In Search of the Perfect Fish Sandwich

I have no idea why, but ever since I moved to Louisville over a year ago, I have been craving fish. In particular, I am looking for a good fish sandwich. I have had some decent fish sandwiches in Florida. We go to Grouper and Chips when we are in Naples, along with a couple other places. They are decent. However, the bar is pretty high. The standard was set many years ago by my mother and my Aunt Peggy. Aside from all the good fish we caught and fried at home, the many trips to Canada and the enormous fish frys that took place in those cabins are going to be hard to top. IMG_1437

We are not just talking about frying any old fish here; we had Walleye every day…and so many Northern Pike that we could throw the bony half of the fillet away and still have a heaping mound of fish. As I write this, I can smell the fish and hush puppies frying. They used a light, cornmeal batter so it was not too heavy. Take a couple slices of bread or a bun, slather it with tarter sauce, a sweet onion and some lettuce…Lord help me, I can taste it now! I cannot think of anything I enjoyed more than those nearly nightly fish sandwiches. Now my cousin Tom, on the other hand, was great at catching fish, but not a connoisseur  of the meat. If memory serves me correctly, I imagine Tom ate hotdogs instead! That kind of makes me sad….

I remember the time that our pond was so overrun with small pan fish that we decided to kill all the fish and start over. We picked up buckets of dead fish for weeks! There was only one fish in the whole pond of any decent size. It was a 7 pound largemouth Bass. Dad and Clyde had read somewhere that there was a way to stage a photo so the fish looked ever larger. They tried it with the Bass. I’m not sure why because I’m thinking a 7 pound bass is much larger than most any we ever caught anyway!

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Now I could tell a hundred fish stories at least. Like eating baloney sandwiches with the same hands that I used to put leaches on a hook and take Walleye off and never giving it a second thought. Or about the time I hooked the largest Northern Pike I ever “almost” caught, and having my ex-wife hit it on the head with the net and causing it to dive and break the line. I remember Pop was mad at her. I was mad at him. “Why the heck did you give her the net?!” I remember people jumping in the lake and coming out covered in leaches. I remember the many walks to Pike lake, covered in mosquitoes and getting nervous about the fresh bear tracks in the mud. I also remember the many local fishing trips. Boggs lake at night, bringing home hundreds of Crappie. Or the time Dad, Tony Kinser and I went to Uncle Harm’s pond and camped in the truck camper. The memorable thing on that trip is that dad and Tony had a contest to see who could stink me out of the camper. It was a tie!

There was that one trip that Clyde, Dad, Tom and I took to some lake in Tennessee or Southern Kentucky. Tom was old enough to drink, I think, and I was close. While they goofed around at camp, we went into town looking for beer…only to find out we were in a dry county! Just our luck.

Oh yeah, I just remembered there were a couple Indian girls who cleaned the cabins in Canada that Tom and I tried to chase around. I had no idea how to chase a girl at that point in my life though, so I caught a lot more fish than I did girl.

I will save the fish stories and their details for another day. I just wanted to get something out today…and talk about fish sandwiches. I went to a place in Louisville last week called The Fish House. They have a green river style fish, which means corn meal and pepper coated. The place is pretty rough. I would call the ambiance somewhere between fish locker plant and Skinner’s bar. I opted to each my sandwich outside. On the bright side, it was good.

IMG_1661I have several places yet to try, however, I hold little hope that I will find a sandwich that can compare to those we had on the bank of Big Pine Lake.

Later,

Shep

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My Apologies

I began this blog with good intentions. I like to write. I wanted to have some fun. I kept getting requests to write the “Hensonburg Times” again. I figured, “why not do it electronically so anyone can read it.” I still want to do it. However, my schedule is killing me right now. I have just not had the time to write. I’m not giving up; I’m just not promising timely entries!

I don’t mean to make excuses, but my job is extremely time consuming. I leave for work every day at 2:00 pm. I don’t get back home and in bed until somewhere around 2:00 am. Ugh. Also, I couldn’t stay away from the coffee business, so I am attempting the impossible: to launch another coffee business while working full time. If you get bored and want to check out the site, go here:

Motorhead Coffee

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While you are at it, think about some old road trips you have taken in your life and get ready to share. The next entry to this blog will be, “Road Trip.” My folks took us on some pretty interesting excursions…and they usually had some hilarious moments!

