The whole gang in our neighborhood would walk down the tracks to the Delaware with old man Hartzell to fish for catfish and eels. We'd take a detour to the five and dime on main street to get spools of carpet thread for line, safety pins we'd share for hooks, and a 20 pack of cake candles. We'd all have a pocket full of nuts and bolts we'd gather from our explorations to tie into the thread for weight. A coffee can full of dug up worms would be carried in a pail along with some rags and a burlap bag or two to keep the catch.
Old man Hartzell was a good old soul who was a father, brother, uncle and a Bugler smoking alcoholic who grew up on the tough side and made his way through life by doing whatever he had to do to get along. He always had a dollar for his 3 quarts of Iron City beer that we'd stop for at the nearby liquor store. If he didn't we'd pool enough of our bottle return or grass cutting money to see he had it. We'd pool for our soda, too. Anyway, we learned a lot from that guy. We came to find out later that he had a tough go in the Korean war. He never spoke of the experience, but a lot of what he taught us was most likely out of necessity from that time..
He showed us how to fish using hand lines. How to bend the safety pins just right, to how to tie in the weight. Hr taught us to melt and set the candle onto a rock with a little Y stick next to it to hold the thread at just the right angle and height to see it in the glow of the candle. The best teaching was how to cast the thread set up without having major issues. we were always amazed at how far he could throw it into the tiver. With time, a little practice, and his patience we got pretty good at it. There is definitely a technique to it.
Once set up we'd settle in and watch for the thread to move and then grab it to feel for the fish. A quick pull and most times you were hand over hand bringing in an eel or a catty dropping the thread at your feet. We'd bring them to the waters edge and grab them with a rag, take the pin out and drop it in the burlap. Mr. Hartzell had a method to all of it. From the fishing to carrying the catch home to skinning and pickling. A friends mother was a chef who knew just how to make those fish taste like lobster. So she said. I don't think any of us knew what lobster tasted like, lol.
Anyhow, on this Armed Forces Day I'd like to thank Pfc Raymond Hartzell for keeping us kids from trouble by taking us fishing and teaching us how to share and do with what we have. God bless you, sir.