“The old man’s goin fishen.”
We knew what that meant. When Big Don went fishing there was good money, good and easy money to be had. He paid a nickel apiece for dobson. The Susquehanna was full of them, free for the picking.
In 1956 I worked a full summer in the hay field for $40.00.
I always got asked to participate in this activity because my dad owned the lower half of a screen door and a potato hook. Dobson are a small black crab like bait that lives in small mounds of gravel on the bottom of the river. Three kids with a screen, a potato hook and a bucket could wade out and scratch up a few bucks with relative ease. At a nickel each we sold them for half what the bait shops charged.
We knew that Big Don usually wanted between forty to fifty dobson for his annual fishing excursion. We also knew that it was illegal to take them from the Susquehanna because it is a game stream.
“He didn’t say how many he wanted this time” said his oldest son Donnie. “That means he has to pay for as many as we get.” It usually took us about an hour to get 40. Big Don would show up on the shore about an hour after we started to settle up with us.
To avoid attention we entered the river off Big Don’s hay field west of town. “It isn’t like we are starving the fish we’re just feeding the fish in another place” said Donnie. In July the river was only knee deep at this location and our experience here had always been good. On this particular day in July 1956 it was exceptionally good. Donnie reminded Benny and me “when the old man shows up you let me do the talking.” We quietly reveled in just how good it was. When Big Don showed up an hour later we had over 200 in the bucket.
We were careful not to look up at the shore line. Donnie instructed us to “keep an eye out for the old man but don’t make it obvious”. We rolled our eyes toward the north side of the river but we were careful not to turn in that direction.
Big Don was on schedule. As Benny plucked a dobson from the screen Donnie said in a voice that would clearly carry 200 yards “nineteen.” The old man motioned us to continue and drove off in his pickup.
“It isn’t like I lied, all I said was nineteen, I didn’t say we only had nineteen of em in the bucket.” While we knew that Donnie had deceived his father it wasn’t like he had lied beside Big Don always tried to under pay us. Dealing with Big Don was a little like buying a used car. You never felt bad pulling one over on him because if you didn’t get him first he was going to get you.
“We got 441 of em.”
“You sure about that?”
“Count em if you don’t believe us.” Benny and I bobbed our heads up and down to indicate our agreement.
“Well I guess I owe you boys about $12.05 then don’t I?”
“Make that $22.05.”
After Big Don left with his bait Donnie said “he sells them to other fishermen for eight cents each.”
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