Uncle Clifton had retired from Shell Oil and was in his 60’s when he fell out of a tree and broke his arm. When I heard the story, I knew right away what kind of tree it was and why he was climbing in it.
When we were kids, my brother, sister and I would spend a few weeks of every summer with my Uncle Clifton and Aunt Mable. This was the best vacation any boy could have…there were farm ponds all around (many of them covered now by Lake Fork) and my uncle seemed to be friends with everyone, so we were always allowed to fish them. He liked putting out trotlines for catfish and often baited them with Catawba worms we plucked from “fishing trees”. (The “worms” are actually caterpillars that eat the leaves of the Catawba tree.) Plant nurseries will tell you that these trees are desirable because they make for great shade and beautiful blooms, but I suspect that many of the trees you see in East Texas yards were planted by fishermen who use the caterpillars for fishing.
Our Uncle Clifton is now fishing heavenly waters, but I think of him when I see a Catawba tree and remember all the fun we had catching catfish and bream on the caterpillars we harvested from these wonderful “fishing trees.”