At the Sullivan family reunion, I gathered together some of the little tykes down by the lake and told them this whopper of a fish story. Telling it gave me an idea for a family Christmas present.
“Kids,” I said, “your uncle Paul is the Paul Bunyan of fishermen. Why, I once caught a giant squid in the Amazon River with just a string of used dental floss tied to a toothbrush. I can out-fight anything with fins and scales.
“Except,” I said quietly, “those giant, purple-eyed bullheads.
“Once I hooked two at the same time. How big were they? Well, Billy, I tell ya they were big – longer than the canoe. Before I could say ‘Whoa!’ those darn bullheads hauled me 10 miles down the lake like I was a water-skier. Finally, with my Paul Bunyan strength, I reeled them back to the canoe.
They weren’t happy. “They rammed the canoe, trying to flip me, and then they leapt clear out of the water and flicked their whiskers in my face like whips. Dancing backward on their tails and singing a silly bullhead ditty, they jerked the rods out of my hands and spit out the hooks. Each jammed a hole in my canoe with a fin spike before they swam away laughing, as only giant, purple-eyed bullheads can do.”
Little Billy started to get up. “Billy, where you goin’?” I said.
“No such thing,” Billy said.
“Sure there is,” I replied.
“Billy, what size fishing hooks do you use?” Billy held his chubby little thumb and forefinger about an inch apart.
“Well, Billy, right there,” I said, “that’s why you’ve never caught any giant, purple-eyed bullheads. See, I use these gold hooks that are so big I have to heave them off the back of my canoe like anchors.”
I had Billy’s interest again with the huge golden hooks.
“Billy, the canoe was sinking and I sure didn’t like the idea of swimming alone with those giant, purpleeyed bullheads, so I plugged the holes in my canoe the best I could with my feet and started paddling like mad.”
“Then a big school of hungry crappies began circling the canoe. I was so scared! I smacked the water with my paddle to drive them off, but they rushed in anyway to nibble at my ticklish toes hanging down in the water. I was lucky to get back alive. Those crappies had me laughing so hard all the way back to the dock I almost died of dehydration.”
Just then, somebody up at the cabin hollered, “Cake and ice cream!” My audience darted up the hill faster than a bullhead gulping a worm.
Alone on the dock, I found myself thinking of giving the Golden Hook Traveling Fishing Trophy as a family Christmas present. I have an 18-inch-long shark hook I could paint gold, mount on a piece of driftwood and add a brass plaque for the name of our champion fisherman every year.
And if anyone ever actually caught one of those giant, purple-eyed bullheads ... well, they could keep the trophy.
Paul Sullivan has never met a cabin he didn’t like.