Posted by: deadmousediaries | April 16, 2016

News from the Path Valley Hotel, Episode #88- Can’t find the meal worms? Move the chocolate milk!

One of the things that separates rural America from our urban counterparts is the contents of our refrigerators. Sure, you expect to see more carrots with a little good clean dirt still holding on but you are also likely to find something in the freezer waiting to be tanned or mounted. Here at the Path Valley Hotel, I once found a green chunk of meat-liked substance in the back of my fridge after my brother-in-law had spent a week house sitting. It had been wrapped in freezer paper and labeled “Badger Meatloaf.” But I’ve already told that story.

What’s important now is that our fridge tells the story of Opening Day, as in the opening day of trout season. For a lot of people who live near the PVH, this is far more important than the opening day of baseball. The thought of seeing a rainbow or a palomino flashing color as they fan through a stream motivates sports men and women everywhere to shake off sleep and pull on their waders. After weeks of being bundled in layers of wool and flannel, it’s suddenly appealing to wade waist-deep into the numbing spring water simply to find out if we are smarter than fish.

My husband Doug worked in rural sporting goods stores for years, the kinds of stores with the character and characters that is missing in national chains. The guys behind the counters in those kinds of stores are always happy to help on opening day and are ready to swap stories, although the bumper stickers on their trucks in the parking lot also read: I’d rather be fishin’.

Doug’s philosophy about fish tales was like nearly everything else: Never let the truth get in the way of a good story. That meant every retelling of any fish story ever got grander and more amazing as time went byBrook trout got bigger, muskies battled longer, and catfish got feistier. 

My dad hunted, he didn’t fish, so when I met Doug. fishing was a new experience for me. I loved to go fishing. That’s different, of course, than saying I love to fish. The truth is, I never understood the appeal of getting cold and wet to drown worms and calling it sport. For me fishing is a chance to get outside and stretch out in the sun or the shade and devour a good book. 

Back in the early days of our dating, before we both accepted I was better at waiting than wading, I used to walk along the banks of little streams with my husband-to-be as he waded and seined minnies. I carried the bucket and was expected to grab up whatever lay wriggling in the grass after he flung the contents of his net my way. I caught on pretty quickly that not everything he scooped up was a cute, shiny little fish so I learned early to wear sturdier shoes and bring gloves. Even now, decades later, I have the perfect image of him wearing his waders and a smile as he catapulted a water snake at my feet.

I also remember Memorial Day weekend when he took my van, our son and the neighbor’s boat to spend a Saturday at Codorus State Park. We had fresh fish for dinner that night but the real treat greeted me three days later. When I opened my van door Tuesday to head to work, I knew instantly they had not removed their bucket of minnies. The minnows had been marinating in the heat all weekend long and the sad tale of their demise was told through the odor in my upholstery.

The experts have determined trout don’t see well when looking side to side but see best when they look up. That makes meals floating on the water’s surface look extra yummy. They also know that a trout has a great sense of smell which may help him determine what he’d like to munch. One thing I never figured out was what it is in nature that tells a trout he’d like chomping on a bright, florescent cube of cheese but maybe it’s an acquired taste.

I got my education about what bugs taste best to trout at what time of year when Doug sat down on winter nights to hand-tie flies. That kind of fishing is an art form and he was definitely an artist. As trout season approached, our kitchen counter would be covered with interesting bits of fluff and feathers as he wound tiny hooks with the combinations he thought looked most delicious. When he was finished with each masterpiece, I got the chance to weigh in. “Yep, I’d eat that one,” was the answer he hoped to get.

Our local store where he worked longest used to have a refrigerator right behind the counter. The contents were advertised by the list handwritten in black marker on the door. In the days before there was a nearby convenience store, you could count on buying a little snack there en route to your next best fishing hole. The menu on the door read something like: Chocolate Milk, White Milk, Snickers Bar, Milky Way, Red Wigglers, Meal Worms. In a man-like manner, all contents had been loaded as space became available which meant meal worms shared shelf space with the milk and Milky Ways.

That always made me wonder: if guys at the store had the same eyesight as guys do at home, would they ever find the stuff at the back of the fridge? Before it became a case of bait gone bad, they might have needed a woman working there to tell them: If you can’t find the meal worms, move the chocolate milk! 


  1. I don’t fish………I’m with you, if I had to tag along, it would be with a good book and a comfortable chair to sit it. Thanks for an insightful look into this season that is full of fish tales!

  2. Love these stories and memories of you and Doug.
    I can just picture all this—and I”m with you–fishing for me is meant to be with a good book and a chair!! —Suzanne

  3. Love this story! I can just imagine the gleam in Doug’s eye as he whooshed the water snake in your direction.

  4. I can’t argue with the previous comments either. The only thing good about fishing, besides eating good fish, is just relaxing outdoors. Thanks for the good laugh, particularly at the end. I agree about men finding things in the fridge 100%! If it’s not front and center, they’ll never know it’s there. 😀

  5. Love these memories you have, so thankful I came across your feature in the Pennlines! ❤️

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