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Monday, April 20. 2009
It took eighteen years for me to have another "up close and personal" meeting with an alligator and this one was too close for comfort!
The summer of 1964 found me still working multiple jobs with little spare time. My Dad had made friends with a contractor from Philadelphia, Miss. that he had employed in his department at Southwestern Bell. Looking back now I can see that he was a â€œredneckâ€™s, redneckâ€. In the fall he was a market hunter for ducks and had absolutely no respect for game laws, but he appeared to be an OK guy.
Four of us were going on the float trip, my Dad and I in one jon boat and his contractor friend and one of his relatives, who â€œknew the riverâ€ and would â€œguideâ€ us, in the other boat. His relative saying â€œWe got a few falls (fallen trees spanning or down in the river) to go over, under or around, but outside of that, it will be easy. I have since learned that if I hear the word, â€œeasyâ€, I prepare for the worst!
Posted by Jon Bryan in Fishing at 08:05 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
Friday, March 16. 2007
The summer of 1964 found me still working multiple jobs with little spare time. My dad had made friends with a Telephone Co. contractor from Philadelphia, Miss. Looking back now I can see that he was a â€œredneckâ€™s, redneckâ€. He was a market hunter for ducks in the fall, had absolutely no respect for game laws, but he was the man who had introduced us to The Trinity River bottom.
In past years he had spent time in north Louisiana and had made several successful float trips down the head waters of the Calcasieu River. Easy trips of four to six hours, floating and fishing about five miles of river. Put in and take out at State boat ramps. Easy, no problem. The object of these trips was to catch Smallmouth Bass â€“ not really the cold water variety â€“ but Spotted Bass, common to moving water in the south and southwest.My Dad, who was nearing retirement, and I had arranged for a weekend off in mid September, so off we go to north Louisiana. Our â€œheadquartersâ€ was a motel in Alexandria and we arrived at the jumping off point at first light on a bright, clear, Indian Summer day. Four of us were going on the float trip, my Dad and I in one jon boat and his contractor friend and one of his relatives, who â€œknew the riverâ€ and would â€œguideâ€ us, in the other boat. His relative saying â€œWe got a few falls (fallen trees spanning or down in the river) to go over or under, but outside of that, it will be easy. I have since learned that if I hear the word, easy, prepare for the worst.
Where we put in, the Calcasieu River was slow moving, clear as tap water, about seventy-five feet wide and for our whole trip didnâ€™t exceed that width. The banks were lined with tall pine and oak trees. Pretty. Pretty now, but we all would be cursing them by midnight!
We drift about fifty yards from the boat ramp, I put a hand full of Beechnut chewing tobacco in the side of my mouth, and my first cast with a yellow Piggy Boat and, bam, a solid strike from a one pound spotted bass, the fish is taking line, running, not jumping like a regular bass. My dad hooks up and soon we have two nice bass on our stringer. Looks like a good day starting. Iâ€™ll ask myself later â€œWhy did we keep these bass?â€
We ease under our first fall, a tree down from bank to bank, and up ahead we see one resting in the water. We drift up to it and, in the water we go, and pull the jon boat over it. The little â€œdipâ€ was refreshing. This is repeated several times during the first half-mile of our â€œeasyâ€ float. We come to hundred yard stretch with no falls and casting right up to the bank, retrieving for two reel cranks, I have a savage strike. This fish is fighting hard, running and now jumping. What a pretty sight. I land him and onto the stringer he goes, a four-pound Spotted Bass! My dad takes another and we are amassing a really good stringer of fish.
More falls, it seems one every thirty or forty yards. It is now noon and I bet in the last four plus hours, we havenâ€™t made two miles. I ask the relative and he says, â€œA few more falls than I remember, but we donâ€™t have that far to go.â€ Later I think, â€œWho is this guy who supposedly knows the river?â€
The fishing remains great! Whenever we can we make a cast, at least half of them are rewarded with a solid hit. However, it seems we are spending more time slipping under or pulling over trees, than fishing. We catch several more nice, three and four pound bass. Our stringer is getting heavy. We slip under a fall and blankety-blank, my dad lets out a line â€œblue streakersâ€, and slaps the top of his head, smushing a red wasp which has popped him. Over he goes into the water and I think, â€œOh no, heâ€™s had a heart attack,â€ but he comes up out of the water smiling and says, â€œBoy, when wasps get after you, itâ€™s better to go into the water than run.â€ As if he could have run anywhere. He asks for my chew of tobacco and places it on the sting and soon the sting just a memory.
