Crayfish on the lawn and bullheads in the stock tank made for summer trouble at the farm

Mychal Wilmes recounts the mischief he and the other boys would get in at the creek in the summertime.

A crayfish against a dirt background
Turning loose a bucket of crayfish on a gathering in the yard earned Mychal Wilmes an unwanted bath.
Courtesy / Pixabay
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“Boy, did I get in trouble. Dad was sure mad."

The trouble had to do with my nephew putting four bullheads in the stock tank. His Dad was upset because he thought bullheads would use their stingers on cows’ muzzles. The cows would drink less water and produce less milk as a result.

“He hasn’t made me fish them out yet," my nephew said.

Mother thought little of the offense, explaining that after all boys will be boys.

We were indeed a half-dozen boys who sought entertainment that didn’t involve spending money or going far from our farmsteads. One of our favorite hangouts was the creek that flowed through pastures. During snow melt, the creek was an angry beast, but in summer it was as gentle as grandparents.


The water was blessed with bullheads, chubs, turtles, and an endless supply of crayfish. We did not know it, but crayfish are related to lobsters and are edible. Their pinchers and appearance threatened the timid, but we were not that.

Momma’s boy, as I was called by some, made a horrible mistake on a beautiful June day when the ladies and grandpas sat in chairs on the lawn to reminisce and to share family news.

I had spent most of the early afternoon filling a five-gallon bucket full of crayfish and was dared to release them near the lawn chair sitters. They did not take the gambit well and retreated to the house. Mother and the others were not amused. I retreated to the creek, where others were busy catching bullheads.

Bullheads were not fussy biters. Angle worms, sweet corn kernels, and poles made from cottonwood branches were good enough. In less crowded Sunday times, we would bring a 10-gallon bucket filled with bullheads to Mother for cleaning.

Why she accepted the task remains a mystery. We were as capable of skinning bullheads as she, but we seemed to think we were otherwise too busy. Floured and egged, and then lard fried in a cast iron skillet made for great eating.

The result, I said, was even better than lobster, a judgment that was baseless since I’d never eaten one.

The clay banks along the creek were ideal for sliding, and many times patched inner tubes offered shirtless relaxation and wild talk.

“What would you do if a bunch of girls came along wearing swimsuits," asked the nephew who had gotten in trouble by putting bullheads in the stock tank.


The bold talk that followed was all a lie, given that we would retreat if such an impossible happening took place. Mostly, we talked baseball and futures filled with athletic stardom.

I thought the crayfish incident had blown over when we returned to the lawn. It might well have, but my sister and a sister-in-law were bent on revenge.

“When was the last time you had a bath?" my sister asked.

There was no need because the dirty creek water had made me clean. She and the others did not share that opinion and said that unless I went willingly to take a bath, they would use force. Flight was impossible because I was surrounded. I was led by force in protest to the bathroom.

“You smell," one of them said.

“I’m going to get some clean clothes for you," my sister added.

My sister was always bent on making me presentable, but it was an impossible task because as Mother understood I loved playing in the mud. My sister said that someday I might thank her for trying.

Reform started with a senior prom date.


Two evergreen car fresheners were hung in my parents’ car and my brothers encouraged me to splash on a large amount of cologne, which they called cow cover. The air fresheners overwhelmed, and the cow cover’s aroma could be smelled a half-mile away.

Mychal Wilmes is the retired managing editor of Agri News. He lives in West Concord, Minnesota, with his wife, Kathy.

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