“Saw client X fishing at the river this morning. Do not give the family any food this week.” 1933 notation by a county social worker, Travis County. File found in the attic of the agency, 1986.
The river flowed as it always did
The sun rose as it always had
In those sunrise times
She remembered walking together
Down a dirt road to the river
Cane fishing pole propped on her shoulder.
Walking slow so her grandma could keep up.
Her grandma taught her to dig the worms
In the evening
In the soft worked dirt of the flower bed
Put them in the rusty coffee can she
Kept under the warped wooden stairs
Put a little soil with them so they could
Survive the night.
Morning and evening are the best times
To fish her grandma said
When the catfish swim lazy at the bottom
Their big mouths opening and closing
Eating algae and tiny silver minnows.
When the crappies swim near the water’s edge
Hoping to catch a flying insect, a tiny speck of bread.
Throw the hook in softly her grandma said,
Gently so it floats down with the current
Natural like the leaves and pieces of twig
That she saw moving on the river’s surface.
Hold the pole like you are holding something delicate
So that any tug will bring your hands alive
But don’t pull it is too fast
Give that fish time to put its mouth
Around that worm
Then pull hard.
When you get that fish, treat it gentle.
Once she remembered that she caught a
The size of a perch but instead of the
Rainbow color it was black with white
Dots and her grandma said it was a good sign.
That morning she woke up remembering her grandma
So she headed to the river to fish
As the sun came up on the eastern horizon.
She was looking forward to a dinner of fried fish.
When that white man who worked for county
Welfare drove by, she smiled and waved.