More falls! Over them, under them, drag the boat, weâ€™re both soaked, so are our other fishing mates, itâ€™s close to 5:00 PM and no relief in sight! The intrepid relative says, â€œThere sure is a lot of these falls!â€ We echo his sentiments!
Here is something new, two trees down at the same place, a longer drag, almost a portage. My Dad jumps onto the logs pulling the boat sideways so I can also get out. We pull the bow of the boat up on the logs and he jumps into the water and the water explodes! He has jumped down on to an Alligator! Ride â€˜em cowboy! â€œAlligator, look out!â€ the fearless relative shouts. A six foot â€˜gator is airborne as my Dad scrambles back up onto the logs. The â€˜gator is long gone but here come the â€œblue streakersâ€, blankety-blank-blank, from my Dad. He is soaking, again, really mad and ready to choke our â€œguideâ€, the relative. He says in a firm voice, â€œGet me out of this blankety-blank place. The relative says, â€œWe still got a ways to go.â€
He was right, itâ€™s nearly dark and we seem no closer to the take out ramp than we were two hours ago. Something is wrong here. We pull over to the side and ask the relative, whatâ€™s the deal. He replies, â€œBest I can figure, the hurricane that came through here last year just tore up these woods and knocked all of these trees down. But donâ€™t worry itâ€™s an easy walk outâ€™a here.â€ Thereâ€™s that word, easy, again.
At near dark, probably 7:00 PM, we tie up the boats to a convenient (they are all convenient) fall. The â€œrelativeâ€ can worry about his boats later. We start â€œoutâ€, carrying our rods, luckily we didnâ€™t bring any tackle boxes, fish on the stringers and water, todayâ€™s lunch being all gone. Our â€œguideâ€, the relative leads off. We guess we have to walk two to three miles to the road, then north on the road for another mile to the State ramp and our vehicles.
The darkening sky finds us walking somewhat north, through very thick underbrush and trees everywhere, carrying our rods, the stringer of fish and our water. Down and up through a dry creek bed and slipping down the â€œup sideâ€ of the bank I remark â€œThis is more like a forced march than an easy walk.â€ No reply from our â€œguideâ€.
We trudge on for an hour and go down a creek bank and climb up the other side and I see my slide marks. We have walked in a circle! â€œStopâ€ I cry out and our weary procession slows to a halt. â€œWeâ€™ve walked in a circleâ€, showing them my slide marks. I say, â€This deal stops right now and Iâ€™m walking in front and am going to get us out of this damn place!â€ I look to the sky and find the Big Dipper and follow its bottom two stars to the North Star. That will be my mark to keep us on line. Our â€œguideâ€ is silent.
With me in the lead we head north. After about another hour we all decide to drop our stringers of fish and leave them for the varmints. Why did we keep those fish? We finish the water and drop the water bags to the ground. Pressing on, we hear the artillery at Ft. Polk, north of us, begin booming. I think, â€œThe booming will be a good guide.â€
As we head north we see a light ahead, six hundred yards later it turns out to be a Coleman Lantern hanging in a tree. We see three men sitting around a low fire. â€œHello, the camp!â€ I exclaim. The three men jump up, startled, and look around. Seeing us, four apparitions coming out of the dark with no lamps or flashlights, out comes their guns!
â€œStop right there, who are you.â€ We explain our plight, still standing outside of the circle of light and finally our â€œguideâ€ remarks that he is the brother in law of â€œso-in-soâ€ a deputy sheriff. The guns comes down and they ask, â€œWhat do you want.â€ I reply, â€œA drink of water and a ride to our cars parked at the State ramp.â€ Mumbled conversation and a reply, â€œPay for the gas and weâ€™ll take you to your car, but no water.â€ â€œThanksâ€ I say, then mumbling under my breath, â€œYou sons of bitches!â€
Back at our cars, my Dadâ€™s contractor friend is quiet, not having said much for the last six or seven hours and his relative, our â€œguide, only says â€œIt was a tougher float than I thought it would be.â€ Saying our good byes, Daddy and I got into his car. He looks at his watch and says, â€œItâ€™s almost midnight. Quite a day!â€ I rolled down the window, and fished out a Pall Mall and lit up, blowing the smoke out of the window. My Dad had smoked for forty years but had quit smoking ten years past and hated for me to smoke. He said to me, â€œBoy give me one of those.â€ I never saw my Dadâ€™s contractor friend again. And, I never saw my Dad smoke another cigarette.
Continue reading "The Alligator"
Posted by Jon Bryan in Fishing at 14:10 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
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