Goldfish in the Cow Trough

Uncle Adam took me with him, to visit his mom, whom we called Grandma Ivy. She was a remarkable woman, double-tough, double-kind and who lived to be 105 years old.

It was nearing the start of summer when Uncle Adam decided to replace the old cow trough, dented over its several years of use and abuse by the critters that called the few acres above Fortuna, home. The old metal tub finally started leaking due to rust and could no longer be ignored.

Uncle Adam had the new tank in place and filled with water in no time. At nine-years-old, I thought of this as an adventure, and one I was certain to write about in Mr. Kirby’s class the coming school year.

What I didn’t know is that the adventure was only half-way over.

As a family, we headed to Eureka to do all of our school clothes shopping for the year jus’ before school began. It always started as a day worth looking forward too, but ended in a struggle. Looking back, I think fatigue and hunger caused us kid’s to meltdown creating a meltdown in our folks.

Anyway, these trips to the ‘big city’ usually ended with a family gathering of all us cousins and my Aunt Barbara, Uncle Adam, Mom and Dad sitting around the dinner table at my Aunt and Uncle’s home. We also spent the night, heading back to Klamath sometime the next day.

Before we headed out, Uncle Adam asked me to come with him to the local feed store. He said he wanted to buy a bunch of goldfish for the new cow trough he had installed three months ago.

Being a jokester, I figured he was kidding. But after buying a dozen inch-long goldfish, we headed up the hill to Grandma Ivy’s place.

At that moment, I became gravely concerned for the fish, asking, “Won’t they freeze to death?”

Uncle Adam laughed and explained, “No. Those fish will – well a couple of them – will do okay.”

“But what about feeding them?” I asked.

“They’ll eat the algae that is growing in the tank,” he answered, “And they’ll be big as a small trout by next year. You’ll see.”

As school started, I continued to worry about those fish, but managed to eventually forget them as the year pressed on. In fact, I didn’t remember them until Uncle reminded me that following June, when he invited me to go take a look at them.

He was right. While the majority of the goldfish had died as a result of being eaten by birds or perhaps a raccoon, two had survived to grow to the size of eight to 10 inches in length – a small trout as he said.

It wasn’t until years later that, for better or worse, I learned this was a common practice among ranchers and farmers raising livestock.


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