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A trunk full of slithering suckers

So there I was, half-owner of the contents of the trunk of Peter P.'s Galaxy 500, which was full of fresh suckers, just shoveled fresh in from the DNR's walleye seine over on the Otter Tail River.

It was 1974, and Peter P., our rough old bachelor neighbor, is now passed on to a heaven where I'm sure he is adopting other folks new to the area and telling them the best way to build a sucker smoker.

"You don't skin'em, you just gut'em, spread them open, plug in the electric burner covered in wood chips, and in a few hours--smoked sucker."

He had brought us some smoked suckers earlier, which were tasty, once you got used to eating something lying there with its eyes open. And, in fact, I had an old refrigerator, an old electric stove top burner, and now, I had suckers.

It was Peter P. who had showed me, new to heating with wood, how to light a wood fire faster with fuel oil. One and a half eyebrows later, I pretty much got the hang of that. It does heat up fast - too fast, once in a while.

He also showed me how to trowel fresh cement with a scoop shovel. Thing about a floor like that, once it sets up, it's never slippery.

And he told me how to build that smoker, gut those suckers, and lay them flat on the racks in that old Kelvinator refrigerator. No, I insisted, I don't want half of that trunk full of suckers--there must have been 50 or 60 in there - just a dozen's fine, thanks. He left, and I began wrestling that fridge into the middle of the yard, rigged up the electric burner, put it in a hog pan full of wood chips, laid out the suckers inside, slammed the door, plugged in the burner, and went about some other chores.

I was shoveling oats into a wagon to take to town to clean for seed. Every few scoops, I looked over at Mr. Kelvinator. The process seemed to be working well, because the fridge was exhaling smoke like a white porcelain volcano. From around the door gasket, smoke spewed in little pencil-diameter streams.

I shoveled some more. Boy, Mr. Kelvinator was really getting up a head of steam. The smoke was coming out so violently that I might have heard it whistling, even. And was he quivering? Ever so slightly? No, that couldn't be. I shoveled some more oats.

I turned back to view Mr. Kelvinator once more, and I must add that all this seemed most satisfying - the smoker thing, the fish, all of it. I was wishing someone else were there to share this wonderful undertaking with me.

About then, Mr. Kelvinator's door exploded open with a great WHUUMMP! The sound wave smacked me in the face. The fridge door swung violently open, which caused it to raise up on one corner, and I saw Mr. Kelvinator doing a good imitation of a ballet dancer's pirouette, spinning around very gracefully on one foot. Baryshnikov would have been proud. I gained a quick impression of a one-ton dancing white elephant dressed in a small tu-tu, like a cartoon in the Sunday paper. A giant cloud of expelled hickory smoke began to expand over Mr. Kelvinator's head as he began his second go-round.

It was now that Mr. Kelvinator lost some of his previous grace, and he staggered a bit, noticeably out of balance. As he rotated, my hard-won suckers were spewing out in a 360-degree circle. It was like watching a baseball-pitching machine gone mad. The suckers sailed out flat, like playing cards, twirling madly - fish Frisbees.

Mr. Kelvinator then seemed to clasp his arms to his chest (the door closed) and fall on his back to the ground.

Peter P. later said: "What? Never latch the door. Got to leave room for smoke!"

I'm a lucky guy. I've seen a Galaxy 500 trunk full of slithering suckers, and I've seen it rain fish.