Dog Paddling Across the Bluegrass: Chapter 5

“I can’t believe I caught 4 fish!” The first fish I caught was the biggest – and I’d almost landed in Fishtrap Lake trying to reel it in.

“It’s a spotted bass,” Dad said, as he removed the hook for me. Dad weighed the fish, then handed it over.

“Put your paw in his mouth like this,” Dad demonstrated.

“Will he bite?” I asked.

“He’ll wiggle but won’t bite. Say cheese!”

Dad snapped a picture and threw the fish back in the lake. I reeled another one in. And another. “If we take a picture after every catch, we’ll be here forever,” Mom said when I wanted a picture with each one. Mom did take a picture of Chloe holding a 4-pound flathead catfish she’d caught. We returned to the marina and showed Frankie the pictures of our prize catches.

“Oooh-wee,” Frankie whistled. “Whoppers!”

“My muscles are sore.” I said, flexing them. “Think they’re a state record?” I asked.

“Let’s see.” Frankie grabbed a booklet. “This’ll tell you.” We thanked him for everything, loaded the canoe on the trailer and headed to find a campground.

“The biggest flathead catfish caught in Kentucky is 97 pounds and the biggest spotted bass is 7 pounds, 10 ounces,” Chloe read as we drove to the campground.

“The spotted bass looks like the largemouth bass except it has horizontal rows of small black spots on its lower side,” Chloe read. “The spotted bass has been our state fish since 1956. Folks call it the Kentucky bass.”

“I didn’t know we had a state fish,” I replied.

“This book has a list of our symbols,” Chloe said.

“I know the cardinal’s our state bird and My Old Kentucky Home is our state song.” I sang the chorus of My Old Kentucky Home. Chloe joined in. When finished, Chloe continued reading.

“The tulip poplar is our tree, the goldenrod our flower, and the gray squirrel our wild game,” Chloe read. “Oh – our mineral is coal.”

“I spot a state symbol!” I shouted, as a corvette passed. “It’s the state car.”

“Let’s play a game,” my sister suggested. “When we see a state symbols, we’ll say ‘I spot a state symbol,’ and announce it. It’s 2-0. You’re ahead, Woody.”

“I spot a campground,” Dad laughed.

“Jenny Wiley State Resort Park – ahead.”

Dewey Lake – turn right.”

“Can we fish?” I asked when I read the sign.

“Not sure. We need to set up camp, eat, and get a good night’ sleep,” Mom replied. An hour later, we sat around the campfire roasting marshmallows.

“Woody,” Dad spoke as I held my marshmallow over the fire, “since the trip was your idea, why don’t you plan the route to Western Kentucky.”

Swallowing the marshmallow, I went to the car and grabbed the United States of America Atlas. I opened and squinted. “Kentucky’s tiny!”

“You’re looking at the United States map,” Dad informed.

“But Kentucky IS in the United States.”

“Correct, but the US map is helpful when planning a trip across several states. Go to the map of Kentucky,” Dad instructed. I flipped through the pages.  Iowa, Kansas…

“KENTUCKY.” This page contained colors, dots and lines. I saw the “Legend.” Blue curvy lines were rivers, green trees were state parks, and the airplanes represented airports. “Where’s Eastern Kentucky on the map?” I asked. I knew north was up and south was down, but east and west confused me.

“Use the clock,” Chloe explained. “North is 12:00, east is 3:00, south is 6:00 and west is 9:00. I looked at 3:00, found the green tree and “Jenny Wiley State Resort Park.” I put my paw on our location. I found 9:00. I put my other paw on Kentucky Lake.

“We’re here and we’re going there.” I looked at my options. “We could go north to the Little Sandy River. We could go close to home and get on the Salt River. Or we could go south and get on the Cumberland River. But we’d have to drive through Tennessee. Wait! Every one of these rivers dumps into the Ohio River.”

“Correct – those rivers ultimately dump into the Ohio,” Mom confirmed. “Remember our talk about watersheds? Smaller creeks go into bigger rivers and then into the ocean. These rivers go to the Ohio River – then to the Mississippi River – then the Gulf of Mexico before entering the Atlantic Ocean. But Woody, don’t worry about planning the entire route now, just decide what river or lake to visit next.”

Chloe and I crawled in our tent. Within minutes, my sister was snoring, but I was too excited to sleep. And I was too hungry. Remembering the bag of marshmallows, I tiptoed outside, careful not to wake anyone. I’d almost made it to the picnic table when I realized somebody was eating our marshmallows.

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