by: Wes Ishmael

There's no telling how many inventions and pastimes, good, bad and pointless, are borne by idleness. Not laziness, mind you, but willing, busy minds and hands forced to wait.

It might be roping a tool bucket while waiting for the the vet to arrive. It could be whittling until the combine arrives to fill the cart again. Maybe it's tying something that could be mistaken for a snake to the hood latch in anticipation of the mechanic.

In Hooter's case, on this particular occasion, it was waiting on an isolated, dusty road by some catch pens, for Fred Jenkins to deliver a bull. He and Hooter were middlemen on opposite ends of a transaction that began in Kansas. The two had known each other for years and enjoyed working together. Both were reliable. Fred was unflappable.

No cell service and no dog, just heat waves bleeding into the horizon or vice versa.

Fred was late, going on a half hour.

Hooter was kicking rocks, literally, and swatting away the occasional fly. He looked at his watch again, sighed and leaned over the rail of his pickup bed. That's when he spied his and Bugsy's fishing poles. If there's one thing Bugsy loved to do, almost more than being on a horse doing most anything, it was fishing. She was good at it, too.

Just the previous Sunday Hooter and Peetie Womack had exhausted about every combination of possibilities in their tackle boxes without luck. All the while, Bugsy kept reeling them in using white bread and a smile.

“I swear, that girl could catch trout in a mud puddle at high noon in the middle of July,” Peetie reckoned. “Someday, I ought to try fly fishing up North, couldn't do any worse.”

That memory got Hooter to thinking about whether it was possible to fish for flies. The more he pondered it, the more certain it seemed that spearing a fly with a fish hook would surely be the zenith of hand-eye coordination, if such a thing was even possible.

As usual, despite the dubiousness of the quest, there was a certain logic to Hooter's plan: the smallest hook he had, sandwiched loosely between two rocks and a little below where the prey would land, tied to a line with a little slack. For bait, he tore a corner from the cheddar slice in his sandwich and laid it over the gap between rocks.

Hooter figured he needed all of the leverage and force possible within a fairly short distance. As he saw it, the only hope for success was one quick jerk of the wrist, timed perfectly and with lots of luck. He also needed to be close enough to see the bait and the prey. Standing in the bed of the pickup seemed the obvious solution.

As might be expected, the first attempt wasn't even close; the fly came and went before Hooter started to jerk the line, plus he lost the bait. That went on a while longer, the cheese slice getting smaller and Hooter's cussing getting longer. Then, zing, that close. Hooter swore he nicked the little buzzard.

False hope being the original fool's gold, Hooter figured he could double his chances for success by using Bugsy's pole, too.

Unfortunately, Hooter was not ambidextrous, not that it would have made much difference. But it did help explain how he got both fishing lines tangled together and how he started to get himself wrapped up in the mess as he tried to untangle them.

It was a matter of time before Hooter tripped over the fence post, straw bale or other assorted detritus littering the pickup bed. When he fell forward, he jammed his kneecap square on the edge of the rail, which caused him to reflexively grab for it with both hands, which meant hopping amid the rubble on his good leg, which in turn led to falling backwards over the side of the pickup. It wasn't a clean fall, of course; the bad leg remained hoisted against the pickup, tangled in a clump of fishing line. Somehow or another, his left hand was also wrapped up with the bad leg, meaning that his pocket knife was out of reach. He couldn't stand up or find enough leverage to make any headway.

From his vantage point, resting on his shoulders and part of his back, he could see that one of the fishing poles was bent in half. He remembered insisting to the counterman at Cabelas that he wanted poles tough enough to double in two without breaking; they'd be proud.

That's when a fly—maybe even the one Hooter targeted—started dive-bombing him. He was so focused on his dilemma and the marauding fly that he never heard Fred arrive.

“Sorry I'm late—two flats and one warning from the highway patrol,” Fred announced, surveying the scene. He pulled a knife out of his pocket and flipped out the blade: “I ain't even going to ask.”

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