The Duck Hunting Just Got Harder

Telling two of my friends of the excellent shooting my Dad and I had enjoyed, we planned a hunt for the coming weekend. The two friends were, Jim Bennett and Mel Peavey, like me, slightly deranged, fearless and game for anything. All of these traits would be needed before our hunt ended.

There was one drawback to our planned hunt. Rice Institute (now University) was playing T.U. (still TU) at 2:00 PM the afternoon of our hunt so we would have to hurry back, try to change clothes, and, for the first time, try to sneak into Rice’s brand new stadium. We had friends from our high school playing on both teams and didn’t want to miss the game.

The morning of our hunt dawned warm and calm. Up at 4:00 AM, load our hunting gear into our 1942 Plymouth, kiss my Mom and Dad goodbye and we’re off. I’ll add at this time, little did we know that the season’s first “norther” was bearing down on the Houston area.

The trip to the Cedar Bayou Bait and Boat Rental Co. was uneventful and we rented a wooden boat and put my outboard motor on it, and for some reason, without our asking, the attendant added two long, heavy oars. We thought nothing of this, but later would thank him for his foresight. We loaded the boat as the motor chugged to life and up the bayou we went, finding the second lake, with the duck blind in the middle, put out my twelve brand new, plastic decoys, guided the boat into the blind and waited for the ducks.

“Here come two Blue Bills at 12 o’clock”, I whispered as Jim rose up and shot both and then the “norther” hit. Immediately it went from calm to blowing twenty-five to thirty-five miles an hour. In an instant the temperature seemed to drop to freezing, the sky clouded up and a light mist started falling. No worries from the three intrepid hunters, we had our waders and football parkas (but no sense)!

No Ducks flying in this weather, where last week my Dad and I had our limits in one hour. No sensible duck, or human, would be out in this stuff! We decided, since no ducks were flying, we would motor out and retrieve the two ducks Jim had shot. Mel said, “Why don’t we call it a day. There’s no ducks and I don’t want to miss the game”. We agreed to pick up my twelve new, plastic decoys and get the two ducks on the way out.

Motoring out to the last duck, we picked it up and tried to turn into the small channel leading out to the main bayou. The fierce wind hit us driving us on to the bank and shearing the pin to the propeller. Of course, we did not have a spare shear pin, and up to that time, not sure what one was. Now, no motor, two miles away from the bait camp, the wind howling, mist blowing side ways, but we were still not worried we have two oars!

What we didn’t know then was that when a very strong “norther” hit our part of the Texas coast, most of the water quickly blows out of the bays and bayous! The wind had blown us into the bank of the channel to the bayou while at the same time it was blowing the water out of the little channel, but I said, “Don’t worry. I’ll jump out of the boat and pull us out to the channel”. Out I go and up to my thighs in sticky, clinging mud! Back into the boat for me and then we all realize were stuck up here. If we can just get to the main channel we can row our way back.

The ordeal began as we tried to get back to the main channel. The only means of propulsion we had was to balance the oars on the transom of the boat, stick them down into the mud and pull the oar handles back toward us. We took turns “speeding” along about twelve to eighteen inches a pull. Talk about slow going!

We finally made it to the main channel and found it almost devoid of water and as soon as we would get the boat floating, the wind would blow it back on to the mud flat. We had no choice but to continue our “modified polling”, twelve to eighteen inches at a time.
After several hours we were able to begin rowing. Taking advantage of a bend in the bayou, we made better time since the wind was now at our back and wouldn’t blow us on to the mud flat. When we finally rowed into the Cedar Bayou Bait and Boat Rental Co. we were three, wet, tired teenagers. The camp’s proprietor greeted us with “Any trouble boys?” “Trouble, us? Not hardly.” we said under our breath. My last words at the bait camp were “Hurry up loading things guys, we’ve got a football game to go to!”

We made it to Rice Stadium by kickoff, snuck in as planned and watched TU whomp Rice 33-14.

The intrepid hunters made a decision not to hunt in Cedar Bayou for a while and to stick to chasing geese, on anybody’s property, on the Katy Prairie.