ABOUT THE INFORMANT:
My informant is a father of three who lives just outside of Boston with his wife of over 30 years. He is originally from Cambridge, MA, but moved to central MA when he was younger. Graduating from Tufts, Northwestern, and the getting his PHD at MIT, he is an engineering professor.
Interviewee: I was out fishing with my father-in-law, Billy, on the lake in New Hampshire. He has a house up there. Well not him, but his mom. It is a big house where that side of the family has family reunions. And it’s right on the lake, so me and him go fishing up there a lot.
Interviewer: What type of fishing?
Interviewee: They have like a small boat. It’s almost like a tin can. I mean sometimes we’ll do trout fishing in the brook up there, but not during the family reunion. It’s too much of a hassle.
So anyways, we were fishing and I caught a small fish. Like a small, it wasn’t like a sunfish, you know? Because those I can never get. Especially out there, that deep. It was like a small bass. But it was too small to do anything with; I wasn’t gonna eat it or anything. So I carefully tried to get it back to the water, you know? Took the hook out slowly, made sure I didn’t hurt it.
Interview: Because they’re fragile?
Interviewee: Yeah, exactly.
So, I’m taking care of this fish, and Billy, he’s just watching me. And I let it go, and he says, “If St. Francis saw you he would be so proud.”
And I say, “If St. Francis was here he’d have the fish jumping in the boat.”
So we go back to fishing. I put another worm on my line and everything. Cast it out. Next thing you know I got a big bass on the line. And it’s putting up a big fight. The tin can boat is rocking, I’m reeling and reeling as hard as I can, and then I feel it go under the boat. Suddenly the line goes slack. And then I just here this big “Billy” laugh. A belly laugh, his whole body laughing.
I turn to see what’s so funny, and he just points down. I look and sure enough there was the fish flapping around in the boat. It had jumped in the boat!
The informant went on to tell me that this particular story has been repeated and told by people in the family who were not even there. It has even been performed as a skit for the family. It is considered to be one of the classic stories of New Hampshire and of this family.
First when dissecting this story it is important to note the obvious religious connotations. Both Billy and my informant were religious, though not strict practicers, so when this happened there was definitely a part of them that wondered what just happened. That is of course what makes the story so compelling. Is it a coincidence or is it a story about Saint Francis showing his presence at that moment to those two men? That mystery makes it enticing.
It is interesting because when and where this took place probably has a lot of reason as to why it is so popular to this family. That location is very special to them, so for them to feel like they and that place is blessed makes sense. They feel blessed to be around their family, and fortunate to have had so many happy family reunions there. If someone said God or a supernatural presence was there, I’m sure that they would buy it more than if you told them they were somewhere else.