OF MAKING WALNUT CATSUP
And this is a very small cookbook for Trout Fishing in America
as if Trout Fishing in America were a rich gourmet and
Trout Fishing in America had Maria Callas for a girlfriend
and they ate together on a marble table with beautiful candles.
Compote of Apples
Take a dozen of golden pippins, pare them
nicely and take the core out with a small
penknife; put them into some water, and
let them be well scalded; then take a little
of the water with some sugar, and a few
apples which may be sliced into it, and
let the whole boil till it comes to a syrup;
then pour it over your pippins, and garnish
them with dried cherries and lemon-peel
cut fine. You must take care that your
pippins are not split.
And Maria Callas sang to Trout Fishing in America as
they ate their apples together.
A Standing Crust for Great Pies
Take a peck of flour and six pounds of butter
boiled in a gallon of water: skim it off into
the flour, and as little of the liquor as you
can. Work it up well into a paste, and then
pull it into pieces till it is cold. Then make
it up into what form you please.
And Trout Fishing in America smiled at Maria Callas as
they ate their pie crust together.
A Spoonful Pudding
Take a spoonful of flour, a spoonful of
cream or milk, an egg, a little nutmeg,
ginger, and salt. Mix all together, and
boil it in a little wooden dish half an hour.
If you think proper you may add a few
And Trout Fishing in America said, “The moon’s coming
out.” And Maria Callas said, “Yes, it is.”
Another Method of Making Walnut Catsup
Take green walnuts before the shell is
formed, and grind them in a crab-mill,
or pound them in a marble mortar.
Squeeze out the juice through a coarse
cloth, and put to every gallon of juice
a pound of anchovies, and the same
quantity of bay-salt, four ounces of
Jamaica pepper, two of long and two of
black pepper; of mace, cloves, and
ginger, each an ounce, and a stick of
horseradish. Boil all together till
reduced to half the quantity, and then
put it into a pot. When it is cold, bottle
it close, and in three months it will be
fit for use.
And Trout Fishing in America and Maria Callas poured
walnut catsup on their hamburgers.
PROLOGUE TO GRIDER CREEK
Mooresville, Indiana, is the town that John Dillinger came
from, and the town has a John Dillinger Museum. You can
go in and look around.
Some towns are known as the peach capital of America or
the cherry capital or the oyster capital, and there’s always
a festival and the photograph of a pretty girl in a bathing suit.
Mooresville, Indiana, is the John Dillinger capital of America.
Recently a man moved there with his wife, and he discovered
hundreds of rats in his basement. They were huge, slowmoving
When his wife had to visit some of her relatives for a few
days, the man went out and bought a .38 revolver and a lot
of ammunition. Then he went down to the basement where
the rats were, and he started shooting them. It didn’t bother
the rats at all. They acted as if it were a movie and started
eating their dead companions for popcorn.
The man walked over to a rat that was busy eating a friend
and placed the pistol against the rat’s head. The rat did not
move and continued eating away. When the hammer clicked
back, the rat paused between bites and looked out of the corner
of its eye. First at the pistol and then at the man. It was a kind
of friendly look as if to say, “When my mother was young she
sang like Deanna Durbin. ”
The man pulled the trigger.
He had no sense of humor.
There’s always a single feature, a double feature and an
eternal feature playing at the Great Theater in Mooresville,
Indiana: the John Dillinger capital of America.
I had heard there was some good fishing in there and it was
running clear while all the other large creeks were running
muddy from the snow melting off the Marble Mountains.
I also heard there were some Eastern brook trout in there,
high up in the mountains, living in the wakes of beaver darns.
The guy who drove the school bus drew a map of Grider
Creek, showing where the good fishing was. We were standing
in front of Steelhead Lodge when he drew the map. It was
a very hot day. I’d imagine it was a hundred degrees.
You had to have a car to get to Grider Creek where the
good fishing was, and I didn’t have a car. The map was nice,
though. Drawn with a heavy dull pencil on a piece of paper
bag. With a little square for a sawmill.
THE BALLET FOR
TROUT FISHING IN AMERICA
How the Cobra Lily traps insects is a ballet for Trout Fishing
in America, a ballet to be performed at the University of
California at Los Angeles.
The plant is beside me here on the back porch.
It died a few days after I bought it at Woolworth’s. That
was months ago, during the presidential election of nineteen
hundred and sixty.
I buried the plant in an empty Metrecal can.
The side of the can says, “Metrecal Dietary for Weight
Control, ” and below that reads, “Ingredients: Non-fat milk
solids, soya flour, whole milk solids, sucrose, starch, corn
oil, coconut oil, yeast, imitation vanilla, ” but the can’s only
a graveyard now for a Cobra Lily that has turned dry and
brown and has black freckles.
As a kind of funeral wreath, there is a red, white and
blue button sticking in the plant and the words on it say, “I’m
The main energy for the ballet comes from a description
of the Cobra Lily. The description could be used as a welcome
mat on the front porch of hell or to conduct an orchestra
of mortuaries with ice-cold woodwinds or be an atomic
mailman in the pines, in the pines where the sun never shines.
“Nature has endowed the Cobra Lily with the means of
catching its own food. The forked tongue is covered with
honey glands which attract the insects upon which it feeds.
Once inside the hood, downward pointing hairs prevent the
insect from crawling out. The digestive liquids are found in
the base of the plant.
