Every paperboy had his territory on Main Street in Brawley. I sold my newspapers at the Planters Hotel every day after school. I'd learned the hard way about territories when I ended up in a fistfight behind the Brawley News, in the alley next to Foster's Freeze. Some kid that went to Ruth Reid had taken offense because I sold a newspaper in front of Newberry's Five & Dime store.
"You can't catch no big-mouth bass on those silly-looking things," Ruthie Mae said. "I thought I done taught you the only ways to catch dem bass is with a live shad and a cork," she continued.
"Well, you did," I replied, handing her my new magazine, "but look at the stringer of bass this guy named Homer Circle is holding in the picture. He caught every one of them using a Heddon River Runt.
"With one of these lures," I ventured on, "you don't need to spend valuable time with a dip net catching shad."
I was on a roll now with my newly gained knowledge.
"Just think how much time you spend keeping those shad alive in the bait bucket once you catch 'em," I said.
"Well, you just get you one of dem fancy pants lures and we'll have us a fishing contest," Ruthie Mae cackled, which turned into a coughing fit as another Lucky Strike cigarette got the best of her.
The next day, after all my papers were sold, I took a shortcut through Dick Wick's Barber Shop from the lobby of the Planters and exited out his main entrance. Cutting across the Plaza, I headed for Tunney's Sport Shop to see if he had any of the lures I had read about.
The timing couldn't have been better. Tunney was just unpacking a new shipment from California Hardware. There on top of the counter, displayed in a fancy box, was a brand new Heddon River Runt Spook. The color was yellow perch scale and it was love at first sight.
"How much is this lure?" I asked Tunney. "$1.45," he replied.
"Ain't she a beauty? I've been thinking of trying that lure out myself in Ramer Lake," he said, knowing he had a live one on the line.
"No you're not," I replied, putting a dime and a quarter on the counter as down payment. "I'll pay you this much every day."
"OK," smiled Tunney, setting the hook, "I'll put it away until it's all paid for."
Skipping across South Imperial Avenue, whistling a tune, I cut across Keith & Womack's car lot and headed down the alley to our house on H street. When I came in the back door Ruthie Mae was washing the dishes.
"What chew look'n so happy for?" she asked.
"I bought me one of those Heddon River Runt Spooks on layaway," I replied. "And as soon as I pay Tunney in full we're going to have us a fishing contest at Ramer Lake," I said. "We'll see then whether live bait is better than a fishing lure."
"Lordy have mercy," she exclaimed as she finished up drying the dishes, "I done created me a monster."
The following week I could barely constrain myself as I helped Ruthie Mae dip a dozen shad in the foaming water where the water flowed over the district check from the south portion of Ramer Lake into the larger northern section of the lake. Loading the bucket of shad in the trunk of Ruthie Mae's big Buick, we motored around to the west side of the lake for the big fish-off.
As soon as the car stopped I was out the door, fishing pole in hand, and cast the shiny new Heddon River Runt Spook into the lake. It sailed forever and hit with a big splash. That's when I realized my knot had failed and come undone.
"Hush up that crying," Ruthie Mae said as she handed me a hook and cork bobber, "dem bass are just wait'n to be caught."
>> Outdoor Tales writer Al Kalin can be reached on the Internet at email@example.com