I was raised in Richmond County not far from the Pee Dee River. Seems like all I ever did besides going to school was to work on the farm, mow grass and fish. Man, how I loved to fish — and still do till this day.
One day I had ridden my bike down behind Blewitt Falls Dam (the last dam on the Great Pee Dee River). I had dug my a bucket of Georgia Wiggler fishing worms and was going to enjoy an evening of catching catfish. Why, them catfish fell right in to biting, and I was pulling them in left and right one after another. I was just taking them off the hook and throwing them in a pile on the bank behind me.
After a while, they quit biting and I figured I had a good mess, so I started stringing them up. All had got stiff and died except one little catfish. Why he was going whishoo, whishoo and still breathing. Well I just strung him up with the rest of the fish and started on home.
When I got home I started cleaning them fish. When I got to the one that was still breathing, I just threw him over a bucket of water. The next morning, that little fish was still a-livin’. You know, I come up with myself an idea. I just thought I’d put that fish in training.
I fixed up me another bucket of water and threw him over in it. The first day, I took him out for a couple of hours. The second day, I left him out about three hours and the fourth day, I left him out about four hours. I kept working with that catfish until finally he could stay out of the water all day long.
Why, it wasn’t long till that fish could stay out of water completely and never went near water ‘t’ all.
That little fish was the finest pet a boy could want and I named him Lit’l Whiskers. I’d put a string ‘round his neck, lead him around like a dog and he got to following me. Why, he’d just wiggle through the grass and dirt and follow me everywhere.
I kept Lit’l Whiskers round all summer long until school took in that fall. When I’d leave for school each morning, Lit’l Whiskers would follow me right down the road, just a-wiggling down the road. Sometimes I’d have to throw rocks at him to get him to go back home.
One day as I was walking to school, I looked over my shoulder to see if Whiskers was a-followin’ me. There he came, whishoo, whishooing down the road. Before I could get to school, I had to cross a wooden bridge that was built over a creek. Well, I just kept walking and when I got to school, I looked back one more time.
He was nowhere to be seen, so I walked back to the bridge to see if I could see him. Lo and behold, a rotten board had broken off and fell into the water. As I looked down through the hole, there laid Lit’l Whiskers in the water.
Wouldn’t you know it? — he had drowned.
J.A. Bolton is a resident of Richmond County and is a member of the N.C. Storytelling Guild