TheCatfishGod taught me as a child to be content in life’s simple things and to relish the natural beauty that surrounds us. I required so little. Nothing more than, for example, a catfish.

The “Ticky Place,” so-called because the area was infested with the parasites, supported a small stream in a woods of blackjack oak, maples and thorned locust. The house was a weathered, unpainted shack without insulation or inner walls. We tacked up old newspapers and cardboard to keep out the winter winds. Snow blew underneath the door and crusted on the worn linoleum halfway to the wood-burning stove.

A kitchen took up one end of the house, the living room the other, with a closet-sized bedroom between. Mom and my stepdad slept in one bed, my two brothers and I in the opposite one, with a narrow walkway separating them. Closets consisted of lengths of baling wire stretched above the beds, to which we hung our clothing.

Rent for the Ticky Place amounted to ten dollars a year.

I often collected wild creatures and made pets of them. Crows, hawks, squirrels, dove, raccoons… Relatives noted how I was an odd kid in that I often preferred the company of critters over that of most people.

I caught a nice catfish while fishing with Paw in Sallisaw Creek. Normally, we ate everything I could catch or shoot, whether fish, ’possums, squirrels, or ’coons. For some reason, however, I kept the catfish and dammed up a section of the stream about a hundred yards from the house to make a large pool for its home. I caught grasshoppers and dug worms to feed it. Soon, it was taking bait from my fingers. It grew to about two pounds in size before the end of the summer.

On the far side of the stream was a grassy knoll that quickly rose into a copse of maples and cedars. On the knoll I constructed a tent-shelter from an old scrap of canvas. When the sun shone, I lay on the grass next to the pool and watched my catfish. When it rained—I loved summer rains—I crawled into my lean-to, drew up my legs, and sat there completely content and at peace with the world while I listened to the patter of raindrops on canvas and watched the dimpling of my private catfish pond.

A child can live more life in a single afternoon than an adult can in a lifetime.

The USS West Virginia (at Pearl Harbor) bucked underneath him as a bomb exploded into the main deck above, followed by the subsequent convulsion of the battleship as the heavy unexploded missile pierced down through other decks. A single, amazing beam of light shafted down into the darkness following the bomb’s progress, creating a smoky, cathedral-like effect. From Two Fronts, One War by Charles W. Sasser. Preorder now from Amazon or Barnes & Noble.