(Note: “Uncle Kent” in this story is the son of James Marshall Sanders and Emma Springfield. “Aunt Eunice” is Kent’s wife.)
Every time I hear Archie Bunker call his wife his favorite name for her I think of Uncle Kent.
A Ding Bat was–and may still be, although I haven’t seen one advertised in a long time–a fishing plug. It was an excellent one. If the Creek Chub company–I think that was the company that made it–isn’t still producing it, they’re missing a good bet. It was a floater, but it had a metal lip at the front that made it dive on retrieve. It had two sets of treble hooks, and it had two little hair tails sticking out the back end which presumably caused bass to have an overpowering desire to consume it, guts, feathers and all.
Now, in case your fishing experience has been limited to ponds and the big impounded water areas of the state, creek fishing required some special tools and techniques. Although the ads in Field & Stream, Outdoor Life, and Sports Afield would glowingly describe the beautiful action of the five-and six-foot rods, these were not for creek bank casters. Nope.
What you wanted was a stubby little two-and-a-half or three-foot (at most) rod, because just getting up to the bank of the creek, especially after a timber sale when all the big trees had been cut and all manner of briars and bushes had sprung up, was a monumental task, and every extra inch of rod was just so much impedimenta, something else to hang or snag and make you say naughty things.
Uncle Kent was a creek fisherman. Sometimes he’d start in just below Bailey Boman’s and fish Little Yellow Creek all the way down to the next bridge, which was where the creek crossed the road below Early Matthews’ place. Such thickets and brambles you’d have to see to believe. And snakes too. I’ve had many a fishing day ruined along that stretch by the slithering entry into the water near my feet of a chunky, dull colored cotton-mouth moccasin. From that point on, every stick would look like a snake and every slightest noise would sound like one. But that’s the way creek fishing was, and sometimes you’d catch two or three pound-and-a-half or so bass and feel real happy about the whole thing.
One particular day Uncle Kent got in his trusty ‘34 Ford and drove over past the Gilmer place to Big Yellow Creek to give it a try. That was three or four miles upstream from where Little Yellow Creek flowed into it. He had his stubby casting rod and his reel all loaded up with 25- or 30-pound test line, because in that kind of fishing you caught a submerged limb or tree about every third cast and you wanted a line with rope-like strength to horse the thing out with so you could save your plug, because you probably didn’t have but three or four plugs to begin with – a Hawaiian Wiggler, a Heddon River Runt, maybe a jointed thing or two, and a Ding Bat. The Ding Bat was his favorite.
He parked his car and started working his way down the creek, hitting all the likely looking spots with a few casts before moving on. He caught a couple of nice ones and was, generally , in spite of clouds of mosquitoes and a few sloughs that had to be waded through, enjoying himself.
But about then he caught a big one. His Ding Bat hung on a little branch out over the water and when he yanked on it smartly it let go of the branch and sprang back like a bullet and embedded a treble hook or two in his nose.
He found it difficult to concentrate on fishing with all the hooks and lips and tails hanging there, so he fought his way back up the creek, through the bushes and briars and sloughs, to his car and thence home, sneezing every once in awhile from the tickling of the Ding Bat’s hairy tails.
Aunt Eunice decided right away she couldn’t do anything with it. Although she had handled innumerable cases of first aid with all her kids she felt inadequate to handle a major marine case of this type.
So Uncle Kent muttered something–it was hard to tell just what, his words being somewhat muffled as they were by the Ding Bat–and prepared to go to the doctor. But he didn’t want to go with sweat and the primeval slime of Yellow Creek bottom all over him, so he, Ding Bat and all, took a bath and put on clean clothes and drove right to the center of town, where Doctor Robert’s office was located. He claims you really have missed a lot in life if you haven’t had to park in the middle of town and walk across Court House Square during a regular working day, greeting all your friends, and acquaintances, with a Ding Bat hanging out of your nose.
Well, Doctor Roberts, after he recovered from his hysterical laughing fit and got up off the floor, was able to cure Uncle Kent of Ding Batitis. But he took the rest of the day off. He was unable, he said, to treat any more patients that day.