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Stories that will make you laugh and cry- from Uncle George- an old hippie
Excerpt from my Novel- Blue Bayou Days- The Summer of 61, Chapter 8
FISHING IS FOR FUN AND RELAXATION
Setting Monroe Louisiana 1961- my age at the time was 11
Like the rest of this Novel, this chapter is part fiction and part truth. It is about life the way it is or the way it ought to be. I am a bit like one of my heroes Mark Twain, who once said, "I am getting to the age where most of my greatest memories, never really happened at all." The one good thing about having Alzheimer's is that you can hide your own Easter eggs.
Chapter 8: Danny and I were placing the gear in the green duffle bag, when I heard Daddy say to Coach Nelson, "I have a really big fishing trip planned for tomorrow. Goin over to DArbone Lake. Carson was over there last week. He said the bass was really tearing them up. Bream too. Caught 200 of them. Had to rent an U-Haul trailer to get them all home.
Everyone except Daddy and me left McNultys Ball Park pretty fast after practice. We walked out to the gravel and sand road in front of the concession stand. We looked toward the ONeal house. A yellow bi-winged, propeller powered, crop duster air plane flew over the trees beyond Elizabeths house. It dove down and leveled off about six feet above the green cotton to release a spray of white mist into the air. At the end of the field, the plane climbed rapidly to miss the forest. The plane made several passes, barely clearing the telephone wires at the edge of the road.
Daddy said, "Aint no amount of money could ever make me take a job flying one of those babies. I remember back after the war they tried to make me fly from Hickum Field in Hawaii to San Francisco. I had just been released from the hospital. I told them I would just as soon wait here and catch the next ship."
I felt about the same as Daddy did. I didnt like catching an elevator to go up to the Penn House on top of the Penn Hotel, downtown: I said, "Me either." We watched the plane until it finished spraying and headed west into the setting sun.
As we walked toward the car Daddy said, "Ive arranged to borrow Sam ONeals boat tomorrow. Im going over to Lake DArbonne tomorrow at 5 a.m. to catch a boat load of bass and bream. Would you like to go?"
"Would I? Gee Dad. That would be great. Can Elizabeth go with us?"
Daddy took a towel out of the car and wiped the dust off the windshield. Then we both got in the Chevy and closed the doors. Daddy said,
"I dont know why she cant go. Seeing as how its her uncles boat. Anyway, if you love the girl, I love her too. She is a very attractive girl. Shes very sweet too. I like her." He started the engine and we drove to Elizabeths.
Mr. Sam was walking toward us when we drove into the tunnel of live oaks in the ONeal driveway. Elizabeth and Miss Wanda were sitting on the porch swing and Frank was playing with a dump truck in the dirt. He and Elizabeth ran up to me and hugged me. Miss Wanda said, "Hi." Mr. Sam was holding two red flags in his right hand. He shifted them to his left hand and stuck his right hand out to shake hands with Daddy.
"What are the red flags for, Sam?" Daddy asked.
"Oh, I was just down there in the cotton field directing the pilot where to spray the cotton dust. I guess youre here for the boat. Come on in and get some coffee first."
Daddy said, "I dont guess. Maybe Ill take a rain check. Got to get things ready for the big day tomorrow."
Mr. Sam put the flags on the swing and said, "I know what thats like. Wish I could go with you, but I gotta get this spraying finished before it starts raining. Lord knows we need the rain though. The boats in the backyard. Wanna drive on back there."
Frank tried to pick up a Daddy long legs spider. Miss Wanda jumped off the swing and picked him up off the ground.
"Dont pick up those spiders," she said. "One of them may bite you. Howard Ive got to go inside now and get ready for supper. Have a good trip tomorrow."
Daddy and