The Chase

Jim Buck and I were fishing in lower West Galveston Bay, having good luck on Specks, with some 5 or 6 pound, Gaff topsail Catfish, (Gaff tops), thrown in. Gaff tops are slimy, slimy, but offer an excellent fight, and when fried, offer excellent table fare. After each Gaff top we caught, we had to clean the slime off of our line and leader and if we kept one to eat, we ended up with a major chore cleaning our cooler.

We noticed a storm forming west of us but, as usual, thought nothing of it and continued to catch fish. Soon, common sense overtook our desire to catch fish, and we headed back to the east and the safe harbor, at Jamaica Beach. We were making 35 MPH in my boat, but it seemed, that the faster we went, the storm went faster.

Running along the shore from Snake Island and taking the sharp turn into the Jamaica Beach, channel, I cut the engines and coasted up to the dock. One boat was loading and we were next. The wind was blowing at least 60 MPH, slamming things around, but thank goodness, the loading ramp, at water level, offered about 4 feet of protection. If we raised up, the blowing sand and spray was like needles.

Peeping over the edge of my boat’s deck, looking north toward the mainland, I saw a small boat, fighting the storm and heading our way. Nothing unusual, a small boat heading in, but as I looked closer, I saw a waterspout right behind him. He was going about 25 and the waterspout was keeping up with him, not catching him, but staying about 100 yards to his rear.

The small boat cleared the north end of Karankawa Reef and made a hard right, at full speed, across the bay, toward the Jamaica Beach channel. Lucky for him the waterspout continued east towards Green’s Cut. Soon the back edge of the storm passed over us and we successfully loaded our boat on the trailer.

We then helped the lone fisherman in the small boat that the waterspout chased. He was wet, scared and glad to be ashore and away from the waterspout. He said, “I thought it had me and I was afraid to turn because I thought it would follow me.”

We never saw him again. I bet he took up a safer hobby!

One Last Trip

By April 2005, after working for over forty years, I figured I had had about all the fun I could stand so I decided to retire on May 1, to my ranch in Goldthwaite, Texas. Months before my retirement I even planted a garden and some peach trees, one of my “gifts” being a very green thumb!

Layla had moved to Goldthwaite and was managing the construction of our new ranch house, so after my official retirement date, I got busy and put our Bayou Vista bay house and twenty-two foot, boat on the market and sold our home to the first person who looked at it. She would take possession on June 15. A week later the homebuyer’s nephew purchased my boat.

The first week of June, prior to turning over the boat keys to its new owner, I took one last trip into Jones Lake and it paid off with three nice Red’s, 21, 23 and 26 inches long. Releasing the fish I thought of all the memories, fun and excitement I have had in my over, fifty year relationship with the Gulf coast and a twang of regret flashed through my mind that it was over.

But, it was the time in my life to do other things and enjoy my retirement!

Nice Stop

Taking advantage of the unusually calm weather on the upper Gulf Coast, we had enjoyed some great fishing around the jetties and the near oil rigs. As the sun peeked over the eastern horizon, Brad, my Son, “Dub” Middleton, a close friend and I were cutting around the end of Galveston’s South Jetty on our way to our “spot”. Brad had just turned 8, and this was his first trip to the jetties.

We pull up and anchor at our “spot” and congratulate ourselves for beating the Saturday crowd. While I’m getting a shrimp out to bait Brad’s line, I notice a boat pulling up within 50 feet and it is my buddy, Wayne Thomas. He’s guiding today and has 2 clients with him. I wave while Brad casts out, and before the bait can sink, a Speck nails it right on the surface.

Landing Brad’s fish, Dub lets me know he into a nice one and soon I net a 3 pound, Speck for him. I bait up Brad and he casts out toward the rocks and has another savage strike. This one is not coming in easy and proves to be a nice Red. Wayne yells over from his boat, “Jon, you’d better get to fishing or that boy is going to catch all of the fish.”

As I bait up Brad for his third cast, I still haven’t even started fishing. I turn around to get me a shrimp when I hear Brad exclaim, “Dad!” As I turn, I see his rod and reel leaving his hands and come bouncing back towards me in the back of the boat. My natural reaction is to quickly move to my right and scoop up the rod and reel and hand it back to Brad, all the while his fish, a Flounder, is still pulling

Dub is laughing, Wayne and his clients are laughing, as he yells over, “Nice stop! I see you still have good hands!”

