Special to the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette
Editor’s note: Pat Bodishbaugh of Fayetteville is the 2021 Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette 2021 fish story champion in the people’s choice division, voted No. 1 by readers of the stories online. Here is Bodishbaugh’s story.
Go back in time with me to my youth, late spring, 1964. My best friend, Jim Billy, and I, both age 15, were off one Saturday morning for some bream fishing.
You know the scene, I’m sure: flatbottom boat, 3.9 horsepower Merc, box of crickets on a beautiful, 40-acre cypress lake just north of Little Rock, where we grew up. We had created this scene many times, but this particular morning was to be a special adventure.
We still argue about who saw it first, but, for the sake of brevity, I’ll say that I spotted that wasp nest on our way to our special bream hole. It was not just your everyday wasp nest. Imagine at least 100 of those particularly angry dark red wasps, those 2-inchers with the black wings, hanging under a nest the size of a medium pizza pan. The nest was suspended just above the water in the lowest branches of a button bush. All we could think about in that moment was all of those wasp larvae waiting to be used as the ultimate bream bait.
It only took a moment for our genius, 15-year-old minds to arrive at the perfect solution to this great opportunity. A hasty boat trip back to the barn provided us with the right tool for the job at hand. We were quickly back on the lake, with a 4-pronged frog gig mounted on a 10-foot-long cane pole ominously pointing from the bow of the boat. Einstein would have envied our plan. So simple, yet so effective.
I was the “pole” man in the front of the boat. Jim Billy was the getaway driver in the back. Everything hinged on a rapid, accurate strike at the nest with the frog gig, coupled with an equally rapid, sting-free retreat. We would wait for the buzz to die down, go back and retrieve the nest.
What could possibly go wrong?
Jim Billy revved the 3.9 up to max power, and the raid was on. At top speed, maybe 4 mph, I made a perfect jab at the base of the nest. Then, in seconds, the plan went horribly wrong. A long-forgotten mathematic equation, possibly involving pi and maybe the square of a hypotenuse or two, would explain how, when the gig got tangled in the button bush, my end of the boat was fortuitously pushed away from the angry snarl now in progress, while Jim Billy’s end of the boat was most unfortunately vectored directly into buzz central.
As a huge “Haw haw, ain’t this some fun?” came involuntarily from me, a quick glance over my shoulder revealed that I was talking to myself. All that was visible of Jim Billy was his $3 straw cowboy hat floating in the lake. In a desperate act of self-preservation, he had bailed out, swimming underwater to avoid the angry swarm. The now unattended 3.9 was still at full throttle and the boat was headed directly for a solid line of large cypress trees at the edge of the lake. A few deft moves on my part averted that disaster, and I quickly swung the boat back around to pick up a waterlogged, but no worse for the experience, Jim Billy.
We waited about an hour and, undaunted, went back to claim our prize. The nest was hanging by a thread just out of the water, and all of the wasps had fled the scene. Our brilliant plan, carried out almost to perfection, left us with a whole day’s worth of bream bait. I have no recollection of how many fish we caught that day, but “the one about the wasp nest” is the story Jim Billy and I both tell to this day to anyone who’ll listen.