Buffalo Tales Too...The Bait StoreBuffalo Tales Too...The Bait Store Betcha didn't know I was once the proud owner of a neighborhood Bait Store. Find out about it inside.
By Don Barone
"But I'm just a soul whose intentions are good..."
Dateline: Buffalo, NY
In the asphalt jungle, the man with soil, will be king.
I was 12 years old.
I was KING.
I had dirt.
Most around me had blacktop.
Blah, blah, blah, Warren Buffett. I was kid rich, better than Old Guy rich. Kid rich is nothing but candy up to your armpits and ear holes. "G.I. Combat" and "Sgt. Rock," comic books for the front room; "True Detective" Magazine for under the covers with a flashlight.
Take your oil wells Old Guy Rich, I had more nickel packs of baseball cards than anyone on my block; had Mickey Mantle spinning around in my bicycle wheels up front; had Roger Maris in the back wheel.
I was kid stinky rich.
And stinky kid rich too.
That's because I was a working kid.
In the asphalt jungle, the man with soil, will be king.
And I was king; above king during the summer. During the summer I was so rich I was like a double king.
All because I was the only kid in my neighborhood to actually run a business. A LEGIT business.
I owned a Bait Shop.
"…oh Lord, please don't let me be misunderstood…"
Had me one customer.
Sammy was my best friend. He would have given me a run at being kid rich, best friends or not we would have been engaged in dueling bait shops, him over on his street, one block past the ice cream/dairy joint, me on my block across the street from the neighborhood CHURCH.
Sammy had no chance, he knew it, knew I was close enough to Father Dominic to catch a blessing or two in the wind.
Sammy also had no chance because he had soil, but it was just dirt. Dirt so dirt that when you scrocked on it you got those tiny little scrock balls of dirt.
What are you gonna do with that?
Them scrock balls.
Sammy would not be king because his father had a Desoto, a Ford Fairlane, and a Mercury Comet, all up on blocks in what used to be the back yard.
Sammy was kid poor, and I was hell bent on making him poorer. If you just lived allowance to allowance, I was about to hand you your Roy Rogers lunch box.
As for the rest of the block, no freakin' competition. The rest of the kids had either just a busted up driveway with a few weeds sticking up, or dirt so hard we called it "dir-crete." Dirt as hard as concrete.
But if you wanted to jump on your Schwinn and head down to the foot of Ontario Street to do some fishing, and you wanted to actually catch something other than a tire or wine bottle, you had to talk to me.
I had the only bait shop in the neighborhood.
A penny per each.
Zebco math had me figuring twenty-four and a half worms per coffee can per kid. I was making a penny a worm, even for the half worms.
My half worms were a strictly cash business.
Every two half worms got me a penny that I would always forget to tell the feds at the IRS for kids about.
Even if I owned a bait shop today, Thursday would be my early close day as I worked in the back room, you know, stretching my inventory.
So, one blue can of Maxwell House coffee, some dirt on the bottom, water or scrock on top of the dirt, depending on who was looking, all that for twenty-five cents for twenty-four and a half worms.
Half a worm is where the money is at, trust me. That old rich Warren guy has never figured that out.
"…but don't you know that no one alive…"
So I'm getting kid richer by the day, and then what could have been disaster struck. Some jamoke steals Sammy's Schwinn, so his fishing expeditions off the foot of Ontario Street come almost to a screeching halt. With no way to get there he has to wait until his dad gets off the night shift tour. Three weeks on, three weeks off. The jamoke took the bike Day One of the three weeks ON.
Luckily though, I had been working on my Long Range Business plan before that happened. I'm telling you Old Guy Warren, had it not been for one tiny miscalculation you dude, would be reading MY financial newsletter.
Sammy never told me he liked to fish, I found that out the hard way, in his upstairs, not really for company, stinky bathroom.
Sammy's sister Maria had some girl thing going on in the downstairs, for company, bathroom, so I sprinted up stairs to the forbidden "real" john.
That's when I found the secret to my business success. Next to the "Ter-Let" was a well thumbed through magazine. OMG a kid finding a bathroom magazine while legitimately going to the bathroom. Kid heaven.
So I reached over, memorized every detail of how it was placed before I snatched it up, then gently, with the respect one pays for a bathroom magazine, gently picked it up and with heart pounding, turned it over to the front cover and…
…and on the front cover, is a FISH.
My one chance at a bathroom magazine (only one magazine better and that's the under the bed or between the mattress and box spring magazine) and it's about fishing! Outdoor Life. Just my luck, someone writes a magazine about playing outside and Sammy's dad bought it.
Mr. Sammy, you just open the door and go out. Jeepers you have to read about how to GO OUTSIDE.
But that's when I find out from Sammy he likes to fish.
That's when I started working on my Business Plan as well.
I worked the whole neighborhood.
I would go tearing up to the side door of all the homes on my block, ring the doorbell, then stand there jumping around holding my crotch.
Soon Bobby/Larry/Mike/Tommy's mother (and a bunch more) would come to the door, see me in a very advanced state of not trying to pee my pants, and stand back so I could run in and use their john.
As soon as I passed the mother and rounded the corner of the dining room I went straight for the non company, stinky bathroom. Once in I quickly scanned all the bathroom reads for ANY magazine with a fish on the cover.
When I found one, I knew I found a customer.
You ever think of trying that Old Guy Warren?
So my bait business survived the jamoke stealing the bike of my one customer, but one forgotten calculation sent me back to the poor kid ranks.
"…can always be an angel…"
I had a slight logistical problem, what with being a twelve-year-old who had to be home when the streetlights came on. It was a plus/minus be home rule because I had my parents convinced that for some reason on Sammy's block it always seemed to stay lighter for ten or fifteen minutes past when, mysteriously, our block got dark and the streetlights popped on.
I was in business because of that ten to fifteen minute window of opportunity.
That was my worming time.
I would take my Boy Scout canteen I had hidden in the garage, dump some water on my dirt, and grab the worms as they fled the flood.
For the record, Pop (what people like me in Buffalo call soft drinks when we don't just call anything not milk or beer, coke) poured into your dirt can put a crimp on your long-range worm plans.
Lets just say, in case PETA is an unknown sneaky Facebook friend, let's just say worms and coca cola, do not mix very well, especially for the worm.
So I peddle home every night fifteen minutes before the streetlights came on, giving me a thirty minute cushion because of the Aurora Borealis lights somehow located above Sammy's street, and I sneak kid quiet peddle up the driveway, hope off the bike and let it crash into Mr. DeAuria's fence, then run into my Bait Store.
Only to find my mother standing there.
In MY Bait Store.
Which she, for some reason called, HER GARDEN.
Her beloved rose garden.
The rose garden she and dad talked about at dinner.
Talked about why her roses kept dying.
Dad said maybe it was because she was watering them to much, "its like a lake around them."
Talked about why the pink roses didn't smell like the white roses, "they smell like Coca Cola, like coke."
From my Mother, "Yeah, and are sticky too."
Somehow I missed these clues about the life expectancy of my business.
That night, fifteen minutes before the streetlights came on over Victoria Blvd…that was the night…the exact moment… that some kid named Warren in Omaha or somewhere not Buffalo…that night was the first night in the rest of his life of being an old, stinky pants, rich guy.
Warren, if you read this, know that you are what you are because of one, tiny, pink rose petal, that smelled way too much like POP!
"…oh lord please don't let me be misunderstood."
Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood
Next: Half a Worm Fishing Techniques.
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