HUMOR: Biggest Trout in Coon County

My name is Lee Hallberg and that fellow over there asked me to tell you my story. He says he’s a writer and it’s a pretty good story. But if he’s a writer and it’s such a good story it seems he should be the one who tells it. He also says he’s a fisherman. I haven’t seen him catch any fish, so maybe it’s the same thing.

Anyway, I live here at the Coon Valley Senior Center and I want you to know right off I’m just old, there’s nothing wrong with my mind. If the only reason they put people in here was because of their minds I’d say about half the thirty-five year olds I meet would live here.

So I got a good memory and don’t you forget it. And one memory I won’t forget is the day Tim Schuller hooked that big trout right here in Plum Creek. He was twelve and I watched the whole thing. Tim could tell you about it same as me but he’s all grown up and driving truck in Osceola. He got married and you know how these young guys are. They don’t care about old stories. They want to spend time with their wife, and I don’t blame them.

Anyway I’m watching Tim Schuller fishing the deep hole by that beaver dam when he starts yelling. His friend, John Parkers runs past me and says Tim’s got a big fish. I ask how big. He says too big to get out of the water. I told him quick run up to Greg Murphy’s house and get the net from his boat and bring it down.

John runs up to the house and comes back and says Greg’s gone fishing muskies on Lake Shetekqua with Jason Borader. They won’t be back until next Thursday or even Friday. Well hell.

I tell John go to the hardware store and get a net from Mr. Hankinson. A minute later Art Hankinson comes down with a big new landing net. I watched him fool around. There’s a lot of Hold stills and Dang its.

They can’t net the fish. It’s too big.

By this time word’s gone out. Bob Holthus and the boys at the implement dealership bring a hatchery basket, but it’s too big for the creek. The cops pull in. Then the Coon Valley firetruck shows up, siren and all. Fire Chief Len Haymen has eight blast caps he confiscated from the sand mine and tells everyone to stand back. That’s when Officer Bill Stortz says hold on, Len. There’s not going to be any explosives.

Tim Schuller tries to reel in the fish, but no twelve-year old boy can move it. It’s that big. Five men in swim goggles climb in. They’re going to horse him out. That’s when the fish makes a run for it.

Everyone’s yelling. Tim chases the fish upstream. It’s a hot day and every kid in Coon Valley runs ahead and jumps into the creek, cutting off the fish. The fish heads back to Hooker Pool, and swims down deep. He stays there. And just stays. One of the boys with goggles gets in and follows the line down. He brings back the verdict. The line is wrapped around a log.

That’s when Bob Holthus walks up to his dealership and drives down with a Massey Ferguson three-ton front end loader. Bob drives up to the old mill. At the old mill he starts dumping gravel onto the spillway. After the third load she’s dammed up, and dammed up good. The creek level drops, then becomes a trickle, and then the last of the water runs out. That’s it.

For the first time in probably a million years Coon Creek is dry.

They walked down and got the fish. It was the biggest trout anyone ever saw. Tim Schuller held him up for pictures. That trout was about as big as him. Then he and John Parkers had their pictures taken, and the boys and everyone at the fire department had their picture taken, and the fire chief puts his helmet on Tim and they took pictures, and by that time Wikhota Mills has let out and everybody’s down from Ellingboe on account they heard the sirens and come running, and Bill McLaren and all the boys from the Corner Stop Bar tow down their half-ton grill and fire her up, and the Coon Valley Ladies’ Aid sets picnic tables and Valley View Foods brings down fifty hamburger patties and two cases of fresh bratwurst and thirty pounds of potato salad and that’s when old Sam Wallenstein says hey everybody, look. Downtown is underwater.

Sure enough water had backed into the millpond. The pond got deeper and deeper. Then the whole river went over the causeway and down Main Street.

Bob Holthus acted quick. He jumps in the tractor. With one big shovelful he cuts a hole right through the dam.

It was fast thinking. Or not. A wall of water poured down. Women screamed. Everyone ran. The river washed over the banks and took out the grill and coolers and chairs and everyone was grabbing kids and beer cans and Timmy Schuller and Johnny Parkers got knocked flat and Len and Bob grabbed hold but it was too late. The fish disappeared. He’s probably in the Gulf of Mexico by now and weighs four hundred pounds.

The biggest trout in Coon County and they don’t even have pictures. All the cameras got wet.

My name is Lee Hallberg and that’s my story. One other thing. When I agreed to live here I was promised two bottles of Budweiser every day and one Captain Hart cigar, the kind with the plastic tip.

I get my beer but not the cigar. If you could look into it I’d appreciate it.

It’s tough being an old man. There’s only one good thing about being an old man. You’ve seen some things.

Richard Donnelly

Richard Donnelly lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Classic flyover land. Which makes us feel just a little… superior. Mr. Donnelly’s first book is ‘The Melancholy MBA,’ published by Brick Road Poetry Press in Columbus, Georgia.