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Mike Lantz
First-place winner Mike Lantz with the coveted Golden Shovel award. Photographs by Michael Keller.

2001 Liars Contest

Mike Lantz

Aurora, Preston County
(First Place)

My true story begins on one of those hot, sticky summer afternoons in West-By-God-Smile-When-You-Say-It-Virginia. Me and my ole buddy Cletus Ray Arbagast, we had us a hankering for some panfish. You may know the ones I'm talking about - them roll-em-in-flour, fry-em-in-butter bluegills. Yum, yum. We decided to fetch us some mealworms from Ma's cornmeal and head on down to Hauser's Pond to see if we couldn't latch onto some of those tasty little critters.

I'm here to tell you that we should have, but we just wasn't smart enough to bring more mealworms. The fish were biting better that evening than the bedbugs in Granny's ole straw mattress. I'm here to tell you that we had an exciting time. In fact, we didn't even need mealworms, we was catching 'em on a bare hook, and that's no lie.

I told ole Cletus, "Why don't you just stand there behind me, and I'll flip them back over my shoulder. You can take a fish off, and I'll just cast it back out in forward motion." It was just like fly-fishing. We had it down to a science where we was landing a fish every five seconds. Big ones, too. Most of 'em we had to throw back in because they was too big for the fryin' pan.Then is when the fun really started kicking in. We could see the fish lined up under the water, clear across the length of the pond, just waiting their turn. You see, we can do that where I come from. The water's that clear. Ain't like the water I seen down here. My wife and I took a little walk down here to the Kanawha River a little bit ago. My fifth-grade science teacher must have lied to me because he told me water was odorless, colorless, and tasteless. And what is that stuff floating around in there? Does anybody really know for sure? In any event, Cletus and I was havin' us a good time, and we was having too much fun. It was at that point things took a strange and dramatic turn for the worst. I smelled something so bad, so foul, so rank, so disgusting, I thought I was in Charleston when the legislature was in session. I turned around to see what was the matter, and there stood a 400-pound, West-By-God-Smile-When-You-Say-It-Virginia black bear, staring me right in the eye.

That, however, wasn't the problem. Heck, that bear never scared me none. I'd mud wrestled with Mean Martha at the County Fair, now that was scary. The problem was that that there bear had just ate the bluegills that I'd planned to eat for supper. And, not only that, he'd swallowed my No. 10 hook that was attached to my No. 2 pound test line, that was attached to my brand-new, magnesium, aluminum, fiberglass, heavy-duty, medium-weight, ultralight spinning rod.

Now, we got us a problem. In fact, we got us a problem so serious, I don't think a crooked Republican could figure his way out of this one. Well, I was just going to have to call the new governor, that's all there was to it. Just then, that there bear decided to take off down over yonder hill. Well, I'm here to tell you, there's no way I'm going to let that bear get away with my supper. So I tightened up the drag on my brand-new, magnesium, aluminum, fiberglass, heavy-duty, medium-weight, ultralight spinning rod, and I held on tighter than Al Gore in a Florida recount.

Over the hills and through the woods we went, banging, crashing, and thumping on every stump and rock in the forest. And I'm here to tell you that, sometimes, drastic situations calls for drastic measures in life, and now was one of those times. Just as I noticed that I was beginning to wear that bear down, I loosened up some drag on my new spinning reel, I whipped out about 10 or 12 feet of No. 2 pound test line, and I proceeded to tie me a lasso on the end of my fishing pole. Just when that bear stopped for a breather, I lassoed him around the neck, gave a big ole jerk, and brought that 400-pound bruiser down on the ground begging for mercy. While his head was still spinning around and around, I got up, I pulled his paws behind his back, I tied him up with my No. 2 pound test line, and I hollered up the hill for Cletus, "Cletus, Cletus, come a-runnin'. And bring the Epsom salts and castor oil."

"Epsom salts and castor oil?" Cletus exclaimed. "What the heck fer?"

I said, "Because I'm goin' to give this bear what he deserves, and that's a good physic. I'm goin' to get my bluegills back, one way or the other."

Second place

Third Place