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.

A back yard view of our Bayou Vista House.

A week later the homebuyer’s nephew purchased my boat.

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.

Morning Walk, July 29, 2008

Packing my camera along for yesterday morning’s walk, I was rewarded with a couple of nice pictures. “Hitting the road” before the sun came up, one deer was watering and I snapped a good “shot” of her.

Walking along, I noticed one of my neighbor’s goats had come up to the fence, wondering what was this “thing” walking along the road.

The goat was somewhat photogenic.


Mills County prides itself in being “The Meat Goat Capital Of Texas”! These goats are sold to Muslim countries.

State Baseball Tournament

Layla and I spent this past weekend in Hillsboro, Texas watching our Grandson, Colton and his team from Goldthwaite play in the Texas Teen-Age Baseball-Softball Association’s, High School Eligible, State Championship, Tournament. Colton just finished the 8th grade and will be a freshman soon, but he was eligible to play.

There were 21, Class A, AA and AAA teams in the tournament. Goldthwaite (Class A) tied for third with West (Class AA). Rosebud-Lott (Class AA), beat Goldthwaite 4-3 in the semi-finals and later on won the tournament, with Vanguard, a Christian High School in Waco coming in second. The smaller high school, Goldthwaite, did very well!

Colton didn’t play a lot and wasn’t a star, but it was a good experience for him and here, against Italy (Class A), he is “pulling the trigger” on a fastball that he drove into left field for a base hit, driving in a run.
Here he’s finished his swing and is moving on to first base.


Football, 2-a-days, start next Monday and Colton, 5”9” and 185, with 5.0 or 4.9, 40 yard speed, is rarin’ to go! We’ll follow his progress closely.

Sea Sick

This ling fell for an old trick. Bob Baugh nailed this 45 pounder, not too far out in the Gulf of Mexico. The “line cut” on the fish’s skin shows plainly.

Before sun up, on the outskirts of Freeport, Texas, we stopped at the only, open convenience store and bought us some ham, bread and snacks for our offshore trip that morning. Bob and I had been planning this, mid week, trip for almost 2 weeks and finally “caught” some nice, calm weather seas 1 to 2 feet, with winds calm to 5 MPH, all day. It would be hot, but what’s new for summer along the Texas Gulf coast?

We were going to try out Bob’s, new 20 foot, aluminum, deep vee, boat, with a 60 HP motor. It would “scream” in our bays, but we didn’t know how it would handle in the Gulf’s swells.

We launched the boat, bought some cigar minnows and headed out of the channel, between the rock jetties and on into the Gulf of Mexico. Our plan was to fish the near oil, rigs, 12 to 15 miles southwest, out of Freeport and, hopefully, load up on some kingfish, king mackerel, and, maybe, catch a good size ling, or cobia.

It appeared to us that we were the only boat out that morning and the first rig we tied up to was covered up with 10 to 15 pound kings and, in short order, we had 5 in the over size cooler. Using speckled trout rigs; 7 foot, popping rods, with 15, pound line spooled on our Ambassaduer reels, when we hooked a king, we were getting an initial 50 to 75, yard, screaming run. The fights were fun, but Bob was anxious to find a rig that held some big ling.

Unhooking from the rig, I asked Bob, “How about a sandwich, a ham, roll over sounds good to me?” Bob idled the boat away from the rig and I laid out the bread on top of the big cooler and opened the ham’s container. Ugh! What a rancid smell and I quickly threw the spoiled meat overboard!

However, the damage was done and within 5 minutes mal de mere! Bob jerked the boat up on top and sped toward the next rig as I held on and tried to concentrate on a rig along the horizon. Some times this helps, but not this time as I held up a 5, gallon bucket and up came breakfast. I felt bad, as only one can feel when sea sick!
Bob hooked up to the next rig and I didn’t feel like moving or fishing. I was still standing, checking out the horizon as Bob cast out, and right away hooked into a nice king. He subdued the 25, pounder, and to get it into the boat, I had to move-move around and gaff it.

Performing my job to Bob’s minimum satisfaction, we iced the king and Bob said, “We don’t need anymore kings, let’s go find a ling!” I wanted to find the shore, but replied a green, “OK.”

