I went for the noodling, but what happened was much stranger. JP, the noodling expert met me at a big lake in Mississippi. He explained a few pointers about how a man shoves his arm or leg into a catfish’s sandpapered mouth, waits for the chomp, tugs the rope and gets pulled out by somebody up on the surface. I knew the basics, but I assumed that in 2013 there would be a more sophisticated technique involved.
“It’s still called hillbilly handfishin’’” said Josh, standing next to his boat, which he mainly uses for wakeboarding these days. Giant speakers silently facing backwards lurched above us.
“I keep the music off until I catch a big one, then we crank up some Toby Keith to celebrate on the way home. I might even wakeboard a little too. You like wakeboarding? We can give you a nice wave and drag you a little while.”
I declined the wakeboarding offer since I didn’t bring my swimsuit and I mainly came just to see the noodling. That’s about the time I heard the mooing.
Josh looked over towards the shore and a herd of cows were grazing. All but one, that is. Josh saw it first, the cow’s head barely above the water, bellowing an opera tune, all the other cows looking dumbfounded.
“Change of plans,” said Josh, and he turned to boat towards the cows and started talking on his cell phone.
We nudged the cow toward the shore with the front of the boat as a big Chevy truck with a winch pulled up. A short man jumped out, unhitched the hook and started for the water. Soon he was neck deep in the lake next to the cow somehow attaching the winch around the cow’s torso behind the front legs. Josh was in the water with a rope tied to the front of the boat and soon between the boat and the truck and Josh and his winch buddy, the cow made it back to the grass, where it wandered off as if nothing had ever happened.
By this time it was getting dark, a couple of beers were consumed, a couple of MoonPies were eaten, and a fence was mended. Josh sat in the boat seemingly no less upset than if he’d noodled several big catfish instead of a cow.
“Looks like there ain’t gonna be no noodling today,” he said. He motioned up towards the speakers. “But Toby Keith could do a little singing if you like.”