Later,

Shep

Words from the Hill

In case you haven’t figured it out, I love words. I enjoy writing words. I also enjoy listening to words. My favorite musical artists are those who are well-crafted writers. One short, but profound line has the power to change my mood for the day. They can give me hope, motivate me to take another step and sometimes cause me to be disgusted with myself.  The love for words is why I am such a fan of people like Springsteen, Petty, Dylan, McCartney & Lennon,  Jagger & Richards and Neil Young. The one thing they have in common is that they understand the power of words.

Now, before we get to far into our story today, you need to understand that since we are talking about words, there are going to be a couple swear words here. Believe it or not, my dad used to cuss. I even heard the “F word” come out of his mouth a time or two…kid you not. It is amazing what a guy will say out on a remote lake in Canada with only his brother and a bunch of guys around, a little Peach Brandy in his gut and a cigar between his lips. Sort of brings out the brute in you! I never heard Pop cuss much though; he knew how to use the words for effect. Speaking of which, I even heard a cuss word come from my mother’s lips once, a long, long time ago. Talk about getting my attention! 40 years later and I still remember it like it was yesterday.

IMG_1467My Pop was a bit of a wordsmith himself. He was not only good at crafting a line of prose, he was able to sprinkle his conversation with what I thought was his own unique language…what I call Pigeon Hill talk.  I never really knew how unusual some of his phrases were until recently.  I was walking to the assembly line with one of my employees and they asked me about one of my family members. I responded that they were feeling, “punk.” They stopped, looked at me and said, “What?” “You mean they are like a punk rocker?” I laughed and then realized that: a) I am getting old and, b) some of my dad’s sayings were not universal!

So let’s start with that one. If you tell someone under 35 that you feel “punk,” they are going to think you are about ready to break out into a Billy Idol song or spike your hair. I always thought it just meant “sick.” It’s the same as being “puny.” Geez, doesn’t everybody know that?

In the poem I posted a few weeks ago, I used the word “geedunk,” as in the Frost Top Root Beer Stand was a “geedunk” stand. I had no idea what a “geedunk” really was, so I “Googled” it. Turns out that “geedunk” is what Navy men called ice cream, chips, snack food and the place that sold it. Now it makes sense!

Even though I knew my dad was in the Navy, it never really registered with me that he would be a “coarse seaman,” or that some of his language stemmed from those days. He talked about dungarees, another navy term, and would often try to “muster” something up. He also mentioned the word “Chit” a time or two. Apparently that word has several different meanings, including a receipt, a letter, a saucy woman or a document informing naval officers of someone’s transgressions. No idea what Pop was referring to when he said it; I just thought he was saying “shit” and I blamed the pronunciation on poor speech habits!

IMG_1431Speaking of the Shepherd mumble, no one was more the master of this than Uncle Clyde. I could write for an entire week on Clyde and probably will at some point. I never could understand why, when he got a belly laugh going, he would always say, “who tied the pup!” So…I Googled it! Sure enough, there it was. Apparently the complete phrase is “til who tied the pup,” and it is similar to saying “until the cows come home.” Every time I saw someone reference it online, they referred to Indiana, so I’m thinking this word originated in the Shepherd household on Pigeon Hill. If so, I hope they finally untied the pup!

Of course, it could go back further than that, because my dad’s dad had a way with words also. How many times did I hear Pop say, “As my dad used to say, ‘No money to spare, no clothes to wear, can’t go over there!” I’ll tell you how many times he said it, every time I asked permission to do something!

Dad also used to tell me that when he was young, they were “as poor as Job’s turkey.” I never knew Job had a turkey, but I’m guessing if he did, it was pretty poor…and probably pretty dead since everything Job touched died.

Pop had many other phrases that he often used, such as being full of “piss and vinegar.” Ick. Probably not a pleasant feeling, yet he always made it sound like a good thing. He also said certain things about bodily functions that I just can’t bring myself to repeat here. Use your imagination.

One of my all time favorite sayings of dad’s was in reference to my boyhood best friend Tony. Dad fondly referred to him as a “little shit bird.” As in, “Here comes that little shit bird again!” Or, “What’s that shit bird doing in my yard?”  I had absolutely no idea what a “shit bird” was but I got the impression that I didn’t want to be called one!

