Whatever Floats Your Boat

During the spring of 1994, Carl Parkinson and I had been out to the Galveston Jetties trying to catch some gulf trout, white trout or sand trout, Cynoscion arenarius, and after filling up our 88, quart cooler with the early arrivals, were cruising back in. We headed back through Galveston harbor, under the bridge to Pelican Island and followed the channel out to the Intercoastal Waterway, when we thought we’d see if any speckled trout were around Swan Lake.

Cutting across the bay, as we approached Swan Lake, we saw, what appeared to be a boat up close to the bank.  The closer we came to the boat, we saw a woman sitting in it and we saw that a man was pulling it with a rope.  Pulling up to the boat, we saw that the man was a friend of ours, Danny Bourgeois, not only a friend but he was one of my employees and one of Carl’s coworkers!

Speaking to Danny’s wife and almost shouting over the motor’s idling, I asked, “Danny, what in the world are you doing pulling the boat?”  His response was what we expected from someone from south Louisiana, “It broke down back along the Intercoastal, the float stuck closed, I couldn’t fix it and was pulling it back to the launch ramp,” and he’d already pulled the boat almost two miles!  This particular ramp was between the railroad bridge and the Galveston Causeway, over a mile away, as the crow pulled!

Offering Danny a motorized pull back to the ramp, he declined our offer and said, “It’s no problem me pulling the boat back because the water’s shallow, not over 3 feet deep and we don’t have anything else to do this afternoon.”  “Danny, do you want us to go on to the ramp and wait and help you load the boat,” I asked and “No thanks I can handle it,” he replied?

This story really happened, but you had to know Danny, if he couldn’t fix it, he wasn’t going to let the motor beat him, he’d just pull it back in, then fix it!  Pulling away, we weren’t surprised at his refusal of aid, anyway, one time a real smart guy said, “Whatever floats your boat!”

Trials And Tribulations

Coming of shooting and hunting age during WW II and with gas rationing and ammunition shortages, my opportunities to shoot and hunt were limited.   During this time period my dad drilled into me gun safety and proper rifle shooting and started me out with his 20 Gauge, shotgun.  He was a former Marine and since all Marines are trained as riflemen, teaching me gun handling and safety was a natural for him.  I was an eager pupil and it turned out, I became an excellent shot with both a .22 rifle and shotgun.

My first hunts were for doves at my uncle Shelton Gafford’s, ranch outside of Marlin, Falls County, Texas and I soon found out that the doves were not the least bit impressed with my shooting skills!  Being allowed to take only wing shots, my dad emphasized not to shoot a sitting bird.  My scores were around 1 bird for 10, plus, shots, then, as now, unacceptable to me.

After 2 futile sessions, my dad explained “leads” and shot patterns to me and my scores improved somewhat.  I didn’t know then, but now I know that one of the most difficult of game birds to bag are doves, twisting and turning in a moderate wind!

One trip, my dad and I were sitting in the shade of a mesquite tree, by a stock tank and the doves were zipping in and I was missing with regularity.  Being 13 or 14, I was boiling with my poor shooting, then my dad explained to me again about follow through and keeping my head down on the gun stock and it “took” this time and my shooting improved dramatically!

We took great care in preparing the birds we shot, picking, singeing off the small feathers, cleaning and thoroughly washing them, the hardest were ducks!  My mom would make a fried chicken batter, dip the doves in it and fry them until done, then make gravy with the grease and “fryins” and add mashed potatoes.  It was unbeatable!

The many stock tanks on Uncle Shelly’s ranch provided me with an opportunity to “go frogging” and to test my .22 rifle skills.  In the evening, with my cousin Dan, we would slowly walk around a tank and shine a light into the edge of the water and up into the weeds and “shine” the frog.  The light hypnotized the frog and, pop, with a .22, and if you hit it in the head it didn’t jump into the water, a poor shot and the chances of recovery were minimized.

The best thing about “frogging” was the eating.  Skin and clean the legs, roll them in seasoned, corn meal and fry them just like chicken.  Add fried onion rings and you have a feast!