“The supposition that it is necessary to feed the Cobra
Lily a piece of hamburger or an insect daily is erroneous. ”
I hope the dancers do a good job of it, they hold our
imagination in there feet, dancing in Los Angles for Trout
Fishing in America.
A WALDEN POND FOR WINOS
The autumn carried along with it, like the roller coaster of
a flesh-eating plant, port wine and the people who drank that
dark sweet wine, people long since gone, except for me.
Always wary of the police, we drank in the safest place
we could find, the park across from the church.
There were three poplar trees in the middle of the park
and there was a statue of Benjamin Franklin in front of the
trees. We sat there and drank port.
At home my wife was pregnant.
I would call on the telephone after I finished work and say,
“I won’t be home for a little while. I’m going to have a drink
with some friends. ”
The three of us huddled in the park, talking. They were
both broken-down artists from New Orleans where they had
drawn pictures of tourists in Pirate’s Alley.
Now in San Francisco, with the cold autumn wind upon
them, they had decided that the future held only two directions:
They were either going to open up a flea circus or commit
themselves to an insane asylum.
So they talked about it while they drank wine.
They talked about how to make little clothes for fleas by
pasting pieces of colored paper on their backs.
They said the way that you trained fleas was to make them
dependent upon you for their food. This was done by letting them
feed off you at an appointed hour.
They talked about making little flea wheelbarrows and
pool tables and bicycles.
They would charge fifty-cents admission for their flea circus.
The business was certain to have a future to it. Perhaps they
would even get on the Ed Sullivan Show.
They of course did not have their fleas yet, but they could
easily be obtained from a white cat.
Then they decided that the fleas that lived on Siamese
Cats would probably be more intelligent than the fleas that
lived on just ordinary alley cats. It only made sense that
drinking intelligent blood would make intelligent fleas.
And so it went on until it was exhausted and we went and
bought another fifth of port wine and returned to the trees
and Benjamin Franklin.
Now it was close to sunset and the earth was beginning to
cool off in the correct manner of eternity and office girls
were returning like penguins from Montgomery Street. They
looked at us hurriedly and mentally registered: winos.
Then the two artists talked about committing themselves
to an insane asylum for the winter. They talked about how
warm it would be in the insane asylum, with television, clean
sheets on soft beds, hamburger gravy over mashed potatoes,
a dance once a week with the lady kooks, clean clothes a
locked razor and lovely young student nurses.
Ah, yes, there was a future in the insane asylum. No
winter spent there could be a total loss.
TOM MARTIN CREEK
I walked down one morning from Steelhead, following the
Klamath River that was high and murky and had the intelligence
of a dinosaur. Tom Martin Creek was a small creek with cold,
clear water and poured out of a canyon and through a culvert
under the highway and then into the Klamath.
I dropped a fly in a small pool just below where the creek
flowed out of the culvert and took a nine-inch trout. It was
a good-looking fish and fought all over the top of the pool.
Even though the creek was very small and poured out of a
steep brushy canyon filled with poison oak, I decided to
follow the creek up a ways because I liked the feel and
motion of the creek.
I liked the name, too.
Tom Martin Creek.
It’s good to name creeks after people and then later to
follow them for a while seeing what they have to offer, what
they know and have made of themselves.
But that creek turned out to be a real son-of-a-bitch. I
had to fight it all the God-damn way: brush, poison oak and
hardly any good places to fish, and sometimes the canyon
was so narrow the creek poured out like water from a faucet.
Sometimes it was so bad that it just left me standing there,
not knowing which way to jump.
You had to be a plumber to fish that creek.
After that first trout I was alone in there. But I didn’t
know it until later.
TROUT FISHING ON THE BEVEL
The two graveyards were next to each other on small hills
and between them flowed Graveyard Creek, a slow-moving,
funeral-procession-on-a-hot-day creek with a lot of fine
trout in it.
And the dead didn’t mind me fishing there at all.
One graveyard had tall fir trees growing in it, and the
grass was kept Peter Pan green all year round by pumping
water up from the creek, and the graveyard had fine marble
headstones and statues and tombs.
The other graveyard was for the poor and it had no trees
and the grass turned a flat-tire brown in the summer and
stayed that way until the rain, like a mechanic, began in the
There were no fancy headstones for the poor dead. Their
markers were small boards that looked like heels of stale bread:
Devoted Slob Father Of
Beloved Worked-to-Death Mother Of
On some of the graves were fruit jars and tin cans
with wilted flowers in them:
To the Memory
of John Talbot
Who at the Age of Eighteen
Had His Ass Shot Off In a Honky-Tonk
November 1, 1936
This Mayonnaise Jar
With Wilted Flowers In It
Was Left Here Six Months Ago By His Sister
Who Is In
The Crazy Place Now.
Eventually the seasons would take care of their wooden
names like a sleepy short-order cook cracking eggs over a
grill next to a railroad station. Whereas the well-to-do
would have their names for a long time written on marble
hers d’oeuvres like horses trotting up the fancy paths to the sky.
I fished Graveyard Creek in the dusk when the hatch was on
and worked some good trout out of there. Only the poverty of
the dead bothered me.
Once, while cleaning the trout before I went home in the almost
night, I had a vision of going over to the poor graveyard and
gathering up grass and fruit jars and tin cans and markers and
wilted flowers and bugs and weeds and clods andgoing home
and putting a hook in the vise and tying a fly with all that stuff
and then going outside and casting it up into the sky, watching it
float over clouds and then into the evening star.