Sam Wham and the Sawmont

by Sir Samuel Ferguson

“Knieving trouts” (they call it tickling in England) is good sport. You go to a stony shallow at night, a companion bearing a torch; then, stripping to the thighs and shoulders, wade in, grope with your hands under the stones, sods, and other harbourage, till you find your game, then grip him in your “knieve” and toss him ashore.

I remember, when a boy, carrying the splits for a servant of the family, called Sam Wham. Now, Sam was an able young fellow, well-boned and willing, a hard headed cudgel player, and a marvellous tough wrestler, for he had a backbone like a sea serpent—this gained him the name of the Twister and Twiner. He had got into the river, and with his back to me was stooping over a broad stone, when something bolted from under the bank on which I stood, right through his legs. Sam fell with a great splash on his face, but in falling jammed whatever it was against the stone. “Let go, Twister!” shouted I; “’Tis an otter, he will nip a finger off you.” “Whist!” sputtered he, as he slid his hand under the water. “May I never read a text again if he isna a sawmont wi’ a shoulther like a hog!” “Grip him by the gills, Twister,” cried I. “Saul will I!” cried the Twiner; but just then there was a heave, a roll, a splash, a slap like a pistol-shot: down went Sam, and up went the salmon, spun like a shilling at a pitch-and-toss, six feet into the air. I  leaped in just as he came to the water, but my foot caught between two stones, and the more I pulled the firmer it stuck. The fish fell into the spot shallower than that from which he had leaped. Sam saw the chance, and tackled to again; while I, sitting down in the stream as best I might, held up my torch, and cried, “Fair play!” as, shoulder to shoulder, through, out, and about, up and down, roll and tumble, to it they went, Sam and the salmon. The Twister was never so twined before. Yet, through cross-buttocks and capsizes innumerable, he still held on; now haled through a pool; now haling up a bank; now heels over head; now head over heels; now, head over heels together, doubled up in a corner; but at last stretched fairly on his back, and foaming for rage and disappointment; while the victorious salmon, slapping the stones with its tail, and whirling the spray from its shoulders at every roll, came boring and snoring up the ford. I tugged and strained to no purpose; he flashed by me with a snort, and slid into deep water. Sam now staggered forward with battered bones and pilled elbows, blowing like a grampus, and cursing like nothing but himself. He extricated me, and we limped home. Neither rose for a week; for I had a dislocated ankle, and the Twister was troubled with a broken rib. Poor Sam! He had his brains discovered at last by a poker in a row, and was worm’s meat within three months; yet, ere he died, he had the satisfaction of feasting on his old antagonist, who was man’s meat next morning. They caught him in a net. Sam knew him by the twist in his tail.