(Submitted by friend of the site, Dave R)

This is a funny story; I guess you’d call it a “shaggy dog story.”  It’s an excerpt from the book “Never Sniff a Gift Fish” by Patrick McManus, a long-time writer for magazines like Outdoor Life, Field and Stream, etc. His articles are humorous along the lines of Dave Barry. They’ve been compiled into several books. This excerpt will give the flavor of his writing.

Strange Scenes and Eerie Events (excerpt)
From the book “Never Sniff a Gift Fish” by Patrick F. McManus

Every day weird things happen for which there are no rational explanations. Take, for example, the case of Retch Sweeney’s watch.

Retch and I were trolling on a lake in Canada several years ago and, as he leaned over the side of the boat to net a nice rainbow trout I was bringing in, Retch’s watch came loose from his wrist and fell into the lake. Not only was the watch expensive, but it held great sentimental value: Retch’s wife had given it to him on their twentieth anniversary. It bore the inscription, “To Charley Bombi, for 40 years dedicated service to Acme Sand & Gravel Co.” Retch’s wife is a great one for sentiment.

Five years after Retch lost his watch in the Canadian lake, he and I went on a boat-camping trip on a lake in Montana. It is important to note that there is no waterway connecting the two lakes. After making camp, Retch and I went out to see if we couldn’t hook into one of the monster rainbows reported in the vicinity. Sure enough, as we trolled past the mouth of a stream, Retch’s rod whipped double and a few seconds later a beautiful rainbow was doing aerial gymnastics. We went back to camp and while I started preparing supper, Retch dressed out his fish. Suddenly he let out a great yell. I rushed over to see what had happened.

“Look what I found in this rainbow,” he shouted, holding up a shiny object.

“I can scarcely believe my eyes,” I said. “How could such a thing happen?”

“Beats me,” Retch said. “I’ve never even heard of anybody finding a bottle cap in the stomach of a fish before.”

“Me either,” I said. “Now if it had been the watch you lost in the lake up in Canada, I could understand that. You read in the newspapers all the time about that sort of thing happening.”


[EDITOR: Every once in a while we need a little bit of humorous misdirection injected. You all knew where this story was going, which made the twist that much better. It also makes a really important point: how many people bother to write down the stories of when they didn’t find the watch inside the fish?

  • How often do you lose your keys, find them under the stack of papers on the kitchen counter, and immediately rush to Facebook to tell all your friends?
  • When’s the last time you lost your favorite pen, only two months later to have still not found it and finally given up and bought a new one, but took the time to write to the local paper about the experience?
  • When did you brag to all your friends about how your car uses an obscure-sized tire that always has to be specially-ordered, but when you had a blowout on the side of the road last week and got towed to the local tire store they just happened to also not carry that size tire and had to special order it?

When crazy things happen to us, we love to tell the world about them, and we see them as significant. Because, of course, they ARE. But they’re no more significant than the fact that they were outside of the normal pattern of how the cold indifference of life usually treats us. Also, I’m going to randomly mention happy giggling babies and puppies chasing their tails here to counter that depressing last sentence. But the point is that the people who try to use events like the ones where they lost something important to them and found it again in an amazing situation as an example of some higher power are simply, as usual, ignoring the laws of large numbers: we lose a lot of stuff. A TON of stuff. And we don’t find most of it. And what we do, we usually find under mundane circumstances. Occasionally someone’s going to both find the item, and find it in a way that, at least to them, stands out as extraordinary (look out for a story from me in a few days that mimics this concept). And that’s a special, exciting moment worth telling a story about. But that’s really its entire worth. – Jarrett]