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Ollie Fishes A Blackout

By Harold De Polo

OLLIE BASCOMB, on this early evening in June, was having a joyous time. The sheriff of Derby was out on the long graveled driveway that adjoined the county courthouse and jail, in the rear of which he had his living quarters, casting a hookless bass plug at objects he had set out on the ground at various distances ahead of him. He was hitting those targets beautifully and accurately, and the words and ejaculations of admiration from his rather large audience did not precisely displease him.

No true fisherman or hunter is ever averse to praise for what he considers a good cast or a good shot. Ollie, incidentally, was called the greatest troutin' an' birdin' fool in the whole State o' Maine. He freely conceded that he preferred to handle a dry fly for trout and to take partridge on the wing, but he likewise admitted that he liked all kinds of fishing, all kinds of hunting. He had fallen under the spell, late last season, of casting a wooden lure for black bass, particularly on dark nights, and he was now close to agreeing that the bronze-back, inch for inch and pound for pound, was the gamest fish that swims.

He chuckled, in genuine happiness and actually childish self-approbation, as he hit a pie plate no more than six inches in diameter that he had set up over a hundred feet away. He said, exuberantly:

"Judas Priest, folks, that's castin'!"

"That's very fine casting, sheriff," said an onlooker in city clothes and a sporty, well-fed, well-cared-for appearance.

Ollie turned and literally beamed his gratitude. Ollie was short and squat and rotund, with a round face and wide china-blue eyes, and he invariably wore a frayed old canvas shooting jacket and an ancient and battered black felt hat. He removed the latter, now, and rubbed a hand across his utterly bald head. He stroked his jaw, after that, in his characteristic gesture, and said in his slow drawl:

"Shucks, Mr. Keene, that's tarnation good o' you to say so, but I cal'late you're jest a-quizzin' me. I—crimus, mister, from the talks we had since you been here to the hotel, this last week, I'll bet you'll outcast me to beat all Sal Brookes an' the Devil when we get out on Lower Saltash t'night. I'll bet—"

"I'm not quite sure, sheriff—" the city man started to say.

BUT Les Heald, the teller at the Derby National Bank, interrupted him. He stepped forward from where he had been standing on the edge of the crowd and looked at Ollie somewhat sternly. He said stiffly:

"You mean to tell me, Ollie Bascomb, that you're going fishing tonight?... Tonight, when our glorious county seat of Derby is having its first complete blackout test and air raid practice with a plane going over and dropping flares that will simulate incendiary bombs?... I can scarcely believe it, sir, even though I am well aware that your love for these fishing and hunting sports is— hmmm, well, very strong."

Ollie, blinking his eyes, gazed at the tall, spare figure of Lester Heald, garbed in severe black that accentuated his severe face, and asked in a slightly puzzled fashion:

"What—what day o' the month does this come to be, Lester?"

Heald, as a few titters ran through the audience, looked decidedly superior. He was out sniping for the nomination against Ollie that Fall, it was fairly well known, and he hadn't lost any opportunities whatsoever, during these past few months, of getting in any possible dig at his opponent. He replied suavely, in his best oratorical manner and with a smug little smile:

"As a banker, I can answer that easily. As a proud yet humble citizen of Derby, who is responsible—who is partially responsible for arranging the test, I can answer more easily. It is June nineteenth."

Ollie smiled, quite contentedly, and let out a sigh of vast relief. He turned his back on Heald and said, like a youngster who has had the fun of catching his teacher in a mistake:

"That's what I thought. Bass season ...

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