Memories of Catalpa Trees

Catalpa-treeCatalpa Tree, Brookfield, Connecticut © Steven Willard

It’s funny how you can look at something over and over and not really see it. I’ve been parking my car within feet of this tree for four years and never really noticed it until a couple of weeks ago. Maybe it was the light, I don’t know but this time I saw it and had to take a photograph of it.

At home on the computer I realized I was more taken with the graphic nature of the image than the lush greens, and when I converted it to black and white it seemed to come alive for me. What’s more I was reminded of my first experience with catalpa trees.

I would have been about six years old and we had just recently moved to Spencer, Indiana. As I’ve stated in another post (see Father’s Day) my dad was an avid angler and was diligent about asking locals what they used as bait. His preference was to fish with artificial lures, but he would try anything if he thought it would help him catch more fish. (I should interject here that for him it was catching fish that was the sport, he almost always released them unless he happened on someone who was fishing to feed the family). Well it wasn’t long after we had arrived in Spencer that dad learned that catalpa worms were just the thing to catch bass. Catalpa worms are the larva or caterpillars of the sphinx moth which feeds only on the catalpa leaves.

It was explained to dad that catalpa worms made excellent bait. They grow to about three inches long, have a fairly tough outer skin which will stay on a hook a long time and exude a bright fluorescent green fluid that smells sweet on the hook. The method dad was shown was to cut the head off the worm (old-timers would bite the heads off) and using a stick, turn the worms inside out which presents a slimy, smelly mess.  To a little boy this was fascinating, but for dad it proved to be too much. He was willing to put up with a lot to fish, but this was going too far.

I’d forgotten all about that until I was looking at the image on the computer. It was a vivid memory and yet I wasn’t sure I had it right so I looked it up on Google. Sure enough it was all there just as I remembered. This is the kind of thing I love about photography; how by looking for photographs we stumble across memories.

Pentax K5 IIs, 35mm macro lens. Processed in Photoshop CS4 and converted to black and white in Nik Silver Efex Pro 2.


4 comments on “Memories of Catalpa Trees

  1. Mike Crape says:

    Good story to go with this photo Steven, great how somethings jar the memories from the past. Thanks for sharing.


  2. Susan Reinberg says:

    Again you move me with your eloquent image and compelling words. Thank you, as always, for reminding me how photography informs and enriches our lives.


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