Dear Mom… How Granddaddy Bill got Convicted for Trout Poaching

In a battered blue trunk with rusted hinges and broken locks lies the truest of treasures: hundreds of letters from Granddaddy Bill and his brother Hugh, written to their mother from far away lands during the Second World War.

The following was written while Granddaddy was serving at the Navajo Ordnance Depot in Flagstaff, Arizona.

May 1st, 1943

Well, I’m in the soup up to my eyebrows.  Ray Barnes and I were pinched yesterday for fishing in a restricted trout stream.  We certainly had no intention of breaking the law, for we had bought fishing licenses and were not fishing for trout.  In fact, with the tackle we were using we couldn’t have caught a trout to save our souls from hell.  And it certainly never occurred to us that this one particular stream was closed to fishing when none of the other water here-abouts is.  It’s all very aggravating and the Lord only knows what it will cost me – for I was breaking the law, even though I was doing it innocently.  My case will come up before a Justice of the Peace, who probably gets a percentage of all the fines, so I’m not optimistic.  I’ll find out tomorrow if my pessimism is justified.

May 5th

Well I was tried and sentenced yesterday afternoon for my crime against the sovereign State of Arizona.  I established the fact that my sin had been committed by reason of nothing more than ignorance.  I think I plead my case with unusual eloquence – at least I got the judge and the game warden who appeared against me to admit that they were convinced I had no wish or intention to break the law.  But it cost me fifteen hard earned dollars anyway.  Of course I didn’t have to pay it – I had my choice of paying the fine or spending 15 days in jail.  There was a tear in the old judge’s eye when he read the sentence but duty is duty and a justice of the peace is a justice of the peace and I hope everybody connected with taking me for a fifteen-dollar-ride will go plumb to hell.  The only way I can think of to get my money back is to take up poaching as a profession.

I’m so mad I could spit from here to Albuquerque.



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