Goin’ To Kansas City

“Kansas City here I come”, but this is not about the lyrics of the famed song written by W. Harrison, but we, The Texans, are really going to Kansas City to play Senior Softball. I’ll be leaving by plane on June 30th, (“I might catch a plane”) and Layla, driving up from Paris, Texas after a stint keeping Grandkids, then a business trip to Oklahoma City for a softball meeting, will pick me up at the Kansas City airport. Our portion of the tournament will take place on July 1 and 2 and then, she and I will start our drive home after the last game.

This tournament is for the Mid American Championship, The Texans have won this event for the last two years and I believe we’ll play well. I am sure the food will be good!

More Outdoors Pictures, June 28, 2010

Visiting with Bob Baugh recently, he had found some pictures of me taken in the 1980’s that he shared. Catching, cleaning and cooking fish has always been one of my “jobs”. These old pictures show me at my best.
In the first one, standing in Bob’s, trailered, twenty-three foot Formula, the tackle has been washed down and I’ve just finished filleting one side of about a ten pound, amberjack.

The other shows me hard at work in front of Bob’s house cutting up some chum for the next day’s trip. After years of having sores on my hands from cleaning fish, I finally found out that by holding fish in a towel ,as shown, as I filleted them, stopped the problem!

Bob Baugh’s ex wife caught this hundred and sixty-five pound, marlin while on a trip to Mazatlan. I had taken some great, pictures during the fight, but over time, they’ve been lost.

In 1970, during a cool, foggy morning in West Galveston Bay, this five pound, redfish mistakenly fell victim to my bait and ended up in the frying pan. I wasn’t being “cool” with the shades, but the polarized sun glasses cut right through the morning haze. This old picture of mine just turned up.


We got lucky on this shrimp boat and snapped this picture just as it was pulling in its net. Birds can be seen working the spill as the net comes up.

We were lucky because the crew would start culling the catch as soon as the net was dumped. The culling and throwing of the by-catch overboard would jump start the food chain and the predators should gather around eagerly gobbling everything up.

Just as dawn was breaking on this late June morning in 1986, we, Bob Baugh, Charley King and I had cleared the Freeport Jetties and headed out on a hundred and ninety degree course, looking for anchored, shrimp boats. We were lucky to find our first one just pulling in the net and circled it until the crew started culling.

Pulling up beside the boat and starting our drift, we put out our lines. Our rigs were six and a half foot, medium action rods, reels loaded with thirty pound, line, a three foot steel leader and a sharp, single hook. Our first drift wasn’t productive so after two hundred yards we pulled back up alongside the shrimper and started another drift.

We were watching the chum floating, some was sinking, when we saw the flash of a predator fish, probably a kingfish. Just after this, Charley’s line took a big hit. He set the hook, the fish took off peeling thirty yards of line off of the reel and all he could do was hold on. Relenting to the rod’s pressure the fish soon came to gaff and we saw it was a small, barracuda, Sphyraena. Here Charley is holding it up for a picture and the fish’s distinctive markings are easy to see. Since barracudas aren’t good to eat, we threw it back.

Soon Bob and I were both hooked up with bigger fish and after spirited fights, we gaffed and boxed them, almost identical fifteen pound, kingfish, or king mackerel, Scomberomorus cavalla. We caught eleven all told, ten kings and the one barracuda and the action was hot and heavy until the crew stopped culling. Then, like a light switch that’s turned off, the fish quit hitting.

We kept looking for another hour, then ran over to a production, oil rig and tied off to it, hoping to hook up with a snapper or amberjack. No luck this time, just small ones, and since we had a good mess of fish we decided to beat the heat and head back in.

Overall, a good fishing trip and a lucky fishing trip!

Fish Sandwiches

Layla and I had taken a long weekend in late June at our beach house in Bayou Vista and Monday morning turned out to be “one of those days”. The tide was coming in all morning, light wind out of the southeast and all of “the weekenders” had gone home.

Since the conditions were picture perfect, we were going to fish around the wreck in West Galveston Bay. I’d always had a soft spot in my heart for the wrecked, shrimp boat that lay less than a hundred yards off of the old Intercoastal Waterway channel. One problem! The last big, low pressure, system that had come this way had knocked down the exhaust pipe of the boat and there wasn’t anyway to find the old wreck.

Being sure that I could find the general area, we headed out the “back way” to West Bay. Two years before, Randy and I headed out this very same way and he had run my Whaler into the reef beside the small cut, “unhorsing me”, see [“A Close Call”]. But, the big twenty-two footer had no problem, gliding close to the marker, flying across the Intercoastal and heading on into the bay. Just think, this boat would run flat out in twelve inches of water! Here’s a picture of it in the sling at our beach house.

