Salamanders Singing Hymns
oil on panel, 25 1/4 x 18 7/8″ (GPS 40.664071, -80.533626)
Once I was old enough to get highway-crossing clearance from my mother I would grab my minnow bucket, walk through the fields and pastures, and then hike into the woods to spend the day at my favorite stream. Usually I took a book and my minnow-bucket. There were a few crawdads in the stream, but it was salamanders I was after anyway. I would often catch a dozen in an hour, finding them under rocks or logs near the stream. I didn’t do anything with the salamanders; just released them when I left for home. Perhaps that’s why one finds it so difficult to have a passion for salamanders as an adult. They just aren’t good for much. You can’t eat them or play with them. They are basically expressionless, lack personality, and have to be kept moist, but are reported to be fine fishing bait. I used them on occasion for that purpose years ago but always felt somewhat guilty jabbing a hook through their jaws. I don’t know why, as I can pierce a frog or a minnow without compunction. Every time I hooked a salamander though, it seemed they were close to bursting out in hymns and spiritual songs, which would’ve made me feel terribly guilty, so I stuck with worms and minnows. Anyway, I still have the inside section of the bucket and took it back to the scene of so much salamander incarceration and painted it.