All of this started me on my life long hunting quest!

Gobbler And Jake

This gobbler and a jake are looking for something, the gobbler for a hen and the jake , he’s just learning what to do!  These pics were taken from my kitchen window, but I had stepped back to not alarm the birds. You can see the trees and the field behind the birds.

The gobbler was struttin’ away, but then I snapped a better pic of the gobbler in full strut!

He’s got 1 inch spurs!
We had a 1.6 inch rain over the weekend, but I was in San Marcos with Bradley to go to Church there. We had a real good rain here in Goldthwaite, the tanks, rivers and lakes are filling up.  While I was in San Marcos they had a flood there and Randy was flooded out, he had to spend the night in his truck with Jeremy, because their tent leaked!  It was raining real good all over the State!


Gobblers, Trying to Make a Decision

Yesterday, I was treated to a real show! Two gobblers, on opposite sides of the fence, were trying to get on the other side, to fight the opposing gobbler.  I took these pictures with my camera, I had several more shots, but they weren’t worthy to depict this almost “fight”!  Their brain is walnut sized, considering they are alerted to movement, I snapped these within the house and they weren’t alerted.  You can see the back fence separating them.


Finally, they gave up and went about their way.  They could have just flown over the fence, but considering the size of their brain, they didn’t and just went on their way!


We hardly ever have crows come into feeders, but this one was worth it!  They are not bound to short flights, like turkey, but they can fly free, anywhere they want. These two crows came into the feeder by MaMaw’s blind and started feeding!

It’s times like this when you’re glad to have game cams and “shot” like this!

The Spring Run, 1978

Winter was loosening its grip on the mid Georgia area, the dogwood trees were blooming, a sure sign of spring, and farther south, along the Florida coast, the fishing was warming up too! Stories of some fantastic catches had reached us all the way up in Atlanta and one of my friends, Jerry O’Neil, owned a condo in Destin, Florida and he invited me to bring my boat, and my ex-wife, down and we’d try and get in on the early run of king mackerel.

We, my ex and I, left Atlanta early in the morning and driving south we ran into spring just before we crossed under I-10 and everything really greened up the closer we got to Destin.  We arrived, unloaded the truck at the condo and then drove to the launch ramp.  There we launched the boat, bought some bait, cigar minnows, and cruised out under the bridge, into the Gulf of Mexico.  After about 2 miles, we put out 3 lines.  Our baits were colored jigs, because these fish had teeth they were attached to wire leaders with good sized, hooks, with a cigar minnow threaded on to the hook.  Our tackle was medium weight, rods, heavy duty red reels, reels, loaded with 20, pound line.

Trolling at 1,000 RPM’s, not over 30 minutes after we had started, simultaneously we had strikes.   Each of us grabbed a rod, set to enjoy the kings first blazing run, but as the king struck my exe’s bait, before it took off, it arced up out of the water.  Kings jump like this occasionally, their eyes being above their mid line, they lay in wait for prey, looking up, many feet below the surface, then attack the bait with force on an upward angle and their momentum carries them above the surface in spectacular leaps, but once they have the bait, off they go!

Both fish, 12 pounders, quickly succumbed to the rods pressure, we gaffed and boxed them, rebaited and resumed trolling.  Another strike, this time, no acrobatics, just a long run, then a couple of short ones, then into the box.  We caught 2 more kings all were smokers, not over 15 pounds and as the sun was going down, the wind, now cooler, started blowing a little harder.  Our jackets felt good as we picked up the lines and headed back in.

Not a bad haul for just under, 3 hours of fishing and once ashore, I cleaned the kings, filleting one and taking care to completely cut out the bloodline.  We cooked the fillets that night with crab boil and surprisingly they tasted like lobster.

We went to bed thinking that according to tomorrow’s weather forecast, Saturday would be a great day to fish, but, as usually happens, when we got up the next morning, we were greeted by winds howling over 20 and white caps stretching out to the horizon.  Unfavorable conditions for an 18, foot boat, our fishing day was cut short, so we headed back north, but, at least, we caught some fish.


