Friday, June 6, 2014

Something Fishy in Third Grade

          I don’t always use my real-life stories in my books, but this one appeared in Funeral Potatoes—The Novel  exactly as it happened when Nicole was 8 years old.  Since school here is wrapping up its final week, I thought  it might be a good time to reflect on those unforgettable moments that occur  in elementary school:
The third graders had just finished an eight-week project raising steelhead trout, which are actually salmon.  
Eight weeks, and the little wimps were still only an inch long (the fish, not the students). If this were a hatchery, they’d go broke.  Nevertheless, it was now time for the big ceremonial releasing of these guppy-sized critters into the local river.
   Who got the stinky job of cleaning out the tanks and gravel with betadine?  Me, of course.  
Who stupidly volunteered to be one of the parent drivers, taking a vanload of kids to the river for the big goodbye?  Me again. (Why should I reek alone?)
          So here were 30 kids, all dressed in blue plastic ponchos because it was raining like mad, standing on the banks of the American River, pouring little styrofoam cups of water and one fish, into the river.  Each kid had to give a trout speech, make a diorama, and write a song.  Waaay too much emphasis on fish eggs, if you ask me.
          So now the kids were bidding adieu, calling out, “Goodbye, Wiggly,” “Goodbye, Steelie!  Swim to the ocean!”  Yeah, right.  What these kids haven’t noticed, but which I spotted the second we got there, is that there are four or five species of birds overhead, swooping down and fishing for their breakfast.  
         A block away, at a bend in the river near our house, were at least 200 ducks and geese that I knew of personally, including the three screaming marauders who recently graced our back yard.  These fish didn’t have a chance!  They’d be lucky to make it two blocks.  Tell me: What is the point of taking eight weeks to make a cookie?
          So I hurried the kids along, hoping they wouldn’t notice that they were releasing their pets right into the jaws of death.  
          But they were dawdling, enjoying this touchy-feely ceremony.  Finally I more or less yanked the kids into my minivan before the feeding frenzy began.  A couple of the other parents glared at me, like I was rushing a Kodak moment, and I wondered if maybe I should say something about the value of a project that basically raises bait.
          And I also wondered this: If they’re just going to get gobbled up anyway, why didn’t we fry them ourselves and have a nice lunch?  No wonder people home school.
Have you visited my website, lately?  Time for a look-see at

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