Radio Interview

On last Thursday, July 22, I was contacted by the folks at [The Big Wild Radio Program], currently airing on 22 stations in the upper, mid west, asking if I would do an 8 minute interview, Friday, on froggin’. After reading my September 17,2009 post on froggin’, [“What’s It Called”], Gundy and Johnny V, hosts of the program, contacted me on Friday and taped an 8 minute segment about the sport.

The segment will air on July 31 and will be posted on [The Big Wild Radio Program]’s blog on August 2 and will cover shooting, gigging, grabbing, cleaning, recipes and eatin’ of frog legs. Not having a list of the radio stations, it would be best to check out their blog.

Radio personality, hmmm?

Off To Hot Springs

I don’t believe there’s been a song written about going to Hot springs, but Stumpy and his Texans are going up there today for a two day tournament, starting on Thursday. Finally we’ll be getting to play some competitive teams, BUT, we’ll still be missing three of our good players.

The one we will miss most is Eldon Brast, our number one pitcher. He will be at the hospital Friday while his daughter, Debbie, has neck surgery. All should pray that the surgery is successful!

We’ll be better than our effort in Kansas City, but two good teams, The Texas Greyhounds and Oklahoma Blast will be waiting to sneak up on us. Who knows how it’ll turn out because were still playing on a square field, using a round bat and round ball?

Sweet Potatoes

We enjoy sweet potatoes several times a week. They’re healthy, provide fiber and are low on fat. Yesterday, for lunch, we tried something a little different.

At lunch, Layla and I split a t-bone, but of course she got the tender side. Along with the steak, we had green chilies and onions and we halved a sweet potato. Now, regular potatoes are a natural with steak, but being on a healthy eating kick and trying to loose weight, we thought we’d have a sweet potato too.

It turned out that the sweet potato was great with the steak and green chilies and onions, I even mixed all three together in one bite and the taste was excellent! Sweet potatoes are easy to prepare in the microwave. Just puncture the skin several times, place in the microwave, cover with a paper towel and cook for five minutes. Take the potato out of the mic, cut open and apply a butter substitute. They are very, very tasty.

Now for the green chilies and onions. Clean and slice up a fist sized onion, then take a good sized skillet and with the electric stove on low/simmer, or the gas stove burner set on real low, put a half of a stick of butter into the skillet, then, add the onions, cover and simmer for a few minutes, until the onions turn glassy looking, or lose their whiteness. Then, take a can of diced, Ortega chilies and add to the onion/butter mix and cook for ten more minutes. Serve hot, feeds two, double or triple recipe for more folks, are great over steaks and scrambled, eggs and probably will “go along” with almost anything.

Sunday afternoon, we also made some home made, peach ice cream, with peaches off one of our trees, used skim milk, along with Splenda, but, I don’t think I’ll try to put any green chilies and onions on the ice cream. One of these days, I’ll post the recipe for our peach ice cream too.

The Black River

Arizona summers can be brutal with their heat, July especially and this particular one in 1973 was really brutal! Temps in the hundred and twenties to twenty-five, not much wind and frequent, swirling, dust storms. The dust storms led to the chore of cleaning out our pool, too.

Thursday morning I got a call from Jake Schroder and he said, “Beech, this summer’s too hot for this ol’ Texas boy. Let’s take our families up to the Black River, camp out, fish and enjoy the seven to eight thousand foot temperatures!” Needing no prompting, I obliged him and we agreed, in order to get the camp set up before dark, to leave just after lunch on Friday.

The Black River, one of our favorite camping spots, was on the Ft. Apache Indian Reservation and already having permits to fish, hunt and camp on the Apache Indian’s land helped to make the three hour, drive an easy one. South of Ft. Apache, the Black River joins the White River to form the Salt River and the chain of lakes that leads down the Salt’s canyon to Phoenix. By the time the Salt reaches Phoenix, except for periods of heavy rain, it is just a dry river, bed, flowing on until it meets up with Quiotosa Wash and forms the Gila River that flows on until it meets the mighty, Colorado at Yuma.