Gobblers, Doe And Hens

Last week I took a “shot” of deer, gobblers and hens, this “shot” wasn’t for the quality, it was pretty good, but was for the quantity! To get a picture like this, of the most things we go after as hunters, is really good!

Turkey season is here, right now and I’ll be after them!

Gobblers And Bobcats

The one good thing about having game cams is that when you can’t be there, they continue clicking pics.  This pic shows a bobcat strolling by the feeder, strolling by, to get baby lambs or whatever it can find. Turkeys will be around the corner, eggs or young birds!

Turkey’s struttin’ are a pretty sight!  Gobbler’s, when they strut and “blow” up their feathers, are beautiful.  This one, below, is in, almost, full strut.


It’s unusual to get three gobblers together at one time, but unusual or not, these three sat still for a pic!  I could tell by the tail area that this one was a gobbler.


Fire Fight

Last week I was enrolled in the “Son’s Of The American Revolution” and I thought it fitting to relate a family story about my 5G Grandfather, William Murrill and an action he was involved in during our Revolutionary War.  This event was passed down through the family and recorded in the diary of a 3G Uncle of mine, James Buckner “Buck” Barry, and later copyrighted and published as “Buck Barry, Texas Ranger And Frontiersman”.  I have used family history and this book as my references.

As heavy gunfire erupted on the other side of the large pond, the 20, man detail of Colonial soldiers from Onslow County, North Carolina, started sprinting towards the skirmish. “Tony stay here and guard the pack horses,” William Murrill shouted as he ran past Tony, a family slave, who was assisting the small unit that was on a prolonged scout, along the coast, for rations and supplies.

The firing grew in intensity and was sustained for, to Tony, it seemed hours, when he saw 2 Redcoats enter the water and swim towards him and the prize of horses and supplies he was guarding.  Thinking that William’s unit had been wiped out he quickly hid behind a tree and kept a close watch on the 2 enemy soldiers.  When they came within gunshot range of the camp and saw the horses, they ducked behind a log in the water, trying to hide.

Soon William and his victorious unit returned with no prisoners, but they carried the booty from the British camp, which included whiskey and William’s brother, my 5G Uncle, Kemp Murrill proceeded to get himself drunk on the spoils. Tony told William about the Redcoats hiding behind the log in the pond.  William immediately ordered them to come up to camp with their hands over their heads.

As they were coming into camp, Kemp and another drunk were going to shoot the prisoners, but William took their guns away preventing a killing.  Years later, Tony told Buck Barry, then a young boy, that they kept the prisoners for 2 days but he never saw them again.

Feelings were real hard then!

Authors note.  Tony served with William for the duration of the war.

A Wall Hanger

My old neighborhood friend and fishing buddy from West University, Bill Priddy, and I both had jobs with a large computer company in Atlanta and had decided to go after a really big bass.  We believed that our best chance at one would be a “pay” lake and we choose Horseshoe Lakes, just outside of Tifton, Georgia, only miles away from where, years earlier, the world record, twenty-two pound large mouth bass had been caught, California excepted.

The dogwoods were blooming spreading their white glory over the hills and hollows, but winter still had its grips on Atlanta as we left on Friday afternoon, March 8, 1979. We spent the night in my camper beside Horseshoe Lake number 1, were up, and on the water before the sun on Saturday.

This place had ten lakes, all stocked with Florida strain largemouth bass.  We hadn’t been fishing ten minutes when, “Whamo”, Bill has a jarring strike on a yellow, Piggy Boat.  The fish took line and shook its head like a redfish and we couldn’t figure what Bill had tied into.  A roll by the boat told us, the high fin giving it away, a channel cat of at least ten pounds.  Not the ten-pound bass we were looking for but it would look real good in the skillet!