Since moving to a condo in Louisville, Lori has educated me on the term. She has a very nice, brand new shiny red car. It is beautiful. She keeps it immaculate. We only have a one-car garage and if you know me, you know the motorcycle gets the garage…it’s not even up for debate. So Lori parked her car in front of the garage, right under a small tree. The next day we come outside and the car is defaced, top to bottom, hood, roof, and trunk with bird droppings. It looks like an entire flock was flying over and stopped specifically to target her car. It is as if birds hone in on red just like the cops. Lori was livid. She went and washed her car immediately. She then parked it under the tree again. Guess what? Yep, looks like we’ve got an infestation…of Shit Birds!

Later,

Shep

Meat

I am fortunate enough to have a wonderfully diverse family. While I would say we are a close family in one sense, I often feel like we are a group of strangers, connect by an address on Smith Pike. No two individuals demonstrate the unique personalities of our clan better than my sons-in-law. They are like bookends. Complete polar opposites. Ying and Yang. Fox News and CNN. The Rolling Stones and Justin Bieber (don’t worry guys, I’m not calling either one of you Justin Bieber! ).

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Nic, who is Kristin’s husband, is GQ; Dustin, married to Cailin, is more Field & Stream. Nic is Suit and Tie; Dustin is camo. Nic is sports car; Dustin is Pickup truck. Nic is Banana Republic; Dustin is Bass Pro. Nic speaks quickly & freely; Dustin speaks slow and deliberate. This is one of the things that I love about these two guys; they are so uniquely themselves. Fortunately for me, I swing both…uh, wait a minute. Let me rephrase that; I am a little bit like both of them. I like Banana Republic and I was thrilled that I was able to purchase a Bugatchi dress shirt at TJ Max the other day. On the other hand, I couldn’t wait for the new Cabela’s to open. I want a Porsche Caymen S, but I also would love to have a Ford F250 Super Duty. I am a sucker for messenger bags and I’m looking forward to purchasing my first 1911 handgun. I like fine dining, but I also like Bluegrass Burgers, which is just a hole in the wall burger joint.

One area where these two guys do overlap, at least a little bit, is that they both own a gun. I have to admit that I was a bit surprised when I discovered Nic has a gun. Dustin, on the other hand, is no surprise to anyone! I mean, just ask him about the Second Amendment! He speaks gun talk like I speak coffee or motorcycles. Nic is becoming my go to guy to talk cars and tech; Dustin is the gun expert.

This overlap parts ways, however, when it comes to the use of a gun. I am not certain about this, but my guess is Nic likes target shooting. Dustin likes blood! Dustin is a hunter. He and Pop would have gotten along just fine. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen Pop up to his elbows in animal guts; deer, cattle, pigs, fish, frogs, if it has guts, he has had his hands in them!

This brings me to another contrast between these two sons (don’t get nervous boys!)…meat! Nic is not a meat eater; Dustin worships the cow…and the pig…and the deer…and the squirrel…and maybe the possum, but I’m not sure about that last one. Recently, Dustin and Cailin came down to visit us in Louisville. I had told Dustin about a new restaurant in town called Game. Now, in case you are not very familiar with Louisville, there is something you need to know about this town; it is meat crazy. Especially the pig. I mean, there is a bar in this town, supposedly one of the top 50 bars in the United States. Guess what it’s name is? Meat! It is on the second floor of a neat, old, dilapidated brick building. Guess what’s underneath it? A restaurant called “The Blind Pig!” Guess what they serve? Pork! Guess where it is located? A part of town called “Butchertown!” Guess why? The meat processing plant is just across the street! It is what my dad fondly referred to as “The Packing House.” Speaking of which, I always loved to go to the Packing House. I loved the refrigerated room, the men in long, white coats, with smears of some mystery substance all over them.

Now, where was I? Oh, yeah, Game. Game was recently opened by the owners of another restaurant called Hammerheads. Lori and I heard Hammerheads was awesome for BBQ, so we searched it out. Our GPS took us to a residential area in one of the less than attractive parts of town. I thought maybe it was a mistake. It turns out the Hammerheads is the in the basement of one of these houses.Maybe 8 tables tops. They serve pork, a few other meat dishes and even their fries are “meat” tainted, as they serve up Duck Fat Fries.IMG_0894When these guys decided to launch a new eatery, they chose to go one step further on the menu; wild game. It is really a burger joint of sorts, but specializes in unique burgers. They offer Antelope, Wild Boar, Elk, Ostrich and Kangaroo. And for those lacking in adventure, you can buy cow.

