought back so many memories. Gigging for suckers when they run in the spring is still done but not in the numbers of years ago. I’ve ate many red horse suckers but you have to be so careful of the bones. I knew one man who canned and pressure cooked them thus taking care of the bone problem.

  • Reply
    February 2, 2022 at 9:43 am

    I never knew of anyone using dynamite for fishing, but I have always heard about doing it. I know of someone that would fill up a shotgun shell with powder and put a waterproof fuse in the primer hole and tape it up and use this for shad when stripper fishing. We had some neighbor hood men that would telephone for fish like Ron mentioned in his comment. One of the men was called Munck and he was a character In a good way. After telling the others not to worry about the game warden, he was friends with him and he wouldn’t bother them a different warden showed up and fined them. From then on he would get teased about dialing the wrong telephone number that day.

  • Reply
    February 2, 2022 at 9:26 am

    Holy moly, I can’t believe them boys used dynamite to fish. That’s just crazy, but yes, I want to know what happened to the other half of the dynamite…lol…I guess crazy is interesting to read….lol

  • Reply
    February 2, 2022 at 9:20 am

    The ideas kids come up with to entertain themselves. It’s amazing they live long enough to become adults. I know my brothers and I, had plenty of crazy ideas. Being the youngest of 5, I was mainly just along for the ride.

  • Reply
    February 2, 2022 at 9:09 am

    Ed, your story made me nervous and it had me laughing at the same time. If your momma found out you had been fooling with dynamite, I can imagine what happened to the rest of it. Please let us know.

    • Reply
      February 2, 2022 at 10:24 am

      Great stories! Did their mothers ever find out what those two boys were doing with there free time? Can’t wait to read more about these adventures of these two boys.
      Thank you Tipper for sharing these stories.

  • Reply
    Darrell Keith Cook
    February 2, 2022 at 8:58 am

    We had farm-land that bordered creeks. Often the beavers became a problem. We had to use dynamite for removing beaver dams. I remember seeing fish floating on the water after blasting the dams.

    Years later I used dynamite for blasting rocks that allowed plowing telephone cable. I made my own dynamite and blasted rocks less than 15 feet from me. I used a “Pole cat” to place heavy steel over the blast site. I hunkered down in the cab of the truck or beneath the truck hood- wherever the battery was located. This was before OSHA!

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    February 2, 2022 at 8:47 am

    Never “fished” with dynamite as “bait” but saw the evidence once where someone else had in the creek hole I was baptized in. Also have heard of “callin’ em up” with the magneto out of an old crank telephone. The modern equivalent is the backpack electro-shocker. Works like a Tazer or the dynamite – temporary incapacitation & quick recovery.

    Glad those two boys didn’t blow themselves up. Wonder if their folks ever knew about that little experiment? I’m guessing the eventually found out but not soon. My folks never did find out about the time I got stuck on a ledge of the cliff and what I had to do to get out. I wss alone and I did not tell anybody about it for many years afterward. Country boys can sure get into serious but clean trouble without too much effort. The attitude of, “Let’s just try it and see.” (useful for a do-it-yourself lifestyle) has something to do with it.

  • Reply
    February 2, 2022 at 8:27 am

    I loved Ed’s story. It reminded me so much of the antics of some of the boys in my family. I was always amazed at how brave they were compared to me. Kids could mostly do whatever they wished in those days with no helicopter parents. So, we would try almost anything! We had strange rules like not drinking coffee until twelve, and no lipstick until sixteen.
    I still have a tiny scar near my eye where one young man talked me into riding double off a steep hillside on a gravel road on his bicycle. A wreck ensued, and I got an apology from the young man since my head had managed to slide on the gravel. One would think you would learn not to ever ride double, buy in my youth lessons were harder to learn. Several of us mountaintop kids had built a huge bonfire in the snow. I decided it would be fun to ride double on a sled atop my sister coming down the steep hillside . This did not turn out well, as she and the sled proceeded on at breakneck speed while I slid off and continued down the hill using only my body. Many hard lessons learned, but I am grateful for that freedom to learn , and it sure made for an adventure filled childhood. I will be so glad to read the rest of Mr. Ammon’s adventures with dynamite, but all the while glad its not so readily available for children anymore. I saw it in wooden boxes in old buildings a couple of times many years ago.

  • Reply
    Margie G
    February 2, 2022 at 8:22 am

    WE WANT TO KNOW ABOUT THE REST OF THE STICK, Ed!!!! I loved this story! I liked “not knowing if the rescue squad would be looking for our remains” and his “failure was bait” and not himself! I’m glad my granny never said “here’s some dynamite. Go amuse yourselves.” As I get older I’m surprised ANY of us are alive… lol. DY- NO- MITE as Jay Jay used to say and still says on tv…. lol

  • Reply
    Larry Paul Eddings
    February 2, 2022 at 8:10 am

    Those two sure sound like boys I’d want to run with when I was a kid.

  • Reply
    Martha D Justice
    February 2, 2022 at 7:32 am

    Having been raised on or near the Black Warrior River this dynamite posts brings back old memories! Lol Enjoyed the story and would like to read more

  • Reply
    February 2, 2022 at 7:30 am

    Yes, let us know what happened with the rest of that stick of dynamite!

  • Reply
    donna sue
    February 2, 2022 at 6:30 am

    I enjoyed Mr. Ammon’s story! And, yes! I would like to know what happened to the rest of that dynamite! Oh! The adventures Mr. Ammons and Beanie had! Good memories! I would enjoy hearing many more. Thank you for this great post.

    Donna. : )

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