We fished the first lake hard with spinners, worms and rat-l-traps, but only had the catfish to show for it, so far, not worth the $5.00 fee.  We move on to the second lake, by picking up and carrying my twelve foot, Sears, aluminum boat and trolling motor over the levee.  A feature I had added to the little boat was three coats of rubberized paint applied to the insides making it nearly soundproof.

The second lake, almost fifty acres, was much like a rice field reservoir along the Texas coast.  A deep channel cut all around a square impoundment with about ten feet of shallow water along the sides before the channel dropped off into over six feet of water.  The channel, the only structure, was approximately thirty feet wide, sloping up to a large, shallow flat that covered the center of the lake.  On both lakes we had not noticed any bass on their spawning beds, but if not today, within the week.

We flipped our casts toward the center of the lake; me a six inch, motor oil colored, worm, rigged Texas style, and Bill, back to his trusty yellow, Piggy Boat, and drug the baits over the shallow water and across, or down, in my case, the drop-off.  We finally caught two, three pound, bass, and quickly put both of them back into the water to grow up.  Well, we may be onto something, casting toward the middle and working the baits back over the drop-off.

About five minutes after putting the last bass back, I had a jolting strike on my worm.  The fish didn’t gently tap-tap-tap, but picked the worm up and “headed south” at full speed.  I was using a Mitchell 300, Spinning Reel with ten-pound line and a fairly stiff, six and one half foot spinning rod.  I exclaimed to Bill, “I got a big hit Bill, I guess it’s another cat.”  I have fished for and hooked a big, blue marlin of over five hundred pounds, a one hundred and twenty pound Pacific sailfish, a sixty pound amberjack (hardest fighter) and a sixty plus pound, kingfish on light tackle, and in comparison, this fish jolted me just like the big ‘uns!

The fish took line and then came to the top and wallowed up, almost into the air and we saw the big mouth.  Good heavens, a big, big bass, and all I could do was hang on and hope the hook was set securely in its jaw.  Another wallow/jump, the fish was too big to get out of the water all the way, but we could see it more clearly, and it was a whopper!  Another short run and my line seemed to be hung up.  Guessing the bass had wrapped me around something, I turned on the electric motor and inched toward the point where my line entered the water, Bill saw a motion, a swirl, and the fish had wrapped the line around a snag of some kind.

All in one motion, I cut off the motor, told Bill to stick a paddle into the bottom to hold us, leaned over the side and stuck my arm down into the two and one half foot of cold, water.  With my rod held high in my other hand, I ran my hand down the line until feeling the snag.  I inched my hand around until I felt the bass, and hoping that I don’t hook myself, tried to lip the fish.  No luck.  I got a good hold of the snag, pulled it and the fish to the surface and then Bill slipped the net under the huge bass!

We didn’t have a scale, but estimated its weight at over ten pounds.  I told Bill, “I felt like I was harvesting rice, reaching down and bringing up the snag, moss and fish, all in one handful.  This one is going on the wall.”  This was years before you could get a plastic replica of your fish, so we put it on a stringer and kept fishing.

This is THE bass, a 12 pounder, on the hall’s wall near my 9 pound trout and my dad’s fishing lures.

We caught several more bass, but none even close to the big one, so we decided to find a scale and weigh the fish, then head back home.  We found the owner of the lakes who acted as proud as if he had caught the fish himself and his certified scale showed twelve pounds!  I couldn’t imagine that I had caught a twelve-pound bass.  More pictures were taken, congratulations accepted, the fish was packed in ice and we loaded the boat on top of the camper and headed back.

Back home it seemed like the whole neighborhood came over and the viewing turned into a party.  Keeping the fish on ice, on Monday, I took it to the best taxidermist in the Atlanta area in Duluth, Georgia and within a month, my fish was ready.   Today, it hangs in the hall of my ranch house, next to a picture box display of my Dad’s old fishing plugs and a replica mount of a nine, pound, speckled trout.  But that’s another story.

The Sears, twelve-foot aluminum boat is still providing yeoman service to my son, Randy.  He uses it to take his kids bass fishing.

Bits and Pieces from Jon Bryan…