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anne_mikolay_120While flipping the dials last night in a futile attempt to find something interesting to watch on television, my husband and I discovered “Hillbilly Handfishin” on Animal Plant. Hillbilly Handfishin...Hillbilly Handfishin... (Did I hear somebody say “you might be a redneck if....”) Apparently, television has hit an all-time low.

By way of explanation, Hillbilly Handfishin is exactly what it sounds like. A group of hillbillies accompany thrill seeking tourists into the muddy waters of Oklahoma and instruct them on the fine art of noodling, or grappling, better known as handfishing. Using their bare hands and feet, these self-proclaimed hillbillies dig into the holes deep beneath the water to snare catfish. In the process, they are often bitten by their prey, or the snakes, beaver, and snapping turtles that sometimes inhabit vacant catfish homesteads (who the heck, other than hillbillies, knows the proper term for catfish habitat?)

Call me a tree hugger, but I fail to see the attraction in Hillbilly Handfishin. To me, yanking an unsuspecting fish from its hole (where some are, no doubt, protecting their eggs) merely for sport is deplorable. Perhaps my distaste for noodling is a result of the cultural disparity between north and south, or fishermen and non-fishermen, but I would be loath to wade into waist high filthy water for any reason, and definitely not to seize a fish. Granted, Native Americans used their hands to trap fish, but they were hunting for sustenance, not sport.

Animal cruelty aside, Hillbilly Handfishin clearly represents the declining taste of television viewers. These days, there are countless channels airing some questionable variation of reality television. No interest, passion, or weakness is off limits. Do you eat toilet paper or laundry detergent! Terrific. Tell us all about it on television. Do you drink and curse excessively? Fantastic. Join the cast of Jersey Shore. Are you a hoarder? Let the cameras examine your collection of trash bags, empty pizza boxes, and mountains of rags. Are you a spend-thrift who pens cookbooks and argues with your family? Let's call you a housewife and give you your own television series. Do you exterminate homes for a living? We can watch you hunt mice and rodents. Do you wade into the mud to catch your dinner? Well, shut my mouth! You're a hillbilly handfishin, doggone television star!

The ingenuity of television producers astounds me. Even though I detect a trashy trend in their offerings, I acknowledge their good, old American work ethic. These days, they can make a television show out of absolutely anything, mold a television star out of your average (or not so average) citizen, and thus amass a small fortune for all concerned.

We should all be so lucky.

I enjoy crocheting as a hobby and am currently crafting a blanket for my son. Can I star in my own television show, too? We'll call it  “Needlin' with Mom.” It will be a thrill a minute! The tension of tangled yarn can't be denied. You won't be able to tear yourself away from the television. What color yarn will I choose? Will I stitch a perfect granny square? Are you on the edge of your seat yet? Better yet, I'm very good at sitting in a chair and watching the world go by. How about a reality show called “The Armchair Critic?”

Any takers?