A Fishing Expedition (The Incident is True; Names are Fictitious)

A Fishing Expedition (The incident is True; Names are Fictitious)

The inland lakes of Canada had an especial lure for fisherman during the arid years when national prohibition was in force in the United States. Hotels bordering the angler’s paradise of Riddeau, Ontario, did a thriving business quenching thirsts and moistening the parched throats of American Izaak Waltons.

In 1928 a group of Berks County citizens, hungry for fish and thirsty for sudsy brews, registered at the Sunset Inn in the dusk of a June evening. John Lebo, of Birdsboro, was host to a large party of friends – eight in all. Val Busch, Joe Breneiser, Harry Rentschler, Rufe Dreibelbis, “Shorty” Gassert, Jim Krasnitz, Luke Clemens, and John Lebo’s broth, Louie, commandeered five rooms on the second floor of the hotel. Only four of the rooms engaged were designed as bedrooms, the fifth was to serve as the bar room where the keg and bottles reigned and where Louie was to preside as bartender.

After registering for rooms the party of nine strolled along the lake, intending to watch other men fish in the lowering twilight, but only one lone angler stood on the shore, quietly holding a line and rod. And yet that one fisherman provided a great deal of amusement for the Berks Countians. The fisherman wore a black derby hat collar with a rubber bow-necktie inserted. Nose pincers rested on the nasal bridge between his eyes while tufts of graying hairs concealed his ears.

Didn’t Mind Jibes

Intent upon his fishing the oddly attired one paid no attention to the men who watched him. Struck by his quaint appearance and chagrined by his snubs to their spoken advances, the men from Berks began to take a peculiar kind of revenge. Talking the Dutch dialect they fell to speculating aloud as to what kind of queer creature stood before them. Was he an escaped lunatic; a criminal in disguise; a spook or some demon escaped from the infernal regions?

Utterly oblivious to the bantering the stranger never paid any heed to the remarks of the jesting Dutchmen; never once did he extract his line from the Ontario waters.

Later that evening the smoke was thick in the bar room of the second floor of the inn, where Louie Lebo dispensed foaming tankards between games of cut-throat pinochle. The door of the room was open into the hallway and passing guests were free to poke their heads into the transplanted bit of Berks, so gaily celebrating their personal liberty. Nobody minded.

He Accepts Drink

Joviality reigned long before midnight and a good time was being had by all, when the man in the derby hat calmly stepped into the improvised bar room, took a seat and watched the pinochle game. When the drinks were passed he accepted one with the others, murmuring a soft “thank you.” He continued to sit, to watch, to drink with each round, and to quoth like the raven a mere “thank you” each time he drained his glass.

“Seller is ferdammt unferstannich” muttered Louis, after the fifth drink.

“Ich glaub, gewiss, das her Schrief ihn fange will,” remarked Rufe.

“Ach! Er Iss yuscht so’n loischer rumleefer” added Shorty Gassert.

“Siss eeens fom Deifel seine ferhexte Engel,” exclaimed Val Busch

Then He Gets Back

Each member of the party joined in the avalanche of abuse and insult heaped upon the unwanted guest while the object of their scorn sat quietly with his eyes riveted upon the card game.

An exciting hand was being played. The unwelcome guest sat on the edge of his chair as he watched the fall of each card. When the playing ended there followed a period of post mortems in which many joined in declaring how the hand should have been played. And then in the excitement, the visitor advanced his opinion:

“Er het Schippe Schpiele selle; noh het er’s gemacht!”

Consternation! The fellow had understood every word that had been said

“Yah,” he smiled. “Ich bin der Ed Yeager fon Bethlehem, Northampont Kaunti. Kummt ihr all mich mohl shen dort im Court House. Ich bin der Judge.

Big Rideau Lake, Riddeau, Ontario, Canada. Source: http://www.rideau-info.com/canal/img_big_rideau_lake_lg.html
Big Rideau Lake, Riddeau, Ontario, Canada. Source: http://www.rideau-info.com/canal/img_big_rideau_lake_lg.html

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