We ended the Day with 16 Specks and Reds and the one Flounder.

State Records Make Good Eatin’

Dewey Stringer called and wanted me to go offshore with him the coming Saturday to check out his new boat; a twenty-three foot, deep vee, cuddy cabin, with a two hundred horsepower, outboard motor. Without being coerced, I accepted the invitation!

Our plan was to head east out of the jetties to a new rig, five miles past the Heald Banks and fish in about eighty feet of water. Dewey said he had heard that some big Kingfish were in the area. He was right!

His new boat ran fine for the one-hour trip to the new rig. The rig was about a hundred foot square and trolling around it, we found the water to be between 80 and 90 foot deep. We were the only boat so we tied up and the current drifted the boat and our cigar minnow baits in an easterly direction.

We caught several average size Kings, fifteen to twenty pounds, and then, I had a hard, jolting strike and the fish took off to my left, north. The run was powerful, more than any other King I’d hooked before and soon the fish has “spooled” my twenty pound line, and I’m down to three turns and can see where the end is tied to spool.

Dewey untied us from the rig and as he started the engine, we were drifting east and the fish was heading north. He headed toward the fish, allowing me to get back some line and the fish then headed west, circling the rig. I know he was going to “cut me off” on the rig so Dewey sped up and the fish headed north back toward us. As we say in Texas, “This was a Goat rodeo!”

I’m thinking, this is some fish, who knows what variety? Dewey says, “He’s been on for twenty minutes. What do you think it is?” I had no idea, but finally I started working the big fish back slowly toward the boat. Noticing we’d drifted almost a mile from the rig, I “rasseled” the big fish up to the boat. “What a King!” we both exclaimed!

Dewey only had one gaff and no flying gaff, so we decided that he would gaff it toward its head and I’ll, while holding the new rod high to keep the line tight, grab it at the junction of its body and tail. We coordinated our efforts; hauled the fish into the boat, applied the coup-de-grace with a short billy club, and heaved it into Dewey’s big cooler, except the head and tail extended outside of the sixty inch cooler!

Exclaiming, “This fish is longer than I am. It must weigh sixty-five or seventy pounds.” Dewey confirmed my comments and then, trying to fit it into the cooler, and not thinking, we cut off the King’s tail and head and tossed them overboard. Now it fitted!

After the excitement, as we relaxed, our estimate was that the King, did indeed, weigh between sixty-five and seventy pounds! We had no camera and took no pictures, however, we ate it! Kings, with their firm meat, are very tasty fried, broiled, boiled in crab boil, grilled or cooked in a fish soup/stew. To remove the fishy taste, all traces of the blood line, on each side of the fish, must be removed!

This fish may have been the third state record that I have eaten. That may be a state record too!

The Water Hole

Late yesterday afternoon, I set up behind a big mesquite and just watched a concrete water tank to see what would come in for a drink. The tank is fed with water piped in from a shallow, 60’ well, that’s used only for livestock and the garden. This well has been in use since the old rock house on my place was built in 1920.


First up was a young doe that hadn’t dropped her fawn. On this hot day, it looks like she is trying to climb into the water.


Next up was one of the “big does” we rarely see during hunting season. She appeared to already have dropped her twin fawns.

Staying around until dark, these were the only two deer that came into water. I thought I would see some horns! Maybe tomorrow?

Perry Creek

One nice June morning in 1954, my Dad and I were visiting my Uncle, Shelton Gafford, a large, land owner in Falls County and we drove over the low water crossing of the Brazos river, to his Perry Creek place to fish my favorite stock tank. Catching several Bass, I tied on an injured minnow, a noisy, top water bait, with spinners on each end. Casting out over some coon tail moss, I let it sit for a minute, then I twitched it once and the spinners did their thing and whoosh and wham, a Bass inhaled the plug and headed for the bottom.

From the hit and what I saw of the fish, I knew it was a good one and after trying to “horse” it out of the moss, I slid into the water, freed the line and after a jump filled battle, landed the large Bass. My Dad said, “Boy, that’s the nicest one you’ve caught. Do you have a scale?” Neither one of us had a scale, so I said we should go over to John T. Scott’s store on the Marlin/Lott road, weigh the fish, then grab some cheese and sardines, for lunch.