So, we all piled into our car and head down to Game. On the way we discussed what we were going to try. Lori and Cailin made it pretty clear they were going for beef. Dustin and I kicked around one then another. I was leaning toward the meatball sampler. Morgan was going along for the ride. We rounded the corner, pulled into the lot…and it was empty! We pulled around back and there were two Kirkwood types sitting in the back sipping on a couple beers. They told us they were closed for the day. Apparently Louisville had a pretty good basketball team this year and they seemed to feel it was more important to stay home and watch them win a national championship than to provide my son-in-law and I the opportunity to eat a Kangaroo. The nerve! I showed them, though. The next morning we got up early, headed to a local bakery called Nord’s and I introduced Cailin and Dustin to the ultimate Louisville donut; a maple glazed long john with a slice of bacon on top!

IMG_0716Uh, let’s see; what was I writing about? Oh yeah, my sons-in-law. I suppose for those of you who don’t know my immediately family as well, I should clarify the first set of photos. As you can see, both Nic and Dustin are holding a child. It is the same child, my first Grandson, Aston. In this photo, it seems pretty obvious that this boy has some Bontrager blood in his body. Notice the “fedora.”

photo 2However, it appears to me that little Aston is a bit confused about exactly who he is going to take after. Case in point:IMG_0870Notice the wild eyes, the tongue sticking out, the less than refined behavior, the crazy hair, the red hair…just saying! That’s all Shepherd there…and not too far removed from Adams!

Now that I have turned this issue of the Times into a digressing diatribe of disjointed drivel, I suppose I should bring it to a close. When I think about my sons-in-law, I think of meat. And when I think of meat, I think of Louisville. And when I think of Louisville, I think of how my health has gone downhill since moving here. I finally got my blood pressure under control only to find out my cholesterol is high and now the Dr wants me to stop eating red meat. This has caused me to come to the only plausible conclusion for my current dilemma…Nic and Dustin have plotted to kill me!

Later,

Shep

Big Glasses

I hate glasses. I’m talking eye glasses here. I’ve been wearing them now for several years and I hate them just as much as I did in the beginning. Yeah, I know, I could get contacts…but I don’t want to do that either! I just want my eyes to work. I can see fine from a distance, but I can’t read at all without them. Consequently, I take my glasses off a lot. I throw them in the seat, stick them in my backpack when I go to work, toss them on a table and just basically treat them like the nuisance they are. I can’t wear them under my motorcycle helmet either, so I end up crushing them in a jacket pocket. As you can imagine, my glasses are somewhat abused. They get bent, the lens is always dirty and scratched and they tend to fall apart. However, at least my glasses halfway fit my face! I mean, take a look at this:

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I try to make my glasses look as inconspicuous as possible. I get the smallest lens I can get away with and no frame, hoping they will just “disappear.” It appears that my parents, on the other hand, were all about “big glasses!”  I mean, take a look at these puppies! I suppose Pop is up in Heaven now still trying to explain to St. Peter why he bought those big glasses. Peter is not really listening because he is laughing too hard! Mom, that means you are going to have to provide the insight. So I ask you Mom, “What…in…the…Hell…were you guys thinking? Was that the trend of the day? To buy glasses bigger than your face? One thing is for sure, I’m starting to understand why I had such ugly clothes when I was growing up. Wait till you see the colar on my “disco” shirt; it’s as big as those glasses!

Now, I have heard several women in my day comment that my dad was a “Nice looking older man,” which is about as good of a complement as us old guys can hope for. But blow this photo up and take a closer look at Pop. Those glasses are not doing him any favors! I know he was a smart guy. I couldn’t even hold a candle to him when it came to knowledge or skill. He could do math in his head that I can’t do with a calculator. But those glasses make him look like he belongs on the “short bus!”

To be fair, I’ve seen some pretty big sunglasses on my wife on occasion, so I guess I’m the one who doesn’t understand. All I know is when I die, you can leave my glasses in their case (like I even have a case). Or just do me a favor and toss them in the trash.

Later,

Shep