Creative Non-fiction Attempt: Catfish Capital of the World

I haven’t posted in quite some time, but I’m making this one quick. I have a longer post in the works though, don’t worry:)

This semester, I’m taking a creative non-fiction class. It’s definitely something I never thought I would do, and its a bit out of my comfort zone, but it is a growing experience. The first piece of writing we had to turn in was called a flash non-fiction piece (around 500 words) and I found it surprisingly difficult to contain my thoughts in such a small amount of space. But I tried and I think it worked! I have only written a first draft, but I thought I’d post it here since I haven’t posted anything in a while. Happy reading!

Catfish Capital of the World by Bethany Caye Radcliff (First [Rough] Draft) :

“The Catfish is a plenty good enough fish for everyone.” –Mark Twain

Catfish Capital of the World. I never knew if it was referring to the amount of catfish present in the surrounding river, the amount of catfish fried, or both. Either way, I read the sign every time I crossed the bridge over the Tennessee River to my hometown.

Savannah, Tennessee

Population 7,026

Catfish Capital of the World

I wonder who those 26 people are, hanging on the end of the other 7,000. Do they assign each member of the town a number? I would like to think so, but my better judgment tells me that’s not how it works. Seven thousand twenty-six is a good number. It’s smooth and round, not too short or too tall, with a nice southern ring to it. Seven thousand twenty-six. Maybe the extra 26 are the catfish that managed not to get fried.

I lived in Savannah for the five slowest years of my life. It wasn’t a dragging slow, but a slow like water running down a small creek or stream—peaceful and sustaining. Looking back it seems like the five quickest years, and the years I miss more than anything. They were the plenty good years that that shaped my childhood memories and molded my identity. Sometimes, as I’m going through life now, a feeling momentarily stops me—a melancholic memory of home floats through me like a ghost.

Flathead catfish have what scientist term a “home range,” where they return back to their home location, no matter where they are deposited in a river. Channel catfish are the opposite, migrating in undefined patterns up and down streams. I think I may be a Flathead catfish stuck in the body of a Channel catfish—a new hybrid breed. I may have moved away, but an instinctual longing for my small-town home haunts me.

The Fish Hut and Hagy’s Catfish Hotel are the two main catfish restaurants that we went to. Huts and hotels are both places of dwelling—homes of sorts. They are places to linger in, leave, and return to. I rarely, if ever ordered catfish, though—especially the whole catfish. The bones disgusted me. One day after church, I was dared to try the fried tail left on the end of a dismantled and picked catfish skeleton. I tried it. It was crunchy like a chip, but saltier with a new richness and texture I’d never known before. It provided a taste distinct to home—an edible homing device. Catfish are fried whole to preserve the flavor—a catfish without bones and a tail is a little less distinctly catfish. I eat catfish now to remember, but the only catfish I’ve ever found in Texas has been boneless, and I haven’t come across a tail yet.

When I left Savannah in early 2005, the population had recently dropped from 7,125 to 7,099. Twenty-six people left around the time my family did. Twenty-six Channel catfish must have migrated to new places, and the one hybrid fish followed.