The second rig we stopped at, Bob raised the motor up and gunned it, making a huge splash, and up popped two big, ling, probably 80 pounders, the biggest ones either one of us had ever seen! These fish are extremely curious and the noise and splashing of the motor will draw them up from within the rig. When I saw these two big guys, lazily coming to the surface, I experienced a miraculous recovery, grabbed a rod and slipped a cigar minnow into the water.

One moved slowly over to the bait and ate it, I set the hook and straight down the fish plowed, the 15 pound line was no match for this bruiser, and “pop”, the line snapped. Bob also snapped, “I told you that light stuff is no match for these big fish!” I could only claim “sea sickness”.

Using the same splashing tactic at the next rig, sure enough up floated another big, ling. Bob said, “Watch this.” As he cast out a stout boat rod with, 80, pound line on a Penn Senator reel, the ling slowly swam up to the bait and just hovered there. Bob jerked the cigar minnow and the ling moved over and inhaled it.

Down, down, down, line tearing off the heavy reel, the ling was trying to get into the rig and cut Bob off. He tightened the drag and stopped the ling cold and began vigoursly, pumping the rod and getting the line back. The ling came up much easier that it went down and finished this fight, churning the water around the boat.

Completely healed, I gaffed the big fish and Bob whacked it on the head and we lifted it up and into the big cooler. We headed on in, loaded up the boat that, by the way, handled very nicely out there and drove on over to Bayou Vista. We filleted the fish and made sure we gave some to my neighbor. She was a WW II “war bride” from France and always made us the best fish soup anywhere!

She and her husband rode out Hurricane Alicia as it passed right over Bayou Vista. They looked out during the fury of the storm and counted 5 tornados/water spouts and her husband told me, “That was enough for me. We decided right there that we’d move.” A month later they moved to Alabama and we never got a chance to get her fish soup recipe.

Swimmin’ In The Trinity River

During the summer of 1848, my, 3G Uncle, Buck Barry, and some of his friends had an interesting swimming outing in the Trinity River. Earlier in the year Buck had sailed from Charleston, S.C. to Galveston, then bayou-boated up to Houston, where he hired teamsters to take him to Bazette bluff, on the Trinity River, east of the present town of Corsicana.

Buck Barry as a young man, probably near the time when he came to Texas.

Picking up Buck’s story from his diary, “Buck Barry, Texas Ranger And Frontiersman”, and condensing it a smidge, he and his friends had gone swimming in the Trinity when a man on the bank alerted them that an alligator was heading their way. Looking up river, steadily approaching us, we could only see the ‘gators eyes above water.

We “trolled” it on toward us, and then, the man on the bank shot the ‘gator. It floated for about a minute then sank in three feet of water. The bloody water and bubbles made us think he was dead, so we formed a line abreast and began searching for it with our feet. Soon, a stout young man, John O’Neil, stepped on the ‘gator and shouted, “Here he is! I’m standing on him. I’ll dive down and bring him up.”

John dived, but the ‘gator was very much alive and until the shore was reached, a lively fight ensued. First John was on top, then the ‘gator and we saw the shot had broken the ‘gator’s jaw and it couldn’t bite John, otherwise it would have drowned him.

The ‘gator then took full possession of the battlefield, swimming around in a circle, daring us to intrude on him again. Another shot took care of the gator and we knew it was fatal because the ‘gator sank without a struggle. We formed another line, found that it was dead, and brought it to shore.

Buck doesn’t say what they did with the ‘gator, but I’m sure it was eaten.

Today, the Trinity River is still “full” of ‘gators!

A Sweaty Hunt

Last Saturday evening, with the temperature still hovering around 95, I snuck into one of my deer blinds just to see what I could see. Packing my trusty .17 HMR, I was looking for a stray predator, but with a full moon and the temperature, my chances of seeing anything were slim.

In the picture, notice how green and lush the cover looks, but in reality, our area is locked in a severe drought!

There was a nice breeze, but my ghillie coat was blocking most of it, and the sweat was pouring off of me as I sat and saw nothing! Right at dusk, I half-heartedly blew two rounds of an injured rabbit call, not expecting results and none presented themselves. My sweaty frame of mind didn’t “excite” my confidence much!

I’ll keep trying! Just think, it’ll start to cool off in about 3 months!

