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Fishing and fishing holes of my youth

John Geiselman
From his book "Reflections"

One fishing hole along Rock Creek in the Barlow community is Benner's Pond, on the Benner homestead, which is southwest of the Mt. Joy Church. This pond is long and wide with many kinds of fish. In my day there were catfish, bass, eels, and carp. It was a fishing place for many years. You would drive down to the buildings at the Benner homestead, then walk a lane down to the creek. This is a lane the Benner's often used to drive their cattle or machinery. Here, in the springtime, was excellent gigging for suckers on the riffles above the pond.

The riffles ran up to a fording then on up the creek is another fishing hole called Bull Rock. This was on the Charlie Harner homestead which lay on the west side of the creek and on the east side was the Albert Ferner homestead.

In the spring of 1923, after the flood, Mother took me in the horse-drawn stick wagon to the Barlow store to go fishing with my grandfather. Daddy Smith went into the store and got me a fishing line with a cork-bob then he went out to the shed where he kept his fishing gear and brought two poles with lines on them and said to me, "Come along, I am going to take you fishing at a place called Bull Rock." I was only six years old then. Daddy Smith told me why they called it "Bull Rock" on account it was shaped like a bull's head. It was a long walk that spring morning, but I enjoyed every bit of it. We walked across the new cement bridge and turned left down Chapel Road, then down at the fork we entered the woods along the creek. Once through the woods we ascended a hill. When we got on the top of the hill Daddy Smith pointed and said, "Down there is the fishing hole." We crawled under some brush then descended the narrow path that led down to the stream. I held on to his hand as we walked. When we got there Daddy Smith baited the three lines and cast them out under the big rock. It wasn't long until we began pulling in the sunnies as Daddy Smith called them. Somehow, in my young mind, I remember someone telling me that my grand-father Cook, my biological mother's father, was one of the best fisherman in the County. I guess this love for fishing and being out of doors was truly inherited.

Many times I returned to this place to fish over the years. When I grew older I gigged many a sunny on that narrow riffle in the spray. Just up the creek a little further was another good fishing hole called the Fording Hole, just north of the creek fording or Cromer's Fording. At one time Cromers owned these two farms.

There was a long stretch of riffles where a small stream enters Rock Creek which flows down from the Maring home-stead. This was a gigging place for many years when the "suckers" ran in the spring. This part of the creek runs through the Geiselman homestead, now "Heavenly Acres". The first "sucker" I gigged on the riffle was in the spring of 1931 (I was fourteen) with an ice pick fastened on a long stick. The "suckers" that spring were plentiful. I put my hip boots on and headed for the riffle with my ice-pick gig. They were going up so many at a time all I did was stand in the creek and put my gig down and I'd speared one. Without any barbs on the gig, I had to reach down and unloosen the fish. Many are the fish I gigged on these riffles over the years.

Before I had a gig I would find a crooked sycamore limb that was dead. With this hook-like stick I would stick the "suckers". Sometimes I would stick two at a time. In the spring when the water is cold there is nothing better than a "sucker" to eat. When we first moved down to the Geiselman homestead, on a spring evening, as we stood on the back porch we could hear the "suckers" going up the riffles. Over the years there are less going up.

Just a short distance up the creek Plum Run empties into Rock Creek. At the entrance of this stream, which is spring fed, Was a good fishing place for sunnies, catfish and eels. Up the stream about 500 feet on the other side of the creek is also a good fishing place. Here is where I fished many days and nights and where there was plenty of bass, catfish, and sunnies. I broke my first good fishing rod here when I caught a sixteen inch bass. I was accustomed to pulling the sunnies out with a jerk, but that time the steel rod snapped. The line was heavy test and I pulled the fish out. This fishing hole is just below the old original Black's Dam. The dam is no longer there but some of the granite stones are. Some must weigh a half a ton or more. Above that was another Dam which didn't stay too long. Then you come to a wide stretch of the creek which is called White Rocks, on account of the high rocks that are white with moss. This body of water is almost a half a mile long. A beautiful spot to fish in and to enjoy in the springtime. This fishing hole is very deep. Some of the carvings on the rocks go back to 1823. When we first moved to this farm the moss didn't cover much of the rocks. This fishing hole is also a wonderful place to ice skate in the winter.

Early in the spring the fisherman would make a fire at the base of the rocks to warm up and also the skaters in the winter did the same. The formation of the rocks cause a natural draft up the rocks like a chimney. Often we rolled down some of the pine limbs from the hill above. When burning them it would illuminate the whole creek. Very often I was the one to help keep the fire going for the skaters. I remember one boy who couldn't get his skates on right and ended up skating on the side of his shoes. Skating would go on until midnight sometimes. What wonderful times we had.

Mother told me of many of the skating parties held at White Rocks when she was a young girl. She told how good the Rider boys and others could skate. Mother said she always felt safe skating with them. They would hold out a long pole and Mother and others would hold on and follow them. I remember many an Ascension Day and Memorial Day when Daddy Smith would take me fishing. We would take a frying pan, some lard, and salt and fry fish for dinner right out there along the creek.

