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Sunday, September 19, 2010

My Nicknames

My mother named me Byron.  This is not a difficult name to pronounce.  Try *By*, the opposite of hello and add *Ron*.  However most of the people in my life have had difficulty pronouncing my name (Baron, Barum, Barin, Brian, Byrum etc.).  As a result I have lived with numerous nicknames that have been given to me by different groups of family, friends or acquaintances because they had problems pronouncing my real name.  I have been “Bear”, after the nickname they used for Sony Liston the world champion boxer in the 1960s. Sony Liston was the World Heavy Weigh Champion who lost to Cassious Clay (later know as Muhammad Ali).  The relative who nicknamed me “Bear” said Sony and I were big enough to go “Bear hunting with a Stick”.  I was ‘Heir Schneider” nicknamed after a dwarf actor in the movies during the 1950s thanks to my school friends.  I don’t even remember the name of the show this actor appeared in back then when all TV programming was black and white.  I have been “Barny” to my extended family for the last 21 years because a 3 year old niece decided that was what she would call me, probably because her father’s name was Brian and she couldn’t get it straight that Brian and Byron were not the same.  I was also “Horseweed” to several of the neighbors who lived in my community during my early teens.

I lived a half mile from the Cocklebur ditch and I regularly supplemented my family’s diet with the fish I caught there.  During the hot part of late July and early August the favorite fish bait, red worms would become difficult to dig, as it usually became very dry.  This didn’t slow me down since I had discovered that there was a tall rough textured weed that grew all over the area in uncultivated areas like ditch banks, fence rows and around old buildings.  During my travels over the years since then I have found this weed growing all over the United States and I have made use of it numerous times, often to the amazement of other dedicated fisherman.

If you look at the base of the stalk of this weed during late July and August you will find that many of the weeds have acquired residents.  A grub will develop inside and near the base of the weed and is evidenced by a bulge in the stalk with a round hole at one end of the bulge.  Some stalks become apartment houses with two to four bulges, thus numerous grubs. The grubs do not seem to cause harm the weeds. By first pulling the weed then using a sharp knife to split the stalk of the weed you find the bulges that are occupied.  I found that if I split the stalk just enough to verify that one of the grubs was home then closed it back I could harvest eight or ten grubs at once without the need for any other container to keep them in since they would stay home if not disturbed.  These grubs were white with a very tough outer skin.  They were about an inch long and just under a quarter of an inch in diameter, the perfect bait for bream and sun perch.

After harvesting my bait I would then take my place sitting with my legs hanging off the old one lane wooded bridge that crossed Cocklebur ditch with my grub apartments stuck in a coffee can, a five gallon bucket of water and my cane pole.  The fish loved the white colored grubs and with their tough outer skin you could often catch numerous fish on one grub.  I would catch 20 to 50 fish depending on how many people my mom planned on feeding that day. Each one would go into my bucket of water to stay alive until cleaning time.  It was often just a matter of maybe 30 minutes to catch all the fish we needed that day.

As I would sit on the bridge the local neighbors would drive across and often stop and ask how the fishing was.  The local barber who lived just a couple of miles down the road was one of those who often stopped to chat.  He of course asked me what I was using for bait and after explaining and showing him my grub apartments he went to work at the barber shop and told everyone what he had discovered me using for bait.  I didn’t know what the weed was called but evidently he and his customers, all farmers, did.  Thus I became Horseweed and a lot of local farmers became horseweed grub fishermen.  For years that is all many of the local farmers called me and of course by then I had learned that often the nicknames I was given were not usually negative but were even often endearing.

I learned to take whatever name I was given in stride as long as I personally didn’t find it derogatory.  It really didn’t matter what they called me, they were talking to me and knew I existed as a unique individual.

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