Finding the general area of “the wreck” we both cast out. Layla was using a spinning outfit with eight pound; line, popping cork, three foot, leader, topped off with a nice, live shrimp. By the way, she never learned how to successfully attach the shrimp to the hook, but I gladly did this chore. My outfit was the same, but I had a seven and a half foot popping rod that hurled my shrimp out as far as her spinning rig.

Working and popping the corks, mine went under first and I was rewarded with a real, pole bender! The trout made one good run, then wallowed on the top of the water, came into the boat, then the fun started! The trout made me do the “West Bay Shuffle” around the boat twice, before the combination of the long fight and the rod’s pressure, had it laying on the top. Layla netted it and we both admired the six pounder, before I released it.

Layla caught two nice eating size specs that we boxed for today’s lunch and noticing that we’d drifted out of the catching zone, I doubled back, swinging wide, and started the drift pattern again. Again, my first cast was met with another hard strike and same song, second verse. This spec was a twin to my first one, another six pounder that we released. We both caught some eating size specs that we put into the cooler and decided that we’d call it a day and head back in.

Getting back, as Layla washed out the boat, I filleted the fish. We put one freezer bag up for future use and took two nice fillets up into the house and fried them up. Taking two pieces of white bread, adding some tartar sauce, then slapping on the fried fish, yum-yum! Adding some ice tea, this made a meal fit for a king and a perfect ending to our long weekend!

Growing Up – Watermelon Patch

As WWII ended, spending most of my summers at my Grandma Bryan’s house, outside of Marlin, was an exciting time for me. But, as boys in a rural setting will do, we decided that we needed more excitement than just catching crawdads.

One afternoon, my cousin, Dan, said that he thought stealing some watermelons would be fun. I quickly agreed with him. Our first job was to find a patch with some ripe melons. He figured that down the lane from Grandmas, Uncle Tom Norwood’s patch would be just about ripe.

To both of us, being 10 years old, Uncle Tom was a menacing figure. Tall, erect, a retired school teacher and, we later discovered that he was also a former slave. Before, or during, the Civil War, he was born into slavery and at the time he must have been over 85 years old. His wife, Betty, approximately the same age and a former slave too and when we were younger, she was a very caring nanny to both Dan and I. Being the closest patch around, we picked Uncle Tom’s.

We figured that it would be better if we stole the melons during the afternoon since the high temperature then would probably keep Uncle Tom inside. Down the lane, short pants and tennis shoes clad, we snuck and ahead, spotting the melon patch. Climbing through the fence we noticed some sticker kind of low, bushy flowers growing among the melons. We soon found out that these harmless looking “flowers” were really bull nettles, or stinging nettles, a very poisonous plant known to kill small animals, even dogs. The little hairs along the leaf packed a wallop, especially on bare legs!

Finding two ripe melons was easy. The hard part was getting them out of the patch. The first thing I did was to brush against a nettle. Wow, that stung as bad as a yellow jacket! Then Dan brushed against one, howling, and the race was on! Our goal of stealing melons was quickly forgotten as we dropped ‘em and scrambled out of the patch and hightailed it home.

Our legs were on fire as we told our Grandma what we’d done. In no uncertain terms, she scolded us for even thinking of taking one of Uncle Tom’s watermelons, but, kindly, she told us of an old Texas remedy for bull nettle stings, pee on the sting. We peed on each other’s legs and the stinging abated and we never thought again about stealing watermelons again!

Growing Up – Catching Crawdads

When WWII ended, my Grandma Bryan lived in Marlin, Texas, three miles out on Rock Damn Road. She owned acreage and the house was set back from the road and when you turned into the drive, it crossed over a large embankment making a natural damn that most of the time, except for periods of extreme drought, held water. This water also held plenty of crawdads!

We, my cousins and neighbor boys, would spend our time “fishing” for these crawdads. Through trial and error, we found out that if a piece of bacon from Grandma’s smoke house was securely tied to a piece of kite line, the crawdads would tenaciously hold on to the bacon even while they were lifted from the water. Then we would drop them into a net, separate them from the bacon and drop them into a glass dish.

We never could get Grandma or our Mothers to fry up our catch so, dedicatedly, after the dish had several crawdads in it, we practiced catch and release. We determined that if we caught all of ‘em, we couldn’t spend our time fishing for them

Once, to my surprise, I tried to grab a larger, one behind his pinchers, but it was quicker than me and inflicted a painful pinch to my finger. Another time we caught, what I now would call, an Opelousas Red. Maybe not a real Red, but this one was much larger than the others and very, very aggressive, not wanting to yield its bacon to our prying fingers. It would rare up on its tail and wave its claws menacingly at us, then attack when we tried to grab the bacon. We used a broom to shoo it back into the water and then quickly moved to another location around the pond.

