The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

Gone Fishing

By Bob Heafner © 1983-2012

Issue: April, 1983

Trout season opens at twelve noon on April 2nd this year and to give you some idea how important this event is in these parts, I’ll tell you a story Woodrow W. “Woody” Dalton told me of opening day in 1941. The season opened on April 20th in 1941, a Sunday, and Woody had planned for a month to spend the day fishing his favorite holes along the Dan River. Sometimes fate can wreck havoc with the best made plans and that was the case with Woody’s for opening day.

Woody and his wife, Avis, were sharing a big old two story home near Mayberry with their friends, Coss and Violet Stanley and Woody and Coss had made their fishing plans together for opening day. They planned to get up about 4:00 am, eat breakfast, do their chores and head for the river. Avis and Woody were expecting a baby about then and Violet had been teasing Woody for over a month that he better not plan to go fishing opening day because that was the day Avis would have the baby. Well, Woody didn’t put much stock in Violet’s predictions and opening day, Woody was up before dawn, just as planned, ready to haul in a lunker.

Violet had just got up and fixed Woody and Coss breakfast and just as they were finishing it up, Avis (in a voice that meant business) said, “Woodrow, you’re not going fishing today.” Only a balloon that has felt the point of a needle knows the effect those words had on Woody but he quickly resigned himself to the fact there’d be no fishing today for him and after being assured by Avis that he had time to do his morning chores, he “done ‘em” and started out walking to Meadows of Dan to call Dr. Thompson in Stuart.

He had no more’n got to the road when his neighbor, Guy Barnard drove up and stopped in his 1933 Chevrolet Coupe. Woody told Guy he needed a ride to Meadows of Dan to call the doctor because Avis was getting ready to have the baby and Guy told him to quit talking and get in the car. So, off they went to the phone but Dr. Thompson had gone fishing! They tried to call the doctor in Hillsville but couldn’t get any response from the switchboard in Laurel Fork so they headed for Laurel Fork in the car, thinking there was some problem in the lines and they would be able to call the doctor from there. Well, they made it to Laurel Fork and the switchboard but that was no help. Pinned to the switchboard was a sign; “Gone Fishing.” Guy knew a midwife by the name of Etta Webb who lived at Laurel Fork so they picked up Mrs. Etta and headed back to Mayberry.

By the time they got Mrs. Etta to Woody’s house, Fanny Willis, a neighbor lady had already delivered the baby. Seems Mrs. Fanny had delivered her own baby not so long before that (without any help) so she knew what to do and by the time Woody got home, his daughter Virginia Sue was born and well.

Now it seems Violet was right about Woody not going fishing on opening day and according to Woody, she thoroughly enjoyed reminding him that she was. I’d be willing to bet that by the time Woody got to the switchboard at Laurel Fork, he probably figured he was about the only one in two counties that hadn’t gone fishing!

Everything has a way of righting itself though and opening day 1941 was no exception. Avis and the baby both fared well and Woody saved twenty-two dollars, since Dr. Thompson’s fee was twenty-five dollars for delivering a baby and Mrs. Fanny wouldn’t hear of taking anything and Mrs. Etta only charged three dollars for the Birth Certificate fee, not to mention all the trout that was spared the fate of Woody’s hook. ‘Course I bet it took Woody quite some time to view the events of opening day 1941 with a smile like he had today when he told me this story.