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Fish or Cut Bait

Song of the South (with Apologies to Uncle Remus)
By Bob Ciminel


February 13, 2006

Longtime readers of this column know that my wife was raised in the South; her father's family once owned two large plantations, South Hampton and North Hampton, along the Sampit River near Georgetown, South Carolina in the heart of the Low Country. Alice and I have had a good life together, although we are complete opposites. Had my life taken a different turn and I instead married a steelworker's daughter from Pittsburgh, I would have never acquired a taste for cold beets, sliced cucumbers in vinegar, grits, boiled peanuts, and Moon Pies, although I have not lost my fondness for kielbasa, sauerkraut and Iron City beer.

The Sampit River, Sampit, South Carolina, July 2005.
Photograph by Bob Ciminel

The Low Country's attributes include fertile, well-drained soil, lots of rain, and a long growing season. On the downside, it is hot and humid, which makes it a perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes in the drainage ditches and canals that crisscrossed the rice, indigo, and turpentine plantations. Because the waterways were the primary means of transporting goods to market, there were many navigable waterways in the Low Country, and almost every major road had drawbridges to allow scows and barges access to open water. A job as a drawbridge operator was highly coveted by local residents, and these jobs were often awarded as part of the political patronage system that thrives in rural, small town government. And therein hangs a tale.

A local politician, who also happened to be a drawbridge operator in one Low Country community, was running for re-election as county commissioner. He enlisted the help of friends to canvass the area campaigning for him. One of these campaigners visited a farmer whose land bordered a creek used by plantation scows to reach the Intracoastal Waterway.

The campaign worker approached the farmer and asked him if he would vote for his friend for councilman.

"Definitely not," said the farmer.

"Why not?" replied the campaign worker, to which the farmer related the following story.

"I had a prize bull that took sick on me a few weeks back," the farmer began. "I had the vet come out to look at him, and he gave me some pills that I had to give the bull twice a day; one in the morning and one at night."

At this point, the campaign worker interrupted and said, "What does this have to do with voting for my friend for council?"

"Just hang on, son," said the farmer, "I'm gettin' there!"

"Well," continued the farmer, "the pills were in the form of suppositories that I had to administer through the bull's south end. I didn't relish doing that, so I came up with an idea. I went and got an old trumpet out of the attic figuring I could put the small end of the trumpet in the bull's butt and then blow the suppository in there without havin' to put my hand somewhere where it shouldn't be." "Things were going great. The bull was cooperating, and hardly flinched when I inserted the trumpet. However, just as I was getting' ready to insert the suppository, the bull passed gas and it caused the trumpet to toot. Well, that scared the heck out of the bull, and he began runnin'."

The campaign worker interrupted the farmer again. "What the heck has this got to do with voting in the election?!!"

"Don't get your panties in an uproar," said the farmer," I'm almost finished."

"So," the farmer went on, "the faster the bull ran, the more gas he passed, and the louder the trumpet tooted, which scared him even more. I was huffin' and puffin' trying to catch the bull and I managed to get right behind him as he turned on to the road and started down to the drawbridge over the creek. Then he disappeared."

"I still don't see what your point is," replied the campaign worker, "What has this got to do with your vote?"

"Son," said the farmer, "how do you expect me to vote for your friend when he can't tell the difference between a scow blowin' its horn to raise the drawbridge and a bull runnin' down the road with a trumpet stuck in his rear end?

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Fish or Cut Bait by Bob Ciminel


Bob Ciminel's articles may include satire and parody, and mix fact with fiction.
He assumes informed readers will be able to tell the difference.

Bob lives in Roswell, Georgia, and works for the Institute of Nuclear Power Operations.  He is also a conductor on the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway.


Bob Ciminel ©2001 - 2005
All Rights Reserved

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Ketchikan, Alaska