A great drought hit our State in the late 40’s, the crawdad pond went dry for several years and they moved out and never took up residence there again. Last year, on one of my morning walks, what did I come across but a crawdad crossing the County Road. This one was a big ‘un an years before, having learned a painful lesson well, I gave Mr. Crawdad a wide berth.

More Outdoors Pictures, June 18, 2010

Good pictures keep coming in! The latest are from Clayton Gist, Randy Pfaff and James Crumley.

Clayton Gist sent me this picture of a happy hunter and his axis deer. Clayton recently stocked the axis on his ranch, see “[More Outdoors Pictures, March 30, 2010]”, and last Thursday held his first successful hunt.

Randy Pfaff sent me this picture of one of his friends and the mighty trout he caught. He landed this one in the river near Randy’s home in southern Colorado. Nice fish!

James Crumley usually sends me pictures of fish caught by him and his son’s, but this time he sent me a picture of his daughter. She was chosen in the top 15 contestants in this year’s Mrs.Texas Pagent. Very pretty lady!

Almost Baffin Bay

Late June isn’t the best of times for fishing in Baffin Bay, south-southwest of Corpus Christi, but, in 2005, my cousin, George Pyland, and I had decided on making one last fishing expedition (before we got too old). Before day break when we launched his boat on the upper end of Padre Island the wind was howling out of the south and the forecast was for it to howl even more during the day. Not a very good sign since we faced a long ride across open water both going and coming.

Surviving the long ride, on the way we had decided to start fishing on a reef around the mouth of Baffin Bay, we pulled up, just off of the Intercoastal Waterway and anchored on the reef’s south side. With the high wind, the water was cloudy, but we still had high hopes for a successful trip.

We were using standard popping cork outfits; seven and a half foot, medium action, graphite rods, Shimano reels loaded with twelve pound line, a small, popping cork, three feet of ten pound leader, anchored by a small treble hook. Our bait for the day was live shrimp hooked under the horn, which is my favorite bait for specs.

We cast our rigs out, popped the cork once and, on cue, both corks went under, two hard strikes! Both fish took off for parts unknown, wallowed on the top like all good specs are prone to do, then relenting to the pressure of the rod and reel’s drag, came in toward the boat to continue their fight. After a trip around the boat doing the “West Bay Shuffle”, I netted both trout, two and a half pounders!

For some reason, for the next fifteen minutes, our casts were met with no strikes. Then the action picked up and we started catching trout. The action was steady and as soon as the water stopped moving on the tide change, we had our limit, twenty of ‘em. Except for the first two we caught, all the fish were all one and a half to two pounds, a good mess of specs! We had planned to go on into Baffin Bay, now since we couldn’t fish there, we opted to take the long ride back.

After our long bumpy, ride back to the launch ramp I filleted the fish. Then, we shook hands, hugged, climbed into our trucks and headed home. All the way back home I thought to myself, I’m not too old to try this again! Anyway, we almost made it into Baffin Bay.


This past Thursday and Friday, Stumpy and his Texans, for their age group, won the State Senior Softball, Championship for the third straight time! They beat the Texas Greyhounds two straight to win the laurels.
The Texans have a tradition (folks from Texas have a lot of traditions) that after each game, our shortstop’s wife, Betty Holland, hands out a fresh banana to each one of us. After three or four games in one day, this helps to restore our potassium, keeps us from getting cramps and is quite filling. It really works too! We had Betty pose with us for a team picture and we’re all smiling showing off our bananas and championship trophy!

In the first game against the Greyhounds, Stumpy came to bat in the 6th inning with the score tied 12-12 and the bases loaded. To ice the game for The Texans, he delivered a base clearing triple to the wall in center field. A base hit drove him in giving The Texans a 16-12 win.

In the second game, in the bottom of the 7th, The Texans began the inning behind 12-7. They rallied to tie the game and Stumpy once again came up with the winning run on second, but he was walked on four pitches. The next batter, Ed Bailey delivered a hit driving in the winning run, giving the Texans their “3peat” State Championship.

In this picture, Stumpy is all smiles after he passed through the victory arch (another tradition) made by The Texans’ wives. In the background, Betty can be seen passing out the bananas.

More About My Book, June 12, 2010

In Church this past Sunday I sat beside Roy Varley and his wife, Linda. Roy is a former business executive and both of them had some comments about my book, “[The End Of The Line]”. Roy said, “When I got the book I finished it in two sessions and I liked it!” Then he added, “When are you going to write one about your quail hunting?” At this, Linda, chimed in, “I read it too and I liked it!”

More good news! On Monday, June 7, I took the book to Hastings Book Store in Brownwood and they stepped up for five copies. This isn’t much for a Tom Clancey or James Lee Burke, but it’s a start for me since Hastings is a state wide book store. It would be neat if they took it State wide!