***Part 2 of a miniseries about the kaleidoscope of scoundrels, souses, smartasses, shit-kickers, schoolkids, septuagenarians, flathead catfish & barbecued pigs that is the Okie Noodling Tournament in Paul’s Valley, OK; see Part 1 here.***

To have even heard of noodling is to know Lee McFarlin. To look “noodling” up on Wikipedia is to see his picture. To Google “noodling” & “Gordon Ramsay” is to catch a slide show of the respective stars of Okie Noodling & “Hell’s Kitchen” gurgling à deux amid the red swirls of an Oklahoma fishing hole. To scan article after article on noodling on the New York Times & ESPN websites is to learn of his legend.

But you could also just show up at the Okie Noodling Tournament, because Lee, even as he’s being trailed by Discovery Channel camera crews & prepping for an August trip to Spain in search of a half-ton catfish,** is a man of the people in the least ironic, most gregarious sense, & he will blithely bend your ear at every turn.

From, say, the inside of the huge fishtank in the parking lot of the great Bob’s Pig Shop, where he performs the aquatic art he has perfected.

(The seat of his trunks reads “Noodlers Anonymous,” the name of the group of Missourians I mentioned in my last post who flout state law to grabble.)

Or from the cook station
LMcookstation2 LMcookstation5
his wife, he & his daughter Misty—

also a noodler & a past tournament queen—man every year to fry up some 400 lbs. of catfish over the course of the festival,

coated with his own original seasoning, for the crowd of thousands.

Or from any old spot where he happens to be taking a breather with the jug of goofy juice he totes around all the livelong day.


I don’t know what it was exactly, but when I asked his answer was to give me a sip in which vodka figured very, very heavily.

And if you admire his hands,


you might, despite the fact that your back is a filthy, fleshy waterwall in the 100-plus-degree heat, get an under-the-shirt rub to verify the exfoliating aptitude of callouses (& only that, rest assured. What a gent!).

More on the catfish cooked up by those hands, & many other dishes by many other hands, to come in Part 3.

**That reminds me—ever seen the episode of “Fishing with John” where Lurie & Dennis Hopper go on the hunt for giant squid? Almost as good as the one where he & Jim Jarmusch look for sharks in Montauk. More for film buffs than fisherfolk, granted.