Enough geography! Camp setting was easy too with each of our total of six children having their assigned chores. Jake and I planned our next days fishing trip while our wives started the preps for dinner. He and I would grill the steaks on our special, two by three foot, piece of steel, expanded metal. In 1971 we found this great, grilling, tool beside the road and used it whenever we camped out. During our move to Atlanta in 1974 every item of our goods was delivered, but for the piece of expanded metal and I’m sure that some moving hand acquired him a great grilling tool also.

As the sun was coming up Saturday morning there was no breakfast in bed as we gobbled a hurried snack and started our descent down into the canyon of the Black River. The canyon sides went from a pleasant walk, to a slide, with a misstep meaning a fall of some distance. Jake, our boys and I made it safely down to the river. The boys explored, like the girls above, looking for artifacts that were illegal to remove from the reservation, while Jake and I began fishing for the plentiful small mouth, bass.

Our lure of choice was a Mepps, Number 2, spinner a great choice for the small mouths and any lurking trout. I have used this spinner in several places along the Colorado River in Arizona, in the Big Thompson River in Colorado and in Georgia on the Chattachoochie, all with great results!

We were both armed with whippy rods, spinning reels with eight pound, line and we were also armed with .22 pistols, that later, led to an interesting development. We carried along our pistols, not using them once, for self defense, against the many rattlers.

We saw no one else during our two day stay, fished all day Saturday and Sunday morning, kept enough for a good mess for a two family fish fry and, needless to say, the fishing was great! After a quick meal of fish sandwiches, we gathered up everything, packed our trucks and, with Jake and his family in the lead, headed back to our homes, better said as ovens, in Paradise Valley.

After a several mile, four wheel drive only, jaunt we finally hit the blacktop and waiting for us, it seemed, was a White Mountain Indian Policeman. These have always been tough guys, the same Policeman that helped subdue the mighty Apache Nation and forced most of them on to the San Carlos Reservation. An ironic note to this sad chapter in our Nation’s treating of all Indians, was that after rounding up the Apaches, the White Mountain Apache Policeman were also herded on to boxcars and shipped off to Florida, returning years later to their mountain home.

The Policeman pulled us both over, checked the Shroder’s papers, no racial profiling then, then came running back to our truck shouting, “Where’s the pistol, out of the truck?” We unloaded everyone and I showed him the unloaded, pistol, a Ruger Bearcat, quite expensive now, he took it and said, “This is illegal on the Reservation and I’m going to keep it!” Offering a barrage of reasons why he should just give us the gun back and send us on our way, he finally relented, but forcefully said, “I don’t ever want to see either of your families on this Reservation again!”

We never went back, but Jake, his son, the same son that told the Indian Policeman about our gun, his son-in-law and grandson went back two years ago, but he never told me about any police encounters.

Almost Whoppers

Nearing noon on a hot, late July, day, we, Doug Small, a neighbor, and I were ready to call it quits and head in from a less than productive trip of trying to find and catch some speckled trout east of the Galveston Causeway. The tide had started out and us having been at it since sun up, were hot, tired, sun burned and casted out, when we noticed five, fishing boats pulled close to the small islets that separated Swan Lake from the bay. They were northeast of the mouth of Campbell’s Bayou and just below the first of a series of small cuts that ran out of the upper end of Swan Lake.

Closer inspection showed that these were five, guide boats, sans clients, just guides. Having know some of these fellows, they signaled for us to pull in behind the last boat and one hollered out, “Not too close to the bank, there’s a school of reds just below the little cut.”

Just then, one had a big strike and set to battling the red. It was some fight, but finally the pressure from the rod and the reel’s drag slowed the fish, it was boated and the happy guide held up a nice redfish, probably thirty inches long. Another guide had a hit and let out a yell as the fish, another big one, peeled off line. Soon it was boated, another thirty incher, just like the first.

We hurriedly cast out toward the shore and began working our shrimp back toward the boat, popping the corks and keeping the slack out of our lines. We both had solid strikes, hoping for two big reds, but after short fights we boated two, three pound, specs, nice fish, but not the hoped for reds. Casting out again with no luck, we could only sit and watch as the guides decimated this school of fine redfish, catching between twelve and fifteen of the battlers! Obviously, our two specs had been hanging below the reds, hoping to clean up the scraps!

