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Now ya'll know how Roy and Brenda like to go fishin'. They go fishin' about every other weekend when the weather's good. And me and Rick, we used to like to go fishin'. So me and Rick and Roy and Brenda all got together this weekend I'm telling you about, and we decided it was a good time to go fishin'. Which we did.

Around here, in West Tennessee that is, you can fish for bream, or crappie; you can fish for catfish, although I wouldn't really call that fishin'. You can almost lean over the side of the boat and womp 'em in the head with a paddle, 'cuz catfish are stupid...now where was I...

Oh yeah, so—you can fish for bream or crappie, or catfish, if you call that fishin', and all that's a nice way to spend a lazy day. BUT—if you want to fish, I mean, really fish, then you need to be fishin' for the ever-so elusive largemouth bass. And if you want to fish for the ever-so elusive largemouth bass, then you really need to go to East Tennessee. Which we did.

Now there's no reason you should know this, so I'm gonna tell ya, and I'll just say it out plain: them people, over in East Tennessee ? They're uh, peculiar. A little strange. Oh sure, we got our share of strange ones here in West Tennessee.

But it's different.

This is the Delta; the highest point around here is the Mississippi River bluffs. Otherwise this is all flatlands, marshes, valleys. Around here the air is wet and thick, we live in an exhale, a descent. Around here, the land releases, and descends.

But over there, in East Tennessee? The land rises, the air becomes thin, everything is ascending but ascension is always a struggle, a question; the soil strains against itself to rise and continue rising until the foothills become peaks and the peaks become mountains.

And you know what you get with mountains?

Mountain folk.

You know of course, that over there in East Tennessee, they don't put red sauce on their barbecue; they put vinegar sauce on their barbecue, and what can you say about people who put vinegar sauce on their barbecue instead of red sauce? Oh I know, I hear ya, I feel the same way...barbecue, with vinegar sauce...

But we didn't go for the barbecue anyhow; we wouldn't, being from West Tennessee. We just went to East Tennessee to fish, for the ever-so-elusive largemouth bass. Good fishin' in East Tennessee. Strange people, though. Mountain folk. And no red sauce. 

Now you can catch bass all kinda ways, worms and crickets and whatnot, but we were using lures—the problem with using lures is, if the fish get 'em all and you want to keep fishin', then you gotta go somewhere and buy more fishin' lures. Which we did.

Well, we were trying to buy more lures, anyway. Seemed like most everything around there was closed. Finally, we found this one little store that looked just barely open...and we stepped inside...sure was dark in there for a store that was s'posed to be open. Wasn't nobody but us in there, or much else either. The walls had that fake wood paneling halfway up, painted dark green the other half, and a couple of nails somebody hammered in crooked were holding up pictures like you see in them insurance company calendars. Over in the corner there was an old-timey RC Cola drink machine, the kind with a door on it. Empty though, 'cept for the one slot that was full of Chocolate Yoo-hoo.  There was one case with some lures and some plastic worms, and that's about all there was, fishin' tackle-wise. 

So I grabbed a couple of overpriced lures off the countertop, and I just wanted to pay for 'em and get the heck out of there; to this day I still can't say exactly what it was, but I remember thinking, this is what it'd look like if Norman Bates had a fishin' tackle shop.

Well I was ready to go...but who was I s'posed to give my money to ? I start pokin' around and I see this one little room with this one little light comin' from it. And I can hear something...a radio?  I'm not sure but I keep going 'til I get to the doorway; I don't wanna look in, but I have to look in-


He's like a cross between Karl from “Slingblade” and a young Jerry Lewis; he's hunched over a little portable, black-and white TV, staring at it like he's waiting for a sign from the Almighty. After a second or two he tears himself away from the TV, but he doesn't get up, just swivels his head around, and looks at me, and you know what he says?

"Pink Panther's on."

That's it. That's all he says. Then he swivels that head back around and goes back to watching TV. And I don't say anything, I back up on out of there and I motion hard for Rick and Roy and Brenda to C'mon. Which they did. 

Now maybe that guy was just, a little off. Little eccentric maybe, but harmless. All my life people been tellin' me I think on things too much. Which I do. And it's also true that I don't have a lick of business sense.

Still, seems to me sitting in one of them aluminum camping chairs watching Pink Panther cartoons is a strange way to run a bait shop.

Then again, from what I remember about Saturday morning cartoons, the Pink Panther show itself was kinda strange; it was a cartoon with a laugh track, for one thing, and it wasn't funny, for another. Now you take Bugs Bunny: Bugs Bunny cartoons were funny, and that had a lot to do with Bugs Bunny's personality. And then you take The Flintstones, that's just The Honeymooners in caveman times. But them Hanna-Barbera people milked it for all it was worth, I'll give 'em that. 

Now the Pink Panther was really cool in the movie intros. But once they put him in the Saturday morning cartoon line-up and he couldn't smoke anymore he just lost a lot of his pizzaz. And what was going on in the story coulda been happening any time; the Pink Panther didn't investigate crimes or solve mysteries, or nuthin'. It didn't seem to have a real context, is what I'm trying to say, and I guess that's part of what made it strange, that guy just coming out with “Pink Panther's on."  There wasn't any context for it.

Or maybe it was out of context. I mean, if I'm in a store, I expect the owner to say, “Can I help you ma'am?”, or, “That'll be $8.99”. I know what to say to them things. I don't know what I'm s'posed to say, to “Pink Panther's on.”

Still, when you look at it that way, in context I mean, maybe it kind of makes sense that of all the cartoons he coulda been watching, that guy was watching the Pink Panther.

It's a strange cartoon.

And this was over there, in East Tennessee, where they put vinegar sauce on pork and call it barbecue. It's good fishin', but I couldn't live over there. No red sauce and the land straining against itself to rise up into mountains.


And you know what you get, with mountains.


Mountain folk. 

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