If you know the Wilderking books or The Charlatan’s Boy, you know that feechiefolks aren’t the most political people around. Maybe a little tribal politics every now and then, but when it comes to the legislative, judicial, and executive branches, they mostly leave it to the civilizers. But a couple of blog readers (thanks Wendy May and David King!) have brought to my attention a legislative issue that feechiefolks can really sink their teeth into.
Did you know that in Texas it is illegal to grabble catfish? (You may know the practice as ‘noodling,’ ‘hogging,’ ‘stumping,’ ‘dogging,’ or ‘grabbing’). The idea is to stick your hand into a hole where a big catfish lives; then, to quote Dobro Turtlebane, “When you waggle your fingers in front of his face, he’s sure to grab aholt of you. Then you pull him out. Only he’s going to be trying to pull you in.” If you’ve read The Bark of the Bog Owl, you’ll remember the triumphant moment when Aidan (accidentally) catches a catfish by hand, to the delight and astonishment of the feechies. If they had been in Texas instead of Corenwald, Aidan would have been subject to a fine of up to $500.
The feechiefolk of Texas are striking back, however, and not by invading Houston or flinging stone-tipped spears at passing vehicles. They’re pushing a pro-grabbling bill through the Texas legislature. According to a Wall Street Journal Article, the charge is being led by noodling enthusiast Brady Knowlton (this is obviously a civilizer code name–his real name is probably Brado Gillgrabber). Brado told the WSJ reporter that he loves “the heebie-jeebies you get underwater, in the dark, with this little sea monster biting you.” He lovingly recalled the first time he went noodling. His arm, he said, ended up looking like “the first stage of a chili recipe.”
Brado is experiencing some opposition from those finicky line-and-hook fishermen, who say that it’s unsporting to reach into a fish’s hole and pull it out. This is a remarkable thing for a line-fisherman to say. If there’s a case against catfish noodling, surely it’s not because it’s less sporting than line-fishing. (A more relevant criticism involves fish populations: a mother catfish who might not bite a baited hook could be grabbled out and leave a clutch of eggs unprotected). Catfish noodling is specifically legal in some states, specifically illegal in others, and not addressed one way or another in most states.
One other favorite detail from the article is the grabbler who got mixed up with a beaver and had to get thirteen stitches in his chin. But I think the best tidbit in the whole article is the rural sociology professor who is writing a book called Fishing for Collective Identity—The Intersection of Gender and Class in the Identity Work of Rural Men and Women Noodlers. You can’t make this stuff up.
Anyway, it’s good to see feechiefolks finally getting involved in the democratic process. Apparently Missouri feechies are pushing their own pro-noodling legislative agenda. There’s a regular sawgrass-roots movement afoot.
If you want to read the whole Wall Street Journal article about the effort to legalize catfish noodling in Texas, click here. And if you live in Texas, you might want to call your state senator forthwith. Feechies are making their voices heard, and any politician who ignores the feechie vote is asking for trouble. Feechies are building a bridge to the future. No wee-feechie left behind. They’re reaching across party lines to put government to work for working families. A catfish in every pot!