Uncle Leon Robinson grew up in Pawnee, OK, only a few miles from the sheep farm where he now lives, and where the family campout is held these days. There was a pond where he used to go fishing not too far away, and he caught quite a few good bass in those days. One day he caught a monster. It was so big he couldn’t stand to let it go without showing it to someone, or else he would just be accused of telling one of those Robinson fish stories. So he took it home as proof. When he got there, it seemed a shame to waste such a big fish by killing it for dinner, so he decided to keep it as a pet. He put it in a 55-gallon barrel that sat at the corner of the house catching the rain off the roof, where the fish could stay comfortably, and Leon could show it off to anyone who stopped by.
Leon started to feel bad about keeping the fish cooped up in that barrel, so he decided he would start taking it on walks for some exercise. Early in the morning, while the grass was still wet with dew, Leon got up to take the fish for a walk. By running a stringer through the fish’s mouth, he could keep it on a leash, and the fish would flop along in the grass behind him, getting its oxygen from the cool morning dew. Leon started with short walks—only a few minutes at a time—before returning the fish to its barrel. He gradually worked up its tolerance, until the fish could stay out of the barrel for 10 minutes at a time, then 30, then an hour. Leon even stopped using the leash, and the fish would flop right along the grass with him on its own.
One morning as they went for their walk, they came to an old wood slat bridge that crossed a creek. There were gaps between the transverse slats, but the longitudinal running planks for driving on were solid all the way across. He walked across, the fish flopping along behind, staying on the running planks. All of a sudden, the fish slipped sideways, fell off the running planks and through the slats, and splashed into the creek. Leon rushed downstream to catch the fish, and the fish struggled to swim toward the bank. But all that time spent out of the water had changed the fish, and Leon cried when it washed up on the bank at his feet, drowned.