El Shrimp Bucket

Being a good Texas boy, my only exposure to Mexico had been to the sleezy border towns and now to see the budding metropolis of Mazatlan, its traffic, 500,000 inhabitants, beautiful harbor and recent awakening to Gringo tourists, was a real eye opener.

My first trip’s accommodations were at the Playa Mazatlan, the “primo” spot in town. Right on the beach, clean rooms, but no air conditioning and once you got past the night sounds of Mexico, music, horns, laughter and the roaring surf, you slept like a log.

Sleeping in the first morning “south of the border”, getting up and renting a “Yeep”, a Volkswagen Monster, we headed south from the Playa Mazatlan to the harbor to set up a fishing trip. On the way to the harbor, on the left, as we rounded a slow curve, there, on the corner of the first floor of a multi story building, was “El shrimp Bucket”. “I’ve got to stop there,” I shouted, did a “uwey” and parked right in front.

There was a big patio inside the building, like the atriums we have now in our prime office spaces, and to the left was “El Shrimp Bucket”. Little did I know that the patio was part of the restaurant, but twelve years later I would witness a very strange display in that very patio, which is, as they say, another story.

Entering and picking a booth with an ocean view, I checked the menu. A bucket of shrimp for $4.95US and since it was 10:45 AM, why not eat an early lunch. Lunch was served and mine was a full bucket of fried shrimp, not as good as Christie’s in Houston, but probably the second best. Fried onion rings and Guacamole was brought out separately and washed down with Margaritas, was a true feast!

As we were leaving, I noticed a picture of John Wayne hanging over the door and he had signed the picture, as best I remember, “Best shrimp ever! Duke”.

El Shrimp Bucket became my headquarters in Mazatlan too, but I never saw “Duke” there

Morning Walk, July 27, 2009

All this week there’s a good chance of rain for our County and Monday morning greeted me with a mugginess that I thought I had left behind on the Gulf Coast!

Quickly breaking a sweat, but soldering on with my walk, I came upon this doe tucked back in the thick stuff. She sat still for one “shot”, but vamoosed quickly
Keeping up a steady pace, scanning the brush on both sides of the County Road, I glanced down and there was a big snake track crossing the road, probably a big king or rattler.

Stopping, my search of both sides of the road turned up no snakes but it’s easily seen that this was a big one. My shoe tracks are beside the heel size rock.

Each day I check my butt pack and make sure that my camera, cell phone and .22, kit gun are there. Before the summer is over, I bet that I’ll run across this snake again and if it’s a rattler, curtains for it!


In January of 1971, I was transferred to Phoenix and by the summer we were settled in, involved with the local Little League and hearing about two exciting get away spots in Mexico – Rocky Point and Mazatlan.

We chose Mazatlan as our first destination. At the time it was a quaint old town (now over a million inhabitants) located on the mainland directly across the mouth of El Golfo, the Gulf of California, from Cabo San Lucas. Back then, Cabo hadn’t been developed and commercial flights were few and only by Mexican airlines and a person would fly into Mazatlan and then catch the ferry to Cabo San Lucas.

On our first few trips to Mazatlan, we chose the train, the Ferrocarril Del Norte (Iron Horse Of The North), and caught it in Nogales, Mexico, right across the border from Nogales, Arizona. It was a twelve hour, plus or minus, overnight trip that deposited us in Mazatlan the next morning. Shopping and partying were the “sports” of most, but for me it was the fishing.

At the time, the only charter service was Bill Heimpel Star Fleet, also called Flota Mazatlan. They had twenty-six to thirty-two foot cabin boats as shown in the background of the photograph. The boats were seaworthy and reliable, the Captains put you on the fish, but with only one drawback, you had to keep all fish caught. Those not claimed by the fisherman, including the sailfish, were given or sold to the locals. My last visit in 1983 this practice had changed to almost all catch and release.

