Big Jim: Fishing for sand trout — and suckers

2013-04-23T00:00:00Z 2013-07-11T11:52:21Z Big Jim: Fishing for sand trout — and suckersJim Griffith Special to the Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

There is a little more that needs to be said concerning sand trout.

That last blog took the form that is sometimes call a “windy.” Windys take known facts and move on from there. Sometimes they are told for the sheer joy of making a point through exaggeration.

For instance, I’ve heard that during the most recent drought in Texas things got so bad on the big ranches that the boss would assign a man to go to the pump and pick the ticks off the catfish when they came up for a drink.

Nobody is expected to believe that one, of course. But stories like the one about the sand trout are often told in the hopes that the listener or listeners will indeed believe them. In other words, the narrator is fishing…for suckers.

I remember one breakfast session at Little Mexico restaurant where a bunch of us regulars were joined by a man who had recently arrived from Minnesota.

It transpired that he, in common with others at the table, was an avid fisherman. Talked turned to fish, of course, and somehow sand trout were brought up. It soon became obvious that he hadn’t heard of them, so matter-of-fact details were added.

He drank it all in, believing it, until someone mentioned that the trout had all drowned in recent floods. Then he caught on. He was not very pleased, and we never saw him again. That was a shame, because we were simply following the biblical monition that says “I was a stranger and you took me in.”

That was a very traditional occasion for that kind of tale, one which purports to introduce a stranger to local conditions, and which actually tries to find out how good a sport he or she is.

Until recently, such transactions took place in face-to-face encounters. However, about ten years ago I was given a print-out of a conversation in a Southwest website, in which three people gently trolled by telling of their contacts with sand trout.

Finally, the inevitable newcomer chimed, awe-struck by the depth of their local knowledge, and asked for printed reference material. The answer was a book with a title something like Tall Tales of the Southwest. Conversation over.

As we’ll see a couple of blogs from now, folklore constantly evolves and updates itself if it to continue being a useful part of our cultural luggage.

One more word: the sand trout do not stand alone. In Montana, they are told of sand cats, and I suspect that similar tales can be found all over the drier parts of the county.

But the sand trout is ours.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

About this blog

Jim Griffith is the former director of the Southwest Folklore Center at the University of Arizona, and co-founder of Tucson Meet Yourself. He’s also the author of seven books on the folklore and folklife of our region, most recently “A Border Runs Through It.” His books can be purchased at tucson.com/wildcatgear.

If you have questions or suggestions for Jim Griffith or this blog, e-mail bigjimgriffith@gmail.com

Featured businesses

View more...

Deals, offers & events

View more...