Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Lubricity, or Fishing the Cullasaja

Not only have I read Robert Strange's 1839 novel Eonoeguski, or the Cherokee Chief, but I can say I enjoyed it. I don't know of many people who could answer affirmatively on both counts! Strange was a Superior Court judge who rode the mountain circuit. Inspired by The Last of the Mohicans, Strange crafted an epic story set on the frontier of Cherokee country.

Strange had befriended the Macon County Renaissance man, Silas McDowell, who shared much of the historical background that the author used in his book. McDowell lived near the Cullasaja, and Strange told an amusing tale concerning McDowell's efforts to catch a fish from that river for the judge. (To conceal the identity of his informant, Strange referred to him as Mr. McDonald.)

In a moment more he was in the water, turning over the large rocks, with as much earnestness as if he had expected to find a bag of gold beneath each of them. I looked on, puzzled what to think of my new acquaintance. At length he succeeded in slightly shaking a very large rock, which defied all his efforts to turn it over, when instantly there dashed from beneath it what, at first, appeared to me to be a perfect monster.

Mr. McDonald immediately rushed in pursuits, and a more amusing spectacle I never witnessed for twelve or fifteen minutes. The water was splashed about in every direction, so as to leave not a dry garment upon the pursuer, as a large fish darted from one hiding place to another, with fruitless efforts to avail himself of it. Sometimes the hand of the extraordinary fisherman was upon him, but the lubricity of his scales would save him, and afford him another chance for escape.

At length, however, when nearly exhausted with his bootless exertions, Mr. McDonald succeeded in dexterously thrusting his hand into the gills of the fish, which now lashed the water into a perfect foam, and sent the spray in every direction, like a shower of rain. But the relentless foe held on, with tenacious grasp, and dragged him to the shore.

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