On my first trip out with Flota Mazatlan we raised fifteen sails, landed seven and returned to the dock with five. The picture shows two of the sailfish. I have caught sails, dolphin (not Flipper), white marlin and raised a large blue marlin and lost it. I was on a boat that landed a two hundred pound blue. I made eight trips down and always wanted to try the “small fishing”, but the excellent fare offshore always lured me away.

This picture from my last trip, shot into the sun, shows a billfish, tail walking across a very calm, Pacific Ocean. This one was released!

More Outdoors Pictures, July 23, 2009

Warren Blesh, owner of RRR Ranch in Mills County, Texas sent me this picture of a monster buck “caught” by his Stealth Cam. The “shot” was taken at 10:12 PM on July 12 and the temperature was still 90 degrees!

Randy Pfaff sent me this picture of a monster pike attacking a hooked, smaller one. Supposedly the lucky angler landed both fish?

Looking Back

When I was a youngster my Dad made sure that I spent a lot of time with his family on their farm outside of Marlin in Falls County, Texas. At that time, prior to WW II, rural farmers and ranchers in Texas didn’t have electricity, propane or butane. The Rural Electrification Agency didn’t arrive in Falls County until after the war.

Looking back I remember helping my Dad, draw water from the hand dug well and haul it the two hundred yards to the house. I remember filling the lanterns with coal oil. I remember the smokehouse with hams hanging around the vent hole in the tin roof and salt pork curing.

I remember us chopping fire wood for Grandma Bryan’s cook stove. If the pieces were too big she would send us both back out to re-split the wood with a stern command, “John H. and Jon, you know that those pieces are too big. Get yourselves back outside and do it right!” But the cobblers, fresh bread and rolls couldn’t be duplicated now. She was a magician with her wood stove! I remember her making lye soap in a huge black kettle and when it cooled washing my hands with it.

I remember finding my first arrowhead and looking around to be sure there weren’t any howling, Comanches around. I remember the first fish I caught in Pool Creek, bordering Grandma’s place. I remember the first covey of quail, exploding out of the fence line behind the peach orchard and how the whirr of their wings scared me, but how calm and sure my Dad and his brother, Roy, were when they were shooting them.

I remember my Dad patiently training me to shoot my first rifle, a Remington, Model 510, Targetmaster. I still have the old rifle and have trained two generation of Bryan children to shoot with it.

I remember climbing up into the peach trees and eating my fill of fresh, ripe peaches. I remember, as a lad of six, sneaking into Tom Norwood’s melon patch and appropriating one, almost as big as me. I remember the sting of the bull nettle that I ran into as I was hurriedly leaving the area.

I remember the outside toilet, a two holer complete with a Sears catalog, and having to check for black widows before you sat down. When you finished you had to drop a hand shovel full of lime through the hole on to the “pile”. A thankless job was cleaning out the outhouse! I don’t remember ever doing that chore.

Morning Walk, July 17, 2009

Heading east on my Thursday walk produced no pictures or, other than the beautiful scenery, anything of note. However, my walk on Friday, after a nice dawn shower, was interesting to say the least.

Having owned this property for fifteen years, walking around it for five of those and being the next to last stop on the Star Mail Route, I had paid no attention to the five mail boxes that represented the last stop on County Roads 406 and 408. The five boxes are for ranches located on both roads, the most distant, being on the Colorado River, five miles away.

Someone in the past had constructed this unusual appliance to make the mail delivery easier. The base is a truck tire rim, the stem is a drill pipe and the mail box holder is a wagon wheel. Star Routes are bid on and “owned” by private contractors and I bet the U.S Postal Service hasn’t ever approved this contraption!

Heading south on this walk takes me by the horse pasture, where, last week, one had jumped the fence and was happily grazing along the road until I scared it back inside. The fence is still almost down and the horses could easily jump it.

While his buddies were grazing, this horse, the fence jumper, saw me coming and never took its eyes off of me. He knew that this crazy man would probably raise his arms, let out a yell and scare him again!

