Tag Archives: fossils of fish

A Funny Story: “Well Anyhow, He has the Oldest Fish in Town,” by Ernest Lyons

From Bill Lyons, Ernest Lyon’s son, in communication with my mother, historian Sandra Henderson Thurlow: “Hi Sandy. Here’s a photo (jpg) of Dad’s “oldest fish.” It’s from the Eocene Green River Formation in Wyoming and is about 50 million years old (if you can believe those pointy-headed paleontologists). The Green River Formation was (is) famous for the abundance, variety, and preservation of its fossil freshwater fishes. The fossils were available for sale some decades ago (I don’t know about now), but I imagine Dad was right in boasting that he had the oldest fish in Stuart at that time. If you want to learn more about Green River fish fossils, you can Google Green River Formation Fish.” Bill

Today I share a humorous column by our beloved local hero and inspiration, Ernest Lyons, The piece is about “wishing for something.” For years, my mother, local historian Sandra Thurlow, has shared old columns from her transcribed works of Mr. Lyons’ writings about the old days along the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon. With patience and love, mom types out these old columns buried in the micro-fiche chambers of our local library so we can enjoy them today. Here is a new one she found. Timeless, funny, and classic Ernie, enjoy!

 

Ernest Lyons’ Column: https://flpress.com/hall_of_fame/ernest-lyons/

Stuart News

January 9, 1969

“Well Anyhow, He Has the Oldest Fish in Town”

If you want anything intensely enough, somehow you will get it, but that’s no guarantee it will be good for you.

The high voltage of your desire produces the results. Weak wishers get nowhere.  Back when I used to enjoy catching plain, ordinary fresh fish, Chuck Schilling called up one Saturday morning and said that he was bringing Jason Lucas to my home that evening “so you can get acquainted. You know about Jason of course.”

“Oh, Sure,” I said. “He’s on the staff of Sports Afield Greatest authorities on black bass in the United States probably the world. Catches them in those big western impoundments. Catches them in Minnesota when it’s freezing and no one else can. I have his book. Love to meet him.”

But in truth, I was seized with an awful wish. I suddenly desired to catch a bigger black bass than ever before in my life‒maybe not bigger than Jason had, but one that would give him a run for his money. While I was running around getting my tackle ready, my wife noticed the gleam in my eye. “You’re wishing again,” she accused. A high-powered wish can no more be hidden than the evil eye. “And whatever it is,” she said sadly, “it’s not going to do what you think it will.”

I brushed her aside. My desire pulled me with the intensity of a laser beam to a little backwoods pond covered with bonnets. I paddled out in a tiny bateau only seven feet long and two feet wide, the sort in which you have to part your hair in the middle to keep it from capsizing. Unerringly, I pushed my way to the edge of the only clear hole in the mass of vegetation.

I sat quietly for five minutes by the edge of that hole, which was not much larger than a dining room table, knowing that it held the big bass I was going to catch. It would be impossible of course to check the run of a large fish once it started off through that maze of bonnet stems. What’s impossible? I took one cast the surface of the hole welled up in a tremendous strike and I struck back. The giant bass leaped in air two feet from the bateau and I grabbed it by the jaw in mid-leap.

I sat on it all the way back to shore. A monster bass over 12 pounds not under 14, (I never weigh my bass) just exactly what I wished for. While we were sitting in the living room that evening, I artfully led the conversation around to how small bass would occasionally strike plugs. Jason Lucas agreed. “Why just today,” I said, “a little old minnow-sized bass hit my plug and gill-hooked itself so deeply that there was no use releasing it. I brought it in to show you.”

I went to the icebox, walked back into the parlor and held that giant fish under my guest’s nose. Did you ever in your whole life,” I asked, “see a smaller bass than this hit a plug?”

Well, I made my point all right but my wife remarked later that she didn’t think I had made a hit with Mister Lucas.

“But it proves,” I said, “that if you want something bad enough you can get it. Like if you were stranded on a desert island and you really, really wanted some ice cream, a yacht would come along, rescue you and the first thing you would get would be a big heaping dish of ice cream.”

“And, it would probably make your teeth ache,” she said. “As long as you’re wishing, why don’t you wish for something important, like a beautiful home on the river, a big bank account or an income for life?”

“Because it won’t work if you’re selfish” I replied. “It has to be something of peculiar value only to yourself.” She said she couldn’t see any difference but I can. I wish real hard for two early editions of Jonathan Dickenson’s Journal. Within a week, two sixth editions showed up printed in archaic English around 150 years ago. Then I wished real hard for some Cape of Good Hope triangles for my British Colonial collection. A dealer in London wrote that he was liquidating a philatelic estate and sent me a dozen for practically nothing.

My horizons widened, I announced that I deeply desired a fossilized fish. “Of all things,” said my wife.  “And why would you want a fossilized fish. What earthly good would it be? I replied that the important thing was wanting it, that I was wanting it harder and harder every day and pretty soon it would appear.

It did. All wrapped up neatly in a package from the Collector’s Shop of the Cincinnati Museum of Natural History, a gift from a special friend of mine up there. There was a little note. It went two live million years old was the best I could do. Thanks, Beano, you don’t know what this means to me.

My Fossil fish is from the Green River Shales of Wyoming. Its silvery body fluttered down in a long-vanished sea mid-way in the Oligocene Epoch. Its bones are delicately imprinted eons before the appearance of primitive man on earth. Nature’s tip-off to Gruenberg.

Someday, some fisherman is going to come into the office bragging about his catch and I am going to ask slyly, “But how old was your fish?” I can’t help it, I’ve got to do it. I’ve resisted so far but one of these days, I will completely, absolutely floor whoever it is. Else what use is there in having the oldest fish in town?

Well Anyhow PDF file, original

Links, Green River Formation:

USGS: https://pubs.usgs.gov/pp/0496a/report.pdf

Wiki: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Green_River_Formation