Morning Thanks

Garrison Keillor once said we'd all be better off if we all started the day by giving thanks for just one thing. I'll try.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Morning Thanks--Jumpin' Jehosophat


National Geographic calls it "In(vasice) Vogue"--this woman is wearing museum-quality accessories fashioned exclusively from invasive species: the ring and the earring are from a Burmese python, the cuff is what's left of a cane toad, and that necklace once had a place in the jaw of a wild boar--and all of the above animal species are tempestuously out of control.

No one asked what PETA thought of the new chic', but it's not hard to guess. What "in(vasive) vogue" has going for it is a the sanctified notion of taking ridiculously overpopulated varmints, getting rid of them (thank goodness!), and creating art from whatever's left to piece together. Don't know that my wife would buy the bracelet, but the ring would create some conversation and that necklace is daring. Wonder what they want for it?

All of which prompts me to think about silver carp. In case you're wondering, they're here in Siouxland by the thousands. They swam up the Old Muddy from somewhere down south, then took a sharp left in Sioux City at the mouth of the Big Sioux and now they're going like weeds up here. Seriously. Don't know if I could kick up a few dozen on the Floyd, but I suspect I could. 


The Great Lakes are keeping them out by way of a tottering electric fence of sorts at an Illinois River dam about 50 miles from Chicago, where they get jumping mad (that's a kind of pun) because they can get no further. It must be dangerous to float a boat there because they are.

My grandson and I saw a bunch last week on the Big Sioux, a couple dozen at least, a whole street gang of 'em right beneath the bridge north of Hawarden. Out of nowhere, they just started jumping, like a fish circus. You're canoeing along with nary a care in the world, like Huck and Jim on the Mississip, and just like that a dozen come up from the water, leaping four, five feet in the air before splashing back in. It's a hoot.

Watch a couple minutes of the video these guys made:





Silver carp were, at one time, some guy's bright idea (no woman is capable of such idiocy) to get rid of the algae forming in catfish ponds. And how'd that work for you? Way too well as a matter of fact. 

Suffice it to say those carp had no intention of staying in the cage--shades of Animal Farm. They eat like sumo wrestlers, devouring most of what any other ordinary river fish might call supper.  Around here, the only fish they threaten are bottom-feeders just as ugly as they are--bullheads and their distant cousin carp, maybe a catfish or two.

Some people eat 'em. NPR quotes a guy who stopped fighting 'em and just started filling nets. He gets all of 12 cents a pound for silver carp, but when you bring them in by the tens of thousands--and you can do that just south of that Illinois dam--you can put real food on your table.

Apparently, lots of Asians love 'em, but it'll be a while before I order up silver carp and chips with a side of slaw. I got way too much distaste in me yet from a Wisconsin childhood, where I was taught that there was only one way to eat carp: take the fish, nail it to a board, put it the sun for two weeks, toss the fish, and eat the board.

But they're here, I swear. They'll smack you upside the head if you're not careful, and even if you are. Keep an oar handy. Think seriously about a baseball bat. A tennis racket won't do--asian carp aren't mosquitoes or bats. They'll jump right in the boat, or worse, canoe. And, they're big, waaay big.

Think about wearing a helmet.

But they are fun. Good night, are they fun. If I could wear 'em somehow, I would. Maybe make some kind of jewelry out of their jawbones. But it's really hard to think of them as delicate. They're huge, every one a trophy, but who'd want 'em on your walls? They'd probably take over the house.


It was me and my grandson out in the canoe last week amid that flying circus. Okay, I know it's a stretch for me to say I'm thankful for silver carp, given the mess they've created up and down rivers across the continent; but just between you and me, last weekend my grandson and I had a ball on the wide and slow waters of the Big Sioux River, all around us a wild-eyed carnival of carp.  

And for that good time, this morning, I'm thankful.

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