Uncle Ashdod and the Fishschutzenfest
by Ellis Parker Butler
"Once," said Uncle Ashdod, "I hunted bass in a bass-wood, and once I remember I had putty good sport catchin' sharks with a three-ounce trout rod; but the best sport I ever had was when I was on the Sally Ann with the German carpenter --"
"How did you happen to take the German carpenter along?" asked Sim Perkins.
"I didn't take him; he was there already," said Uncle Ashdod. "And nobody knows the manners of German carp like a German carpenter. So there we lay, becalmed in the middle of the German ocean, and the weather like a hot cook stove on bakin' day. So I says the limburger had got to go overboard --"
"What limburger?" asked Sim Perkins.
"Well," said Uncle Ashdod, "it was an heirloom, and that's why the German carpenter clung to it so. I reckon it had been in his family thousands of years, and it was strong when it was young, and it got stronger every day. It got so strong it was sendin' out sparks, so I says, 'Hans, overboard she's got to go!' That's what I says; and I says, 'One skipper is enough on this ship,' I says. So he began to beller. 'Cap'n Ashdod,' he says, 'no one knows how I treasure that there cheese,' he says; 'and when the wind comes up and is blowin' free again,' he says, 'we can hang that there cheese over the stern,' he says, 'and the Sally Ann can run away from the perfume,' he says; 'so please don't rob me of the only heirloom I have to remember my poor old gross-gross-gross-fatter by.' So, seein' how he took on about it, I had that there chunk of limburger did up in oilskin, and sealed in a tin box, and soldered in a copper tube, and riveted in a steel jacket. 'All right, Hans,' I says; 'if she don't explode, we'll keep her.' So I tied the whole business to the anchor."
"What for?" asked Sim Perkins.
"So I could sink the whole business to the bottom of the German ocean," Uncle Ashdod explained. "And I sunk her. I sunk her deep, in a considabul number of fathoms. I got a memorandum at home just how many fathoms it was, and if you sit still I'll go home and git it."
"Don't bother," said Sim Perkins. "I'll take your word for it."
"If you are willin' to do that," said Uncle Ashdod, "I'll admit it was ten thousand fathoms and a leetle mite over. I want to be accurate about this, because you might tell it to some feller, and he might tell it to another feller, and it might git in the papers. So right away the water begun to boil."
"Cheese het it up, I reckon," said Sim Perkins scornfully.
"No, sir!" said Uncle Ashdod. "It was the friction of the sides of all the fish in the German ocean, hustlin' to git away from there. It made the water so hot it peeled the paint offen the sides of the Sally Ann. But the next mornin' there wasn't a fish left in the German ocean, and she cooled down again. So when we seen this big wave comin' for us from toward Germany --"
"You hain't mentioned no wave," said Sim Perkins.
"I'm about to mention it, if I get a chance," said Uncle Ashdod. "Here she come, like to swamp the ship, and I says, 'Hemlock splinters! What a heap o' water!' But the German carpenter says, 'Water be dinged! Them ain't water; those is German carp!' And so they was."
"What do you think of this here Canada reciprocity business?" asked Sim Perkins earnestly. "Now, if we let lumber in --"
"And so they was," continued Uncle Ashdod. "Millions and millions of German carp. I don't know for sure, but I reckon every German carp in Germany, except maybe some that was too young to swim long distances, was in that bunch; and they was all makin' straight for the German carpenter's heirloom what was tied to my anchor. Now, a German carp can scent a hunk of limburger cheese as far as --"
"Will rent be cheaper if that Canada lumber comes in free? That's the question!" said Sim Perkins sadly. "Now, if rent --"
"So the German carpenter begun to beller again," said Uncle Ashdod, "for he knowed no steel jacket nor copper tube nor tin box nor oilskin could keep them hungry carp from gettin' at that cheese. So I says, 'Shut up, you skeesicks!' I says. 'I'll fix it for you.' So I had the crew up anchor, which they done with one hand apiece, holdin' their noses with the other, and I give orders to h'ist that chunk of copper-riveted cheese to the top o' the foremast, which was did; and when them German carp --"
"Pussonally," said Sim Perkins dolefully, "I don't think rent is ever goin' to drop none. I hold it's goin' higher and higher. I don't know how high it'll go before it --"
"Off they scooted, every blamed carp!" said Uncle Ashdod. "In fi' minutes they wasn't a German carp in the German ocean. But in about two days back they come --"
"It'll be so a poor feller simply can't pay rent," said Sim Perkins glumly. "That's how it --"
"And every German carp," continued Uncle Ashdod, "was bringin' a flyin' fish along with it. Some had their flyin' fishes by the wing, like they was escortin' a lady, and some drug their flyin' fishes backwards by the tail; but as soon as they was alongside the Sally Ann, each German carp took a tight hold of its own flyin' fish by the tail and bit it. If you could have heard them poor flyin' fish holler --"
"Well, what do I care?" said Sim Perkins recklessly. "I don't pay no rent nohow. Let her go up!"
"And up she went!" said Uncle Ashdod. "Just as soon as a German carp bit hard enough, its flyin' fish spread its wings and flew up in the air, with its German carp on behind, steerin' it like a rudder, right toward that there mainmast top, and the minute they was near the chunk of limburger the German carp let go and made a grab with its mouth for the steel jacket the limburger was in. They hit it about five times in six, and putty soon they had a hole wore in the steel jacket. Then the German carpenter begun to beller again. But I says, 'Git the rifles, Hans!' I says; and he got 'em. So there me and him lay, on our backs, flat on the deck, and we shot them German carp one by one as they sailed over us. But we was careful not to shoot the flyin' fish. They was innocent parties to that there transaction."
"And I couldn't pay no rent if I wanted to," said Sim Perkins angrily. "Because why? I ain't got no money!"
"And that was the best fishin' sport I ever had," said Uncle Ashdod. "Me and the German carpenter we shot millions of German carp, and they fell down on the ship until the deck was full, and we was buried so deep we both suffocated to death. It wasn't the weight of the fish; it was the weight of the lead we had shot into them. Now, as to what become of them poor flyin' fish with their sore tails --"
Sim Perkins got up and stretched.
"What do I care about rent, anyway?" he said cheerfully. "My wife, she pays the rent."