On John T’s scales the Bass was just over 5 pounds, a new record for me. The cheese, a piece of pie size wedge, cut out of the hoop of Longhorn cheese, crackers and sardines, washed down with R.C. Colas, was a fitting end to an eventful morning.


Three weeks ago, Mills County had severe thunderstorms and a hard, fast 2” of rain and then the storms moved east along the Gulf coast spreading more severe rain and tornados along their path. Since then, we’ve had heavy winds over 40 MPH, 100 degree, temperatures and no rain! The newly planted crops are drying up and the deer are running out of leafy, green vegetation to eat, leaving them no alternative but the local gardens. Monday morning, one of my neighbors told me that deer had destroyed his garden!

Layla and I got in late last Saturday night from my Senior Softball tournament and I didn’t get to check my garden until Sunday morning and what I found, really frustrated me!

The deer had come into our garden, gorged themselves, knocked over tomato plants, stripped some limbs on the peach trees, eating peaches and leaves and left me one, unripe peach on the limb.

Our tomatoes were hit the worst of all! Nothing tastes better than home grown, red, ripe, juicy tomatoes! The deer have clipped off the leaves, stunting and, I hope I’m wrong, killing the plants.


This tomato plant is almost gone.


Our black eyes and dill have been clipped off and I thought dill would keep predators out.


Dill works on ‘coons.


The deer have even taken a liking to my jalapenos, clipping off the sprouts and one even tried a pepper, lower right outside of the protective cage, and found it not to its particular taste.

Having just planted okra, pole beans and squash, with protective covers around them, I hope this will keep the deer away for a while, otherwise, I’ll have some well fed deer come October.

My garlic and onions were untouched (vampires won’t bother us either), but if we had to depend on this garden for our sustenance, there would be some deer hanging in the cooler now!

Predator Hunt

This past Monday, one of my neighbors mentioned that he’d been hearing coyotes on the north end of his place and asked me if I would see if I could “eliminate” the threat. So, early yesterday evening, taking my camera and .17 HMR, I set up a “hide” near a water trough that can be seen in the picture.

Beginning a series of calls, nothing came in, but I did have a strange feeling that something was watching me.


Sure enough, as I eased around, there she was, looking right at me. As I took this picture, she was trying to figure out why this thing that looked like a pile of leaves was making those funny noises.

No coyotes yesterday, but I’ll keep trying.

A Summertime Malady

In other parts of our Country, our red bugs, are called chiggers, Trombicula alfreddugesi (Oudemans), but their bite, death and itch can be a real “scratchin” situation, regardless what they’re called for the unprepared or unsuspecting outdoor person. Chiggers are about 1/20 inch long, usually bright red, have hairy bodies, and travel rapidly over the host body.

Being very careful, I’m surprised that I’m the proud owner of 3, BIG, red bug, bites! Each day, before going out to work on my ranch, I always spray the cuffs of my jeans and around my waist, with “elmaxo”, (the strongest), Deep Woods Off, For Outdoorsmen, and I now find myself with 3 serious bites, one on my belt line and one behind each knee. Itch, itch!

When I see a tick on me, they are always hurrying off, but the red bugs stick, bite me, die and leave an incurable itch for 3 or 4 days.

Don’t wear dog or cat flea collars on your ankles or cattle ear tags on your shoes to ward off chiggers. this is very dangerous resulting in chemical skin burns and toxic effect to the wearers.

Red bugs aren’t life threatening so just spray and hope for the best!

Texans Win State Championship

This past weekend in Dallas, The Texans, for this tournament managed by Stumpy, won the Texas Senior Softball Championship for the 70 plus, age bracket. Stumpy filled in for the manager who was celebrating his 50th wedding anniversary. Some things take precedence over softball!

The Texans managed to lose their first game of the double elimination tournament, but put together 5 straight wins to earn the championship. They not only had to overcome the other teams, but also, for their last 3 games, had to overcome 95 degree, temperatures.

Last Saturday, Stumpy happily received the State Championship trophy from a tournament official. It was bright, hot, windy and humid, but after 5 straight wins, they “breezed” to the championship!

Their record now is 31 wins and 9 losses. Two wins and four losses have been to 65, plus teams.

Their next tournament will be in mid July in Kansas City for the Mid America Championship. Stumpy said, “We’re pretty good, but when we go to KC, we’ll see just how good we really are.”