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Life is Simple: An old crank-type telephone finds an alternative use as a fishing tool.

Jerry Crownover

January 11, 2021

3 Min Read

My wife and I were watching one of those pawnshop reality TV shows last week (How boring is our life?), when a guy brought in an old crank-type telephone to try to sell to the owners. My wife, being younger and raised in a more progressive part of the country than I, had never seen one, so she began to ask me about them.

We didn’t have a telephone at our home until somewhere around the mid-1960s, so our first phone was the newfangled type with a rotary dial. I was, however, quite familiar with this older version of the phone, and since the statute of limitations has expired related to my use of the system, I was happy to explain how we used them in my younger days.

Even though these old phones are very valuable as antiques and collectibles these days, they were a dime-a-dozen when I was a kid. Most everyone had one lying around in a storeroom or junk pile somewhere, and I’m sure that’s where my buddy Larry had retrieved his. This old scrapped piece of Americana became our surefire, never-fail fishing tool.

Gone fishin’

I was completely ignorant of the telephone’s alternative use until one summer afternoon when Larry showed up at my house with something wrapped in an old tow sack (burlap feed sack to you non-natives) and tied to the handlebars of his bicycle. “Let’s go fishing,” he declared.

It had been a typical dry summer at the farm, and Lick Creek had all but dried up with the exception of three or four large holes in the creekbed that ran through our farm. There were always quite a few fish in these deep reservoirs, but the fish were wily enough to escape our primitive hooks and lures. Larry assured me that what he had would make certain we’d have plenty of fish for the skillet that night.

After we rode our bikes down to one of the waterholes, Larry unwrapped the old telephone, attached a long, copper wire to each of the two terminals on the back of the device, and waded out into the water, placing the ends of each wire beneath a flat rock. He instructed me to stand back, away from the water, and he started cranking the phone like the proverbial monkey with a music box. Within a minute or so, perch, bluegill, bass and even a catfish or two floated to the surface of the water. I was in awe.

“Take this sack and start gathering the fish,” my friend instructed. Eagerly, I stripped off my shoes and jeans and started stuffing the live but stunned fish into the sack. There were fish of all sizes floating on their sides, and I naturally started grabbing the big ones. I probably had a dozen or more poked in the sack, more than enough for the night’s supper for both his family and mine, when I looked back to see that devilish smile broaden across Larry’s face.

He started cranking the telephone with even more vigor than he had used to bring the fish to the surface.

Yes, electro-fishing can cause humans to be stunned too.

Crownover farms in Missouri.

About the Author(s)

Jerry Crownover

Jerry Crownover raises beef cattle in Missouri.

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