We caught no more specs, they cleaned up on the reds and over a year later, at the Houston Boat and Travel Show, I saw one of the lucky guides and he told me that it was a, “Once in a lifetime deal and if another of the guides hadn’t spotted the fish in close and radioed the others, probably you and your friend would have gotten into them first!”

For years, I always checked out this spot on an opening, outgoing tide, but never had the luck that we almost had and, just think, we could only watch!

Too Hot To Fish, (Almost)

In 1986, the “dog days” of summer came early and by the end of July it was almost too hot and humid to plan an offshore fishing trip. Dewey Stringer and I had a bad case of cabin fever and decided that we’d brave the heat and humidity just to have a go at some kingfish. Picking a Friday, because it was too hot to work (ha-ha), we conned another of our king chasers, Max Weber, to go along. We decided that we would leave early, before the sun came up, find some shrimpers culling their nights catch, then, load up on the kings and be back before 9:30 AM.

Max spent the night with Dewey on Tiki Island and I stayed at my Bayou Vista home and all of us were up way before the sun, loaded up Dewey’s boat, a twenty-three footer with a two hundred horse outboard, and headed for the Intercoastal Waterway. Hand held spotlights blazing, we planned out his boat and sped under the bridges of the Galveston Causeway, under Pelican Island Bridge, through Galveston Harbor then turned right between the jetties and on out into the gulf.

The night before we’d gone by our friendly, German bait camp operator, the same one that was the star of “[Invasion]” on one of my earlier posts, picked up bait and ice, and found out from him just where the shrimp boats were anchoring up and culling. We picked a beautiful morning for our jaunt offshore, very light wind out of the southeast, slick seas with virtually no swells and at first light, sure enough, twenty miles out, we found three of them tied together, culling their nights catch!

We pulled up beside the three and made the almost, obligatory trade of beer for shrimp, packed the fresh shrimp in the big cooler, then set to catching some kings. Max was first in the water and his line had barely settled when a hungry fish gobbled it up and took off. The long run against the lightweight tackle, assured us that it was probably a king, it was and after a lively tussle was gaffed and into the cooler it went.

Dewey had a big hit and off the fish took, but wasn’t fighting like a king. Shorter runs and a grudging, not give an inch pull on his line. It was a jackfish, jack crevelle, not edible, but what fighters! Dewey was struggling with the jack, on the light tackle, he struggled for over twenty minutes, for just after sun up with no wind, he was working up a sweat. Max said, “I’ll fix that” and with one swoop of a handy, bucket, filled it and deposited the contents over Dewey’s head and shoulders. The eighty-four degree water was cooling and after that, as we were fighting fish, one of us would anoint the other. Believe it or not, it was cooling and refreshing.

By 9:30 we had filled the big, cooler with kings, but before we started in, we anointed each other one more time and took off. The big, two hundred had us skimming over the flat seas at a record pace, we retraced our way in and were back unloading the boat by 11:00 AM. A little late, but it was a great trip, even with the heat!

The Quarantine Station Redux

Telling my Dad and Uncle, George A Pyland, better known as “Unkie” about the great luck that Gary, Vic and I had at the Quarantine Station this past Saturday, primed them to offer to go with me on the coming Friday. One problem, both men were retired, but I had a great, sales job and needed to work. But, as someone famous once said, “There’s always room for ice cream”, so there’s always a way to slip off for fishing!

Slipping off turned out not to be a problem so, as before, we launched my “new”, second boat at Pleasure Island Fish and Bait, cruised under the two causeway bridges, under Pelican Island bridge, through Galveston Harbor and anchored up on the east side of the Quarantine Station. The tide was running in bringing clear, green, Gulf water, the wind was light out of the southeast, the sun was just breaking over the horizon, ushering in a perfect new, day!

Because it was Friday, we were the only boat anchored up, so far, and we let fly our casts using the same rigs that Gary, Vic and I had used the past Saturday. Slip corks set around nine feet, but my Dad and Unkie both had new reels, Ambassaduer 5000’s, the latest reels on the market, and I still had a direct drive, model, poor me!

