August can be a hot, somewhat dull month for a youngster growing up in the country. Most crops are laid by, fishing is slow and soon school will be back in session. It is a time when adventure is scarce.

“Punky” Kelly, Walter “Chipmunk” Green and I were sitting in the shade, under a country road bridge, trying to catch bluegills from a pool of water that resembled lukewarm coffee, Punky, a freckled-faced, red headed, short, round boy, was reading aloud from a tattered outdoor magazine about the excitement of using dough balls and a rod and reel to catch large carp. 

“I saw some big carp over in Mr. Sharp’s gravel pits the last time I was fishing there with my dad,” Chipmunk told us through his toothy grin, the source of his nickname.

“That’s a long bicycle ride from here,” I responded. “But pulling in some of those monsters would sure beat sitting here drowning worms.”

Punky devised a plan. “The recipe for making dough balls is in the article, so let’s go to my mom’s kitchen and make some,” he said.

“She’s helping Dad work on the hay baler at the Perkins’ place, so we’ll have the kitchen to ourselves.” The kitchen was Punky’s favorite room in the house.

Filled with the excitement of a new late-summer adventure, we soon stood in Punky’s mother’s kitchen with the worn magazine open to the magic carp recipe. The basic ingredients were sugar, cornmeal, flour and water.

The author said “taste enhancers,” a mixture of yeast and cinnamon, made his dough balls work better than any others. Carp have very sensitive taste buds, he wrote, and the taste enhancers make them come to bait and bite.

The kitchen became a snowstorm as Punky poured cornmeal and flour into mixing bowls. Punky, who was always sweaty, looked like a snowman.

Soon we had a doughlike base; it was time to add the taste enhancers. Chipmunk poured in a cup of cinnamon, and Punky stirred. We were having a hard time keeping Punky from eating the dough, and the task became more difficult as the aromatic cinnamon was added.

Next we searched the country kitchen for yeast. As I remembered the smell of my mom’s homemade bread, I agreed with the article, yeast would be a great addition to the bait.

We found several packages of yeast, I opened one, and thinking of my mom’s fragrant kitchen, I decided to eat the contents. Not wanting to share, I quickly threw my head back, opened my mouth and thumped the bottom of the open package.

The grains of yeast never touched my mouth. They fell down my throat and came to rest somewhere near my tonsils. The sensation was instant. I could not breathe. My throat was closing. I tried to holler for help, but could not. My eyes were bugged, and I tried to spit. Nothing helped.

Punky and Chipmunk loved the show. As I dance around the kitchen, holding my throat trying to holler, they rolled on the floor with laughter.

Finally I made it to the sink and held my head back, with my mouth open. Chipmunk poured dipper after dipper full of water down my throat. Relief finally came, but man, oh man, what an aftertaste.

We finished making the bait, and at Punky’s urging, used twice the amount of sugar the recipe called for. We rolled the concoction into balls and put them in a cloth sack.

The next morning, we got on our bikes for the long ride to Mr. Sharp’s gravel pits. Punky carried the sack of bait – that was a mistake. When we arrived at Mr. Sharp’s, only two carp balls remained!

Punky made a weak excuse. He reckoned that when we stopped at the cotton gin to get water, someone got into the sack and stole most of our magic bait. Chipmunk and I knew better.

Despite how mad we were with Punky, he still exhibited a sense of fair play. Because there were only two dough balls left, and there were three of us, he ate both of them right in front of us, rather than have us fight over who would get to use them.

We never caught a carp that hot August.