Redneck Fish Fry

If those words don't get you just a little bit excited, then you and I have have very different priorities in this life. Picture the scene. I pulled into a campsite in western Kentucky as the sun was going down, and see a few RVs huddled together. In the middle was a circle of rednecks, complete with camouflage hunting jackets, bud heavies in koozies and a seriously large campfire. As I pitched my tent, listening to the guttural, hacking hoohaw laughter, I started to wonder if I hadn't made a mistake.

Then one of the guys came over. He wanted to invite me to sit around the campfire once I finished setting up camp. "Come and be neighborly," he said with a laugh, "if'n you don't mind a bunch 'er fellers settin' aroun' and gittin' lit."

Cue one of the more entertaining nights in a while, and definitely the most culturally foreign experience I've had since getting back from Africa. It started innocently enough, just beer and chatter, about how they'd been fishing all day, and I'd been in Africa, and such. Then the guys started getting a little more drunk (because they had all been drunk since noon).

"Ya know, we're all kin aroun this here fire," one guy told me. I didn't know, but I guess it makes sense. It was the day before Veteran's Day. "Yessir. One big, happy inbred family. Family tree looks like a telephone pole." (laughter) "Did you know, I once went to a fambly reunion to find me a date? It worked too. That's where I met my wife, only problem is, she's ugly like me." (more laughter) "So, is you inbred?" I told him I didn't think so, but how can you be sure. "Well, we'll take care of that before the night is over." Not sure how that would work, but funny, in a creepy sort of way.

Then someone gave the call that the food was ready. I played it cool, not wanting to move too quick, when the guy sitting next to me slapped me on the shoulder, yelling "this ain boston, now, go and hep yoursef to some food." Don't need to tell me twice. I filled my plate with fried fish, fried potatoes, hushpuppies (that's fried cornbread) and hashbrown casserole, which upon further inspection appeared to be more fried potatoes, swimming in cream cheese. Light fare, but so delicious.

("Eat Beef - The West wasn't won on salad")

Now, during this whole time, there was a rotating cast of guys in cut-off tee shirts and jeans, playing guitars and singing hilarious old cowboy songs. The fact that I'd never heard any of these songs made me really reconsider my life decisions, but they told me not to worry, since they were all "purty old."

As the night goes on, beers keep appearing in my hand and the songs keep coming, punctuated by stories of various uncles getting thrown in jail for drunken misdeeds. Then, from across the fire, the head chef, patriarch and big bull moose points at me. What followed was a monologue I can't hope to recreate, but I'll give you the gist. Picture a big, drunk good ol' boy, splashing beer all over everyone around him as he gestures with his two enormous hands:

"Listen here, fella. I been watchin you since you set down therr, and you aint hardly took your eyes off'n them git-fiddle players the whole dang night. The way I figure it, you prolly dyin to play us a lil tune. Well, have at it now, give them boys a rest."

I tried to beg off, saying that they were doing fine, I just wanted to listen, that I didn't know any songs, but he would have any of it. "You better play fer all that fish you jus ate," he told me laughing. "Play fer ya supper."

So what the hell. I grabbed the happiest, drunkest, most story-telling of the rednecks, and asked him if he wanted to sing a little blues. What followed was a hilarious, long and utterly filthy story about a young cowboy, out trying to make a name for himself in the world and looking for a pretty, young Holstein with big udders. I'm can't be sure, but I don't think he was really singing about a cow.

After we finished, while everybody was laughing and clapping, the big bull moose was still sitting back in his chair with his beer perched on his belly and his hands behind his head. Once things quieted down he bit, he looked at me, nodding with a big grin, " I knew you could play, boy. I knew from the second you set down here. Nicely done."

The next day, I was going to go out fishing with them, but it turned out to be too windy. So, after some coffee, I had to say goodbye. Big Bull Moose grabbed my hand, put one of those enormous paws on my shoulder and told me that when that I get tired of eating all that salmon out in Oregon, "come on back to Marshall County. Us boys'll be here, drinkin and singin and eatin all the fried crappie we can find. You're always welcome."

(Somewhere in Missouri)


  1. What a great story. That's the kind of American experience one can only find on the road!


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