We all cast out , and not simultaneously, as on my past trip, we had strikes from good fish, landing three, two pounders. Unkie and my Dad could cast out their rigs so smoothly, these new reels were a cut above mine, but we spent the morning catching fish and having a lot of fun!

As the tide peaked, Unkie and my Dad had big strikes, real good fish! They began their “waltz” around the boat, circling it three times, these were really good specs they had hooked. Both specs made several exciting runs, the new, reels handling these runs smoothly, then it fell to me to net the fish. “Hit ‘em in the nose with the net” my Dad instructed and following his orders, I successfully netted both fish, almost six pounders!

The tide slacked before 11:00 AM, the specs quit hitting and we called it a day with forty-two in the coolers. Yes coolers, because we had to put some fish into our “lunch” cooler, too!

On my way home that afternoon I stopped by Oshman’s and purchased me an Ambassaduer 5000, pictured to the left. This old reel, purchased in 1966 has caught a lot of fish, it is still quite usable, but newer reels are smaller, lighter, have advanced drag systems and are, virtually backlash free.

Thinking Out Loud

As soon as my concussion was healed (some say it never was) we took the boat out for a try at water skiing. The boat was game, but the forty horse motor was insufficient to get me up on skis, my ex popped right up being eighty pounds lighter, but something had to be done. That something happened the next weekend. Bill Priddy, one of my old West University friends, worked with me and invited us to go water skiing in Lake Houston with him and his date.

We showed up on time, but Bill and his date and Norman Shelter and his date were sitting in the boat. Wouldn’t six be too many, I thought as we loaded up everything? Bill’s boat, a sixteen foot Falcon, fiberglass, with lap strake sides and packing a sixty-five horse, Johnson turned out to be a skiing delight. A little strained for getting me up with the crowd aboard, but nice.

It was dead calm as I finally cleared the water and began skiing, nice conditions, flat water, no wind and the thought came to me, Why am I being pulled behind this boat when twenty miles from here I could be fishing for trout in Trinity Bay? The thought nagged at me, but wore off as the morning wore on.

While Norman was skiing, we noticed a cloud building up over the south end of the lake and soon, pop-crak, thunder, as the lightning hit. We quickly picked up Norman, headed for the launch ramp and were all thinking, That was too close. Before we got the boat loaded, here came the rain and more lightning. Very exciting, but anyway, we were already all wet!

We decided to wait this storm out and sitting in Bill’s car he thought out loud, “I’m going to get rid of this boat and stick with bass fishing.” The boat seemed to be just what I was looking for, a bigger boat with more horsepower and within two weeks, I’d sold my new (used) one and bought Bill’s for $900.00.

We used the boat for skiing, some, but, for the next three years, it became my first real, fishing boat.

My First Boat

In July of 1965, I finally broke down and bought my first boat. The occasion for this was in the form of a very nice commission check. The December before I had joined a large computer company and because of my past sales experience, had been put “on quota” after two of the four required sales training classes. Never attending these classes, I did, however, go on to a successful twenty year, career with the company. That December when I told my C.O. in the Army Reserves about my new job, he immediately assigned me to the inactive reserve, causing me to miss Viet Nam!

But about the new boat, it was a used fourteen footer, with a forty horse Evinrude and trailer, total price $695.00! My first outing with it was to a place in West Galveston Bay, named Alligator Point, only accessible by boat. This place was famed in lore for the deep reefs sloping up to a shallow, shell/sand bottom on the north side of the bay. My first guest was of all things, “Joe The Barber”, Joe Rice, now deceased. We put in on the lower part of Chocolate Bayou and marveled at the convenience the new boat provided.

Our first trip was kinda’ successful. We didn’t catch any specs, large or small, but we boated several, slimy, gaff topsail, catfish, big ones five or six pounds. We did catch several good-sized, ladyfish, or skipjacks, a very acrobatic, inedible fish. These were two to three pounders and, on light tackle, their stamina and twisting, jumps, catfish aside, highlighted our trip! After we got back to the launch ramp, we cleaned the slimy catfish, Joe told me to keep ‘em, cleaned the cooler and our tackle and headed home.

