Mrs. Liddell knew how to tell a good tale. Here is a historical ditty about how the Presbyterian church put an end to the practice of “telephoning for catfish”:
The men under the pecan tree never tire of talking about hunting, fishing, dogs, and whatever game is in season. Here is where they bring their turkey beards for comparison, bring in their fox tails, their deer, their biggest catches of fish, the longest rattlesnake, the biggest bobcat, often taking pictures for further proof.
When it was discovered that sending an electric current generated by an old crank-type telephone, into the water would cause the scaleless fish, stunned by the shock, to surface and they could then easily be caught and hauled into boats, fishermen went wild catching catfish by, as they called it, “telephoning for them”.
When strangers dropped by the pecan tree, the men had no end of fun betting them that they could catch a boatload of fish merely be telephoning them to come up out of the water. Many bets were made and lost, always to the consternation of the newly initiated. But as the news spread, the method of thus catching catfish was so abused that, in time, it was outlawed.
But the practice did not subside, the pecan-sitters say, until the deacons of the Presbyterian church had caught all the catfish in the river for church suppers, and all their generators had been dumped overboard to destroy evidence.
(V. Liddell, A Place of Springs, p.141)
Robert Sloan’s oil pastel pecan tree can be found online.
Viola Goode Liddell A resident of Alabama’s Black Belt for nearly all of her life, Viola Goode Liddell (1901-1998) recounted the stories of many Wilcox County residents, including her own, in three memoirs. These works tell the story of her home and, through her own life experiences, the story of the South during the Great Depression, the civil rights movement, and into the 1970s. Liddell also published several short stories and a book of poems.
Viola Jefferson Goode was one of nine children of Robert and Annie (Gaston) Goode and was born on December 18, 1901, in Gastonburg, Wilcox County. The town had been named for her maternal grandfather, David Finis Gaston. After high school graduation at age 16, Viola followed in the tradition of her older sisters, attending Judson College in Marion, Perry County. She graduated in 1922 and married Oxford Stroud. The couple lived briefly in Demopolis, Marengo County, where Viola gave birth to their son (and future Auburn University professor and literary figure) Oxford Stroud Jr. Soon after, the family moved to Albuquerque, New Mexico. Her father, apparently having misgivings about her newly chosen spouse, handed Viola $100 as train fare home if the marriage ended badly. Indeed, in 1931, Goode divorced Stroud and moved with her son to Linden, Marengo County, where she taught French. The following year, they settled in Camden, Wilcox County, the birthplace of her father and the residence of her oldest sister, Mary, whom she called Mamie.
(Excerpted from Encyclopedia of Alabama)