Bad Directions

In 1960 the mourning dove season had just opened in Falls County, Texas, and my Dad and I had enjoyed some fine shooting! My Uncle Shelly, Shelton Gafford, had directed us to a couple of stock tanks where doves were watering and we were rewarded with some good action. .

Our mornings were free, because back then, in Texas, dove hunting was only allowed after noon. Uncle Shelly told us about another place where we could fish, but no guns or hunting were allowed by the rancher. No problem with us! He told us to take Hwy. 7, east out of Marlin, cross the Big Creek bridge, and turn right at the second “gap”, or wire gate in the fence, and follow the road to the stock tank.

Following the instructions, the second gap was almost to the road to Blue Ridge and ignoring the “Posted, No Hunting” sign, opened it and followed the dirt road until it came to an old, no longer in use, rock quarry. Not a stock tank, but looking into the very, clear water, it was easy to see bass milling around, plus several large bream beds. We figured this must be the place, got out our tackle and quickly started fishing.

Keeping the sun in our face, we stood several feet away from the water and whipped our Piggy Boat, spinner baits toward the fish. Immediately, we were both rewarded with two sharp strikes and soon landed two scrappy, 12 inch, bass. They were unusual looking little fish with large mouths and small bodies. We guessed, correctly, they were stunted and probably undernourished.

We kept on casting and catching. We added several, good sized, goggle eye perch. These fish looked somewhat like a bream, but slimmer, with bigger mouths and their eyes protruded from their heads. They were good fighters on light tackle and very tasty when fried!

We returned all of the small ones, but ended up with 15 keepers, pictured. We iced them down and retraced our route off of the property and headed back to Shelton’s ranch for lunch.

Lunch was the big meal of the day and as we loaded up, we reviewed our morning trip with him. He smiled and shook his head and asked, “You went right through the “Posted, No Hunting” sign? Did they catch both of you all?” “Who’s they?” my Dad answered. He replied, “Mr. so-in-so or his Foreman. They have some expensive bulls on the place, besides there’s a lot of quail and they don’t allow anyone but family out there!” Answering him, I said, “Uncle Shelly, we didn’t see a soul, or any bulls or quail, all morning!” He just smiled and shook his head.

As he got up and headed into his den, he looked back, smiled and said to both of us, “Turn left at the second gap!”