My ex-wife and I had just bought a new home outside of Houston’s, southwest, city limits and before backing the boat into the garage had, as my Dad said later, “Half assed raised the door,” I parked the boat and lifted out the cooler, and with my head down, carrying the cooler, walked right into the metal strip that ran along the bottom of the door.

Needless to say, it knocked me into next week, staggering me, crossing my eyes and immediately making me nauseas. The next morning the doc said that I had a concussion and for me to do nothing for two weeks, no work, no softball, no nothing! I was on the DL for two weeks, but my ex-wife did drive me around on all of my sales calls, my customers enjoyed meeting her, and just think, for two weeks the new (used) boat just sat in the garage.

Growing Up – First Trip Offshore

During the summer between my sophomore and junior year in high school, 1952, one of my friends, Walter, invited me on a two day, one night fishing trip out into the Gulf of Mexico. His Dad was taking his boat out and I was asked to come along. This was a ‘huge deal’ for me, my Dad thought it was a great idea, my Mom worried that I’d be lost at sea, but my Dad prevailed and off we went the following Friday morning to meet Walter and his Dad at the Houston Yacht Club.

Formalities behind us, we loaded their forty-five foot Mathews, cruiser with provisions for the trip and chugged out into Galveston Bay. The plan was to motor down the bay in the Houston Ship Channel and just past Texas City turn right at the Intercoastal Waterway, then head west to Freeport and anchor for the night in New River. The next morning we’d head out into the Gulf, troll back to Galveston, then head up the Ship Channel and arrive back at the Yacht Club. This was over a hundred mile trip, would take us two full days and for the time, 1952, a real adventure!

A little history about the New River, in 1929 New River was completed and is a channelized mouth for the Brazos River. Over the years, commerce in the Freeport/Velasco area was damaged almost yearly by floods raging down the river, then the summer hurricanes would bring their flooding rain, so by 1929 the river was diverted to a new channel – New River, and the Port of Freeport has flourished since then, rising to sixteenth in tonnage for the U.S.

Just before nightfall, we pulled into the New River, anchored and prepared supper. Walter and I put our lines out, baited with dead shrimp and began catching, hard heads, salt water, catfish. Not our main targets for the trip but these were big ones, two pounders and kept us busy ‘till bedtime.

Up with the sun, we headed down New River and entered the Gulf for our trip back. As soon as we entered the Gulf we put out two lines, one with a red jig and one with a green one. We were just out of sight of land, trolling along and I was sitting up on a cooler, dozing and ZZZZZ, the clicker on my reel let out a squawk as the fish pulled line off. Grabbing my rod all I could do was hold on as the fish made its first run. Soon the pressure of the rod and reel’s drag allowed me to get the fish up to the boat and Walter identified it as a kingfish, the first of the hundreds that I caught in my fishing life.

Before we iced the king, I admired it and stroked the shiny sides and Walter told me they were good to eat, especially when grilled. We plowed on through the Gulf, more nodding and dozing, then another ZZZZZ, another reel let out a squawk, mine again. Another long run and an unyielding fight all the way to the gaff, my second king, that proved to be the last one of the trip.

We continued eastward, soon on the horizon we saw the old light house at the end of Galveston’s South Jetty, shortly we turned into the Ship Channel and headed north back to the Yacht Club. What I didn’t know then; what good navigation without Loran or GPS, what dependable equipment, what a trip, what an exposure to offshore fishing, wow!

When I got back home, my Mom and Dad admired the fish and with no freezer we really didn’t have a way to keep the second one, so we gave it to our neighbor, Dub. The next night we had a small party in our back yard, steaks and the feature of the night, grilled kingfish. Not knowing how to prepare kings, we filleted both sides of the fish, but we didn’t skin it, nor did we cut out the bloodline. The fish was tasty, but when we touched the bloodline, whew, it was uneatable. We, correctly figured, that cleaning kings you should take off the skin, remove the bloodline, then grill the strips. You live and learn!