The Fishing Car

It was a township tradition, a coming-of-age thing, like a boy child of the Arthurian age getting his buckler and sword, like a Sioux man-child setting out on a dream quest. In our township of moors and seeps, of serpentines and brook trout, it was a fishing car. For my fourteenth birthday my dad gave me a fishing car. Not that I could drive legal, but town roads didn’t count, especially the marsh. The marsh being a circumstance that can take a regular country road and demoralize it to the point of reverting to dirt. The reason Dad gave me a car was so I didn’t have an excuse to return late for evening chores after an afternoon fishing, specifically Sunday evening chores.

I can’t say what year or model that fishing car was, didn’t matter because it was a fishing car. Having long since gone through the known metamorphosis of the proper motorcar. A devolution by whence an automobile becomes a sedan, thence a set of wheels, onward to a jalopy, toward the bottom rung it becomes a real bargain, at the terminal stage, a fishing car. Next stop scrap iron with demolition derby somewhere in between. In those great wide days persons devout about fishing had a fishing car same as they had a fishing pole, because a well-equipped fisherman didn’t want to extricate all the junk from the car after the latest expedition. Meaning junk from the car is now in the house or the garage, and nothing has more the look of impoverishment of a third world country than fish gear. It was my mother who encouraged my dad to buy me the fishing car, to housebreak me to the future utility of another female and a household spared of fishing gear.

Originally my fishing car was blue, I venture this theoretically because it might have been brown. Paint jobs on cars once enjoyed this chameleon feature, the ability to take on hues that weren’t original, as a result they morphed their way through the color spectrum with each passing year. You could determine the vintage of a car by the color phase it was in. My father’s advice to me before setting out was to locate a tidy collection of spare tires, forthwith I took temporary loan of wheels from hay wagons and tractors aware that a wheel for a John Deere chopper box didn’t necessarily fit a Plymouth. As explained the neat accessory of the fishing car, when a sledgehammer knocked off any lug bolts as didn’t correspond to the bolt pattern of the replacement wheel. Two bolts generally enough to hold the wheel on marsh roads as had no speed limit signs because the dirt road was the limit.

The nice thing about a fishing car was you could leave the gear in the car. Didn’t even have to dump out the bait can, just leave it in the car. The heat inside the car jerkied any bait left behind into items resembling snack foods. Had I known at the time they’d qualify as snack food I could have earned a fortune getting in on the ground floor. A friend borrowed my fishing car for some night fishing saying afterwards my potato sticks needed more salt; they weren’t potato sticks since I had spent fifty cents on gasoline at the Keene grocery where they didn’t ask any questions, like whether a car as this should even be on the road. I didn’t tell my friend what he ate were last week’s angleworms, if maybe the bloodsuckers. Trout didn’t go for bloodsuckers but I liked them anyway because with a dozen eggs and a ten-cent cup of bloodsuckers fried up crisp you didn’t need bacon.

The car eventually died somewhere the other side of Ditch Eight, for all I know it’s still out there. Wouldn’t start as was usual and to get it going the trick was to pour a little gasoline down the carb to help it catch. My friend did the pouring, who didn’t have solid practice in priming an engine so he dumped in the whole quart. Engine never knew what hit it. One instant it was a regulation fishing car, the next it was a dense iron core meteorite newly smashed into a yet-smoking crater somewhere out there on the big empty of the Buena Vista marsh. We got our fish poles out as quick as we could see the writing on the wall and it was all caps. I grabbed my fishing hat but the rest of the gear got wasted.

We watched it burn for awhile, and as it settled to a slow simmer we headed home for evening milking. I was glad to get back to chores. My dad didn’t ask what became of the car because he already knew, which was why he was a dad in the first place.