Outdoor Type: Thanks for everything you did, Dad

Courtesy photo
At 79, Dad was still a good fisherman, and hauled in this nice bass from Turtle Creek Reservoir in 1993.


Around this time, from Memorial Day to Father’s Day, I get nostalgic about my father and the good times fishing and hunting that we had. I’ve mentioned before about the yearly trips we would take to Kentucky Lake in late May after school was out. Sometimes we caught fish, sometimes not so much, but the memories are still sweet.

Responsibility came early 

My dad had to grow up fast. His father Oscar suffered from chronic stomach problems. One day on the farm near St. Croix, “Ossie” started vomiting blood, and he couldn’t stop. No one could help him. The cause of death was a bleeding ulcer, a malady that would, of course, be treatable today. He was only 39, and my dad was 16, the oldest of a family of six boys, the youngest son being 2. Those were tough times. Somehow the family scratched out a living from their acres and what they could raise, catch or kill. Mark, the 2-year-old, always looked to my father Clyde as his father. The irony was that Dad outlived all of his brothers, finally passing at 96 in 2011. The saying that the time one spends fishing doesn’t count against one’s life span might be true.

If he wasn’t laboring on the farm, Dad would often hike through the woods all the way down the valley behind his house to the tiny hamlet of Branchville and nearby Oil Creek to fish. He probably started with catfish, sunfish and rock bass, with an eye to feeding his family. There might have been fishable farm ponds around in the early 1930s, but he never mentioned them. Rosemary Saddler lived with her parents further down on Oil Creek. That might have had some influence over what girl Dad became interested in. There was also something about pies that she baked, and she was cute as well. They married in 1938 and opened a grocery/gas station in St. Croix in 1940, which Mom with various helpers operated while Dad taught school, interrupted only by World War II and his Coast Guard service.

Music became a passion

As a teenager, Dad scraped up enough money to buy his first guitar from the Sears & Roebuck catalog. He got hold of an instruction manual and learned to play, eventually joining local groups, including one from St. Meinrad, the Denning Family Band. They played mostly for weddings. Dad said he really liked the crowds over near Jasper, Ferdinand, and St. Meinrad because the audience often paid them to keep playing well past their appointed time, with a generous tip involved. In his later years, Dad enjoyed composing music as well. He counted as friends a fiddle player from New Albany named Sleepy Marlin. Sleepy appeared on TV with Randy Atcher’s WHAS program, “Hayloft Hoedown.” He enjoyed quail hunting, and would usually visit us sometime during the bird season. The Marlins music groups have carried on their father’s heritage.

Dad attended college, which was rare in those days. His mother told him that he wasn’t much good for farm work, something about being too lazy for the manual labor involved. She said he might as well try to get his teacher’s license, which he did. He taught in several of the Perry County elementary schools, some of which were one-room schoolhouses, and finally ended in the nice facility which is Perry Central Elementary near Leopold. He didn’t have to haul wood or coal for the heating stove there.

Fishing and hunting companions

I became Dad’s fishing and, to a lesser extent, hunting buddy at a young age. Most of my male relatives were outdoors guys, and I always looked up to them. Getting the limit of squirrels was a goal, but I never achieved that. I remember clearly Dad taking me and my new 20-gauge Remington Wingmaster three-shot pump to a woods when I was maybe 10. A squirrel was escaping through the trees, and I blasted away three times. Dad’s double-barrel finished him off, but I claimed the squirrel as my own, my first kill, sort of. I recall taking it to Grandma across the road and showing it off. She loved me, so she pretended to be impressed.

Quail were common around St. Croix, so Dad early on had a bird dog. Before I was of age, he had Lady, which he told me was a fine hunter. In my time we had a big wide-ranging pointer called Pretty Boy that Dad had purchased from our dentist, Charlie Flannagan of Tell City. The doc said that frequently out of frustration he had nearly shot PB, so he offered him to Dad at a good price. My father could scope out a bargain. Cover was thick around our home, and PB was out of sight most of the time. He might be on a point for a good while and we’d never know it until we heard the whirr of wings and PB barking as if to say, “Where were you guys? What do I have to do? Shoot them for you?” That dog would aggravate the heck out of us with not coming to our calls or busting birds, but then he would make a nice point, hold it, find the dead bird and, thus, get back into our good graces.

Still, fishing was our main thing, and we had a lot of good trips together over the years. I treasure those times and recall them often. Thanks for all you did for and with me, Dad. You were a good example for a young man to follow.

I read about a study done in China about what kinds of situations initiated the coronavirus. Of 318 occasions that began COVID transmissions, 317 were indoors. It’s a good time of year to be outside, doing whatever. Peace to you, be smart and stay safe


Email Larry LaGrange at lagrange237@gmail.com

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