Widdle and I attend a small Methodist church, about a block from home.
How small is it? The pastor has a full-time job in another county, and also preaches at our “sister church” in the woods eight miles away. Coming from a large Episcopalian congregation, I was surprised to find just 20 people at the early service. (“Early” in this case being 8:30 a.m., which I seldom see.)
Despite the small size, church members are warm and welcoming. That’s the cool part: We may be few, but we’re like family. We know whose cat had kittens, who went fishing in Florida and the name of the crazy lady who walks daily in a grimy ball cap and frayed gym shorts. (I’m known as the Walking Woman. Everyone waves as I trudge my six miles up and down every road in town. As I recently said to Widdle, “Honey, you married a streetwalker.”)
Back to scenes from a country church. We have a scheduled time for joys and concerns during services. People usually talk about new babies or successful surgeries, or request prayer for those going through hard times.
Last Sunday, Widdle’s best friend (BFF) raised his hand during the “joys” segment and announced, “Widdle can catch fish without a rod and reel.”
Which is absolutely true.
Here’s what happened: On Saturday Widdle went to the river shack to take the boat out of the water. As he walked down to the dock, he noticed what he later called “a bad stank.”
As he was about to step into the boat, he saw the source of the stank. It looked like the Loch Ness monster laid out amongst the gas cans.
“I like to have died,” he said, only he didn’t say “died.”
Of course it wasn’t Nessie. But it was a huge, misshapen fish with grotesque leathery skin. And it was very, very dead.
What it was, was a sturgeon. More than four feet long, about 45 pounds, and ugly as hell. Widdle promptly called his BFF, who’s been living on the river more than 25 years. BFF walked down, looked in the boat and said, “I’ve never seen anything like this in my life.”
Widdle called me and said, “You’re not going to believe what’s happened at the river.”
Being a lifelong pessimist, I assumed the house had burned down or wild hogs had eaten my rosebushes.
“No,” he said. “A sturgeon jumped in the boat, and croaked.” We had a bad connection, and I thought he was telling me about a huge frog or some kind of Edisto mermaid. It took several minutes to straighten things out.
Then Widdle called the state Department of Natural Resources to explain the situation. The agent said, and I quote, “Do what you gotta do.” More neighbors came to look at the creature, and all agreed it was strange indeed.
One Googled “sturgeons” and announced that they jump out of the water in late summer to communicate with each other.
“His last words were in my boat,” Widdle grunted, as he pulled on a pair of heavy rubber gloves. Another friend snapped photos as Widdle picked up the stanky sturgeon and heaved it back into the river from whence it came.
Thus, Widdle is now known as such a good angler, the fish come to him. Not a bad way to be remembered. And never a dull moment in our quiet little country town.
Julie R. Smith, who later learned jumping sturgeons have broken people’s legs, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.\