Morning Walk, July 20th

Nothing exciting on my last 2 morning walks, but yesterday, I took my camera along anyway. Layla was in Tulsa running a national championship softball tournament for 50, 55 and 60 age classes, so my other 2 “walkers” Bo and spike, joined me and I did get a good picture of them.

Walking along and coming up to a cross fence, there was a yearling doe and you can see we both surprised each other, so I snapped a “shot” at her.


The deer and I were standing in the shadows, so the flash was automatic and was picked up in both of her eyes. Bo and Spike kept on walking as she nervously trotted off, keeping her tail down.

Nothing else of interest, but I’ll keep taking the camera along!

A Trophy

By 1997 the Tarpon had returned to the Galveston/Bolivar/Freeport beachfronts in sufficient numbers to convince a number of bay fishing guides to concentrate on them and start a fishery consisting of Tarpon, Jackfish, Kingfish and Black Tip Sharks. The guides used light to medium tackle and, to protect their livelihood, vigorously practiced catch and release of the Tarpon.

Bob Baugh and I decided to take a day off and go fish with Mike Williams, owner of Tarpon Express, and considered to be the best saltwater/Tarpon guide in the Galveston area. We hadn’t used a local guide before but figured he’d know about catching the Tarpon, where they were, and most important, he was on the water every day
We met him in Galveston, at the Exon Station, at the corner of 69th
Street and Seawall Blvd., and followed him down the sixteen miles of
beachfront to San Luis Pass and launched his twenty-three footer,
powered by a two hundred horse outboard. He had already picked up a
supply of frozen cigar minnows, that we would be using for bait. He had
made the decision for us not to use artificials since he said the
Tarpon were really spread out and hadn’t been hitting artificials for
the past week. That’s why we hired him!

The morning was picture
perfect, light southeast wind, tide rolling in bringing in the clear
green Gulf water, reminding me of another picture perfect morning, not
two miles from here, where, over forty years ago, a shark ate my

We loaded up in the boat and motored under the San
Luis Pass Bridge and two hundred yards past the last sand bar Mike, Bob
and I all spotted a circular slick about the size of a number 5
washtub. This usually meant Trout. Trout will voraciously feed and
while feeding, regurgitate their stomach contents and continue feeding.
The slick is made by these contents floating to the surface.

cut the boat back to neutral and since I was already baited up, told
me, “Jon, cast right into that slick.” I did and was rewarded by a
solid strike, taking my bait, but no fish. I quickly baited up and cast
back into the slick and this time a big fish hit my bait and headed
east down the beachfront, pausing only to clear the water and expose
its silver/green sides a big Tarpon!

Wow, my first real
opportunity to land a big, Tarpon. I had the utmost confidence in the
fishing tackle I was using, a seven foot, medium action, fiberglass rod
Bob had made for me several years before, with an eighty pound,
monofilament leader and twenty pound line wrapped onto an Ambassadeur
7000 reel,

The fish continued to run, then stopped and cleared
the water again, and just like the outdoor writers say, to create a
small bit of slack in my line, I dropped my rod tip, as a “cushion” as
the Tarpon entered the water. Now, while I reeled furiously to keep the
line tight, he ran right back toward us. Another jump, another lowered
rod tip, another long run, then I started gaining line as it wallowed
on the surface, then Mike put a hand gaff right in the point of the
Tarpon’s lower jaw, and I had my trophy.

This was strictly catch
and release fishing, so we measured the Tarpon as best we could, Bob
took pictures of the fish in the water (he can’t find the picture now)
and we released it to fight another day. Our estimate was that it was
sixty inches long and weighed eighty pounds! I took the measurements to
a taxidermist and had a shoulder mount made up of the fish coming out
of the water. The mount was displayed in my office for many years and
now, Bob has it.

We continued fishing that day and caught
several Kingfish and one five foot, Black Tip Shark and lost several
Kings and Sharks when they bit through the mono leaders. We did not see
or connect with another Tarpon.

good thing was that Mike cleaned the Kings as we were fishing, so at
the end of the day, we plopped them into the cooler and headed home. It
figures that the only picture of the day’s catch was this small King.

was my second experience using a fishing guide, the first being on the
Suwannee River, and both times, I really got my moneys worth!