A Tribute To Bubba

One of Brad’s friends and a former commander of his wrote this very touching letter about Brad. He couldn’t attend the funeral because he was deployed in Afghanistan. At the funeral last Saturday, another friend of Brad’s, SFC Tim Albee, who last year helped us make the shooting range at the ranch, read the letter to all of the attendees.

“In August of 2006 I had the pleasure of meeting a man who would become one of the very beast friends I have ever had. This man was Brad Bryan, Bubba, to his family and friends. Bubba had already been through a lot when I met him. Multiple surgeries had left their mark: physical scars and an altered speech pattern. These physical effects were plainly visible, but what was also immediately evident was an inner strength that told me that this man had the courage and determination it took to look the devil himself in the eye and come out on top. I knew immediately that there was no quit in this man. That he had what it took to beat something like cancer, and for a while he did just that. You never heard him complain. He never doubted his faith in Jesus Christ, and he never compromised his dignity.”

You see Bubba comes from good, hearty Texas stock. Starting with his Father, Jon Bryan, Bubba’s lineage goes back six generations to the founding of this great State. He has the blood of pioneers, lawmen, Soldiers, farmers and ranchers running through his veins. Those were men who knew what it took to build something out of nothing, in the face of great hardship, and then make it thrive. Bubba was just like them. His integrity was beyond reproach. His courage was never questioned. He did the hard right and always shunned the easy wrong. Bubba was a man among men. He was my counsel when my path wasn’t clear. He was an example for me, an example of what a real man was made of, of what I and every other man around him should strive to be”

“Bubba was a great Soldier, one I was proud to have in my command. But it will never be his prowess as a Soldier that made him stand out. It was his spirit, the man that he was. It is his devotion to family and friends and his unwavering faith in Jesus Christ, even in the face of adversity, that makes him stand out. Bubba was my friend, one I love like a brother, and I will never forget him. Louis Lamour used a quote when describing men like Bubba. He said that a man like Bubba was “One to ride the river with”. Bubba there is not a river in all creation that I would not ride with you. I miss you, I love you, and I will see you in Heaven because I know that is exactly where you are.”

An Update on Brad, July 10, 2009

This past Tuesday morning, my Son, Brad passed away. His Son, Bradley, was holding his hand when he peacefully slipped these earthly bonds and went to be with the Lord. Brad’s faith and strength in handling his malady are a guide and a pathway for all of us. Now he is pain free and will be with Jesus! Praise the Lord!

He had visited M.D. Anderson in Houston on July 3 and his docs told him that he wouldn’t survive the massive surgery required to remove a tumor from the front of his spine and that it could not be treated with direct radiation because he’d already had his lifetime maximum dosage of radiation. He was also told that these tumors were growing rapidly and that they had spread from his lungs to his other internal organs. The docs told him that it would be all over within two months.

Brad understood all of this and his faith, strength and attitude were awesome to behold!

Funeral arrangements will be provided by:

Crawford Bowers Funeral Home
211 W. Ave. B
Copperas Cove, Texas 76522

Phone 254-547-1275

The full military funeral will begin at 10:00 AM on Saturday, July 11, 2009. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the American Cancer Society. Donate by phone or by mail, if you prefer, using the following contact information. Call 1-800-ACS-2345 or mail your donation to American Cancer Society, P.O. Box 22718, Oklahoma City, OK 73123-1718.

There won’t be any posts on this blog until July 15th.

Texans Win Mid American Championship

Stumpy and the Texans, posing for this team picture, won their fourth straight tournament, the Mid American Championship held in Liberty, Kansas last Thursday and Friday and ran their record to nineteen wins against only three losses.

The team did all of the little things right, turning thirteen double plays and throwing out three runners at home plate. For the first time in his career, Stumpy hit three triples in one game driving in five runs and for the entire tournament he drove in eleven!

Next up, August fourth through the sixth is the Eastern Championship Tournament in Raleigh, North Carolina. The Texans will be facing a lot of good teams that they normally don’t see until the national championships in September. Winning this one will set them up as favorites to win the nationals!