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Smoke School Stories
The unforgettable night we spent lost on Lake Bistineau
Yet another Whitlow Smoke School Story
It was an unforgettable hot lazy Louisiana July 2001 Summer Night on Lake Bistineau. The mosquitoes were as large and noisy as B-52 Bombers riding shotgun upon our nation. The hairy legged bugs were buzzing in an out of my ears swarming around the deep woods OFF on my face and neck. Dewayne, my Vietnam Veteran US Marine Corp Leatherneck Veteran partner and I had traveled north from Baton Rouge to conduct my very last smoke school as an employee of the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality. It was the Air Force and the Marine Corp on a survival mission to catch white perch, or crappie, or Saco late - what ever you call those fish that got about a pound and a half there in the flooded cypress trees of Lake Bistineau. Two men alone in a 12-foot John Boat with buckets of yo-yo fishing contraptions, shiners or minnows, and a small flashlight with a full moon and a star studded sky. Dewayne shined that flashlight up in the air and it made a skyward path. Dewayne asked," Why don't you just walk up that flashlight path and touch the moon?"
I answered, " My momma did not raise no dummy you coolion you. I know that when I get about halfway up that path you gonna turn off that flashlight and I will come crashing down into the lake amongst all them alligators and red wasps and cotton mouth snakes."
I had driven my Dodge Ram State Truck pulling the smoke generator for smoke school and Dewayne had brought his state truck pulling the boat and trailer. I wonder what the statute of limitations is for personal use of a state vehicle to pull a boat fishing. Your tax dollars at work. We set up the smoke machine first for the smoke school the next morning and then we took the boat on down to the boat ramp. I searched my truck for the yellow timber marking ribbon I had brought to mark our trail across Lake Bistineau. Lake Bistineau is a huge lake completely saturated with flooded cypress trees. It consists of various trails painstakingly carved through the trees to various fishing hot spots, duck blinds, channels and many camps along it's shores. We found out the hard way, that at night these trails are rather hard to follow. I could not find the yellow ribbon and Dewayne grew impatient. He said, " Come on, hell- We don't need no ribbon. I am a leatherneck. We want get lost." Boy was he wrong.
Dewayne pulled the cord on the 20 horse Mercury and- umm I love the sound of a motor boat. We were rigging yo yos with the shiners and tying them to the limbs of cypress trees as we cut a path down the dark paths across the night. Then we sat in the boat, told lies, and drank beer. Told more lies, drank more beer, fought off mosquitoes, fought battles, and won wars, killed deer, drank more beer, and cast spinning rods into the dark water of the channels. It was a great time- a memory to make. We ran the yo yos many times and around midnight we decided to head back to the camp.
We ran all the way down one trail after another, after another, after another. We had cell phones but they cold not get a signal. Worthless invention. Can you hear me now? No!--Just what I expected. Each trail ended in a yet another dead end. We would spot a light across the lake and head for it just to find another camp. By now it was around three in the morning. Finally after about the twentieth camp, I said I have had enough. I braved it, got out of the boat and walked up across the alligators, and cockatiels, cotton mouths, and beavers up past the Doberman pinchers and trained killing Boxer dogs up to the back door of the camps. This is a part of Louisiana where people keep double barrel shotguns plugged in above the fireplaces. I banged on the back doors. "Sorry to wake you up, but we are as lost as a goose. Can you kindly point out the way to the boat dock at Lake Bistineau State Park?"
"Sure- let me get some pants on. No problem- just go up this trail, that trail, this trail, that trail, you can't miss it." Boy was he wrong. At a couple of camps, I asked to use the phone.
"Hello, sheriffs office."
"I would like to report a missing person."
"Good Question." Then I asked the man with the shotgun pointed at me- "Where are we at?"
I relayed the information to the deputy.
"Ah-" he says, "Just go up this trail, that trail, this trail, that trail, you can't miss it." Boy was he wrong.
"Been there, done that. Uh, can you send a deputy here and pick up up for maybe trespassing or something and take us to the boat dock?"
"What parish are you in?"
"That is not my jurisdiction."
" We killed a doe out of season."
"That is not my problem- call the game warden."
Back to the drawing board. We went up this trail, that trail, this trail, that trail, and what do you know we were riding on fumes for gas, when we found the light that was to the boat dock. It was 5 AM we had been lost for five hours. I got in my truck and moved one item and there was the yellow ribbon. Who would a thunk it? And that is the way it was.
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