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Richard Brautigan

(January 30, 1935 – September 14, 1984 / Tacoma, Washington)

Part 7 of Trout Fishing in America




THE PUDDING MASTER OF



STANLEY BASIN





Tree, snow and rock beginnings, the mountain in back of the

lake promised us eternity, but the lake itself was filled with

thousands of silly minnows, swimming close to the shore

and busy putting in hours of Mack Sennett time.

The minnows were an Idaho tourist attraction. They

should have been made into a National Monument. Swimming

close to shore, like children they believed in their own im-

mortality .

A third-year student in engineering at the University of

Montana attempted to catch some of the minnows but he went

about it all wrong. So did the children who came on the

Fourth of July weekend.

The children waded out into the lake and tried to catch the

minnows with their hands. They also used milk cartons and

plastic bags. They presented the lake with hours of human

effort. Their total catch was one minnow. It jumped out of a

can full of water on their table and died under the table, gasp-

ing for watery breath while their mother fried eggs on the

Coleman stove.

The mother apologized. She was supposed to be watching

the fish --THIS IS MY EARTHLY FAILURE-- holding the

dead fish by the tail, the fish taking all the bows like a young

Jewish comedian talking about Adlai Stevenson.

The third-year student in engineering at the University of

Montana took a tin can and punched an elaborate design of

holes in the can, the design running around and around in

circles, like a dog with a fire hydrant in its mouth. Then he

attached some string to the can and put a huge salmon egg

and a piece of Swiss cheese in the can. After two hours of

intimate and universal failure he went back to Missoula,

Montana.

The woman who travels with me discovered the best way

to catch the minnows. She used a large pan that had in its

bottom the dregs of a distant vanilla pudding. She put the

pan in the shallow water along the shore and instantly, hun-

dreds of minnows gathered around. Then, mesmerized by

the vanilla pudding, they swam like a children's crusade

into the pan. She caught twenty fish with one dip. She put

the pan full of fish on the shore and the baby played with

the fish for an hour.

We watched the baby to make sure she was just leaning

on them a little. We didn't want her to kill any of them be-

cause she was too young.

Instead of making her furry sound, she adapted rapidly

to the difference between animals and fish, and was soon

making a silver sound.

She caught one of the fish with her hand and looked at it

for a while. We took the fish out of her hand and put it back

into the pan. After a while she was putting the fish back by

herself.

Then she grew tired of this. She tipped the pan over and

a dozen fish flopped out onto the shore. The children's game

and the banker's game, she picked up those silver things,

one at a time, and put them back in the pan. There was still

a little water in it. The fish liked this. You could tell.

When she got tired of the fish, we put them back in the

lake, and they were all quite alive, but nervous. I doubt if

they will ever want vanilla pudding again.








Submitted: Monday, January 13, 2003

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