On Ascension Day 1932, Clarence Smith Jr., Luther Schwartz, Jamie Smith, and I had a fishing party at White Rocks. We took a coal-oil stove which Mother gave us. Jamie Smith found a big coffee pot and I took a frying pan. We each brought something from home to add to the fish we caught that morning for dinner. Luther went to my home for something we needed for dinner. While he was gone we took his fishing line and tied a large stone on it and cast it out into the creek. When Luther returned he said, "What a bite!" and he gave his line a big jerk. Out came the line with a big stone on it which flew back and just missed hitting his head. We all had a big laugh, as boys would do. After eating our fish dinner we stretched out on the grass on the bank to rest. After a spell we decided to go up the creek wading in the water. We went up around the bend and there was a very big catfish. We tried to hook him but he was to wise for us. While we were up there we heard a lot of twenty-two rifles shooting then it was quiet. We looked at each other and we decided to return to our camp site where we left our things. When we arrived we saw that our things were shot full of holes. The coffee pot was completely destroyed with many holes shot in it. The stove was ruined also. We didn't know who did it at the time but later found out when two boys came along on the other side of the creek and said they thought it was just a junk pile and started shooting mark at the coffee pot for it was a big one. Later the boys apologized - saying they were sorry about the incident.

There were many times too, that John Schwartz, his sister, Eva Jane, and Jimmy Smith and his sister, Madelyn would come over and I would join them fishing at White Rocks. When some of them were very young they had to use a bent stick pin as a hook. When we took a break from fishing I would get all of them to look for Indian arrowheads in the fields nearby, then we would return to our fishing once again. I shared my bait and helped the younger ones to bait their hooks.

Up the creek further you come to a bend where a sandbank extends out making an excellent fishing hole. This is on the Kuhn homestead. On up about one-half a mile is another area called Red Rock, getting its name from the reddish colored rock extending out into the creek. Two small streams enter Rock Creek at this point. There use to be a road running past this fishing place called the Ford Road. There was a fording back at the end of it that came out on the Kerr Lott homestead. That end of the road is now closed. Around the bend in the creek where a huge cliff sticks out is also a good fishing hole. On up the creek further above the riffles is a large fishing hole called the Kerr Lott Pond. This is just south of the iron bridge. At this writing the bridge was removed and a concrete one crosses the creek. The iron bridge was built in 1895, between Cumberland Township and Mt. Joy Township. North of the bridge is another nice size pond known as the Grave Yard Pond, on account of a grave yard or cemetery which is on the top of the hill, known as the Pine Bank Cemetery. This Cemetery was never church related. The first burial was November 6, 1748, twenty-eight years before the Declaration of Independence was signed. Unfortunately, this sacred piece of Mt. Joy Township has been subjected to vandalism that caused the destruction of a number of tombstones.

I loved fishing and often I would head for Rock Creek alone to one of the fishing holes. I'd bait my hook, cast out my line and catch many fish then return home about dark with some sunnies and catfish to eat.

I carried my fish on a hand-made stringer made out of a piece of number nine wire. This is how I would make a stringer. I took a piece of number nine wire, about 16 inches long, and bend a hook on the one end. I took a small block of wood and bore a hole in the middle of it. Then I stuck the wire through the hole, bent it over, and stapled it to the block of wood. This made a splendid stringer, which didn't cost much to make and would last a long time, if taken care of.

A short while before Ascension Day, 1926, Mother, Father, and I, visited the Clarence Smith family. Mrs. Smith asked Mother, "Why don't we take the children fishing on Ascension Day, down to the Mason Camp, along Rock Creek, on the Stambaugh farm?" Mother agreed and decided to take a picnic lunch along. The day before I got all my fishing gear together, dug a fresh batch of fish worms and placed them in a can with plenty of ground. The next morning we all got up early and did the work at the barn. After we finished breakfast, I gathered my fishing gear and we all headed for the carriage shed where Father kept the car.

We took the 1925 Buick Roadster and headed down the country road, about a mile and a half away to the Smith home-stead. When we arrived, they were ready to get into their Model-T Ford Coach to lead the way to the Mason Camp. There were eight of us in all, five of the Clarence Smith family and three of our family. We arrived at the Stambaugh farm and Father opened the wooden gate to the lane that led down the hill to a beautiful meadow. With a cloud of dust, following our cars, we descended the lane that led to the creek. We parked our cars under a big red oak tree, for it was a very warm morning.

We children got our fishing rods out of our car and started for the bank of the creek. We walked up under a large tree that was leaning out into the creek. As we were unloading, some-one discovered a black snake wrapped around one of the limbs. The men assured us it wouldn't hurt us. Here I baited my line and cast it out to the middle of the creek. Junior, Madelyn, and Jimmy fished above the tree. We had a few bites that morning, but didn't catch any fish. As Mother and Mrs. Smith were preparing the picnic food, I had a strong tug on one of my lines and the cork went under three times. I gave it a jerk and pulled in a sun perch. We always called them sunnies. It was quite a nice one.

Soon the ladies had the picnic lunch spread out on a table cloth, under the shade tree, ready to eat. All eight of us sat down and enjoyed the food. It was quite a treat for me. After our meal we went back to fishing again. I didn't want to lose the fish I had already caught, so I put it in the Buick Coupe with a long mason cord on it. The fishing didn't get any better in the afternoon so about the middle of the afternoon we decided to go home. I went to the car to check my fish, but I couldn't find it. I was hurt because it was the only fish we caught that day. Then Father started looking and found it. It went down a hole in the floor board and was hanging there by the string. I was happy once again. We all got in our cars and headed up the lane. We opened the big wooden gate and drove out, then closed it behind us. It was a memorable day for all of us.

It is springtime once again and the sunshine breaks through the trees along the old mill race. I stand looking out the kitchen window and gaze towards the cattle path which I use to follow to go fishing after a hard days work in the field. I would always have my fishing pole over my shoulder and carry a can of worms. What a peaceful reflection of days gone by!

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