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Stuff 'n Nonsense For The Love Of All That's Holy
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I had absolutely good intentions for my column this month that were noble and humble as I planned to talk about my sister going to Africa on a mission trip with her church to help orphaned children get off the streets in Kitale, Kenya but then I was completely sidetracked by something I saw on television the other night and I can't get it out of my mind.

Catfish noodling.

Can I say, what the heck?

Since we happen to have fresh water lakes and reservoirs around this area perhaps I'm the only person in the region who had no clue that this type of water recreation existed but needless to say I was riveted, and by riveted, I mean horrified and confused as to why anyone would of their own volition carry on with this sort of thing, but it seems it's quite popular in the South where the water is murky, muddy and frankly, filled with all sorts of things that can bite, kill, or maim a human being within seconds.

For those who are just as clueless as I was about this "noodling" business, let me educate you a bit.

Apparently, it's great fun to go into waist deep water, root around with your bare hands, wiggling your fingers as bait for a catfish to latch on (yes, you read that right ... latch onto your flesh) and pull it out from underneath whatever rock, submerged tree, or whatever it happens to be hiding under, and then ... actually, I don't know what happens after you pull the ugly sucker out because frankly I think I froze with horror at the whole idea of it.

There's nothing that could convince me (not even after a few cocktails) that sticking my hand under a submerged rock where who knows what may bite my questing fingers is a good time waiting to happen.

This activity seems good fodder for torture. I imagine subjecting someone to this kind of activity against their will would be great for instilling fear and terror, especially when that maw of a mouth clamped down on the digits. Oh yes ... the screaming that would ensue.

But the fact that people do this for fun, even as they show off their battle wounds from catfish that were a bit bigger than they bargained for, just boggles the mind.

You see, I grew up around lakes and rivers. Oceans (and the things in them) freak me out. But now, now that I've been educated as to what's swimming around in fresh water I'm not so sure I'm ready to dip my toes in anything more exciting than the pool. Ever see a pike? Holy hot dogs. They have freaking teeth. And now, I just heard a rumor that there are, catfish inhabiting the dams that are so large the divers who are paid to keep the grates free of debris (trees, cars, bodies ... ick) won't go down there anymore. (Don't ask me which dam ... I am sworn to secrecy.)

As I go through one never ending body-shudder, I return to my original question: why the heck would anyone do this for fun? Now, this show I was watching was called Monster Fish (appropriate) and these adventurous fisherman/noodlers were in search of a catfish so large it supposedly swallowed village children. Oh, did I mention they were looking for this mythic beast on the Amazon River (not even surprised, really because anything awful and horrific will grow in the primordial waters of the Amazon). And what do you need to catch this giant 100-pound catfish that eats people? Piranha, of course. Or a barracuda. Whatever's handy. No minnows or earthworms for this chunk of bottom-feeding meat. Needless to say, they caught a very big fish with their piranha bait but to be honest, I tuned out at that point. Nothing could shock me more than I had already endured.

Catfish noodling.

I think that ranks up there with the sport of walking up to a bull and punching it in the nose just to get it to chase you.

Or sitting in your bathtub with baby alligators just to see if they bite.

Honestly, have we gotten so bored with everyday dangers that we need to test ourselves in some primal - and stupid - way to prove that we're alive?

I think so.

Fortunately, I don't feel the need to test my strength against nature in this way. I think I get enough of a thrill just driving on the freeway. If I'm really feeling daring, I just go buy gas after dark at some out of the way convenience store. I mean, really, there's plenty of real danger just around the corner that doesn't include ticking off a big-mouthed fish by sticking my fingers down its gullet.

And that's how I feel about that!

Kim Van Meter is a staff reporter for The Oakdale Leader, The Riverbank News, and The Escalon Times. She may be reached at or by calling 847-3021.