This is the first part of a 2 part story about an all night trot lining adventure my dad and I went on in 1952. In mid spring, Uncle Shelly, Shelton Gafford, a very well to do land owner in Falls County, Texas, called us and said, “Boys, come on up and let’s go trot linin’. The river is full of cats!”

We camped on the bluff of the Brazos River, where over a 100, years before one of our ancestors, Buck Barry, had crossed on his way to Austin. This crossing was named “The Falls of the Brazos” because of rocky outcroppings and a fall line that in the 1830’s caused 10 foot water falls, but the river changed course and today the falls are only 2 to 3 feet. In the old days, this marked the end of steamboat travel up the river and today there is a low water, concrete drive across it, which makes 2, falls now and Uncle Shelly owned the land on both sides.

This land was colonized in the early 1830’s and in 1834 Sterling Robertson, one of Stephen F. Austin’s early impresarios, established a town on the west bank of the river, Sarahville De Viesca. The Comanches quickly put an end to this early settlement and in 1845, when Buck Barry crossed here, again they had just struck the only settler at The Falls, taking off with his wife, daughter and female slaves.

This history’s fine but we’d come up to fish. Seining several of Uncle Shelly’s stock tanks, we caught 2 buckets full of small perch and minnows and headed to The Falls. The water was almost cold and jolted me when we waded out and all the way across the river the spot we’d picked had a good, rock bottom. First off we had to stretch Uncle Shelly’s trotlines across the river, over 100 yards wide, and there must have been a 50, or more, hooks on each of the 2 lines.

With both lines secured we came back toward our side of the river and began the process of baiting up. My feet were getting cold now but I soldiered on. Holding the bait bucket while my Dad and Uncle Shelly baited up the lines they would put a couple of minnows on the hook then a perch and continued this process back across the river.

All baited up, we retired to our camp, started the fire, it was only 90 degrees right now, and began supper. After eating the stories started and my dad chipped in with Buck Barry’s story about the Indian raid just before he crossed here. Then, my dad said, “Let’s go check the lines.”

It was dark and our flashlights helped some, but it was still dark! We eased down into the water and, to me, it was cold, but I said nothing, thinking, This was part of growing up! Carrying the toe sack and bait bucket, more growing up I was sure, we pulled up the first line and there was a tug meaning we had a cat on somewhere. We came across, a stage, all twisted up and figured one had pulled off of the hook. Soon we came to our first fish, a yellow cat, 4 pounds and great eatin’. We flopped him into the toe sack and soon bagged another, but that was all for the first line. The second line produced 2 more, one 5 pounds, another 4, all yellows.

Using our flashlights, we cleaned the cats, washed the fish off our hands, walked up the bank and hit the sack, better said, the ground with a sleeping bag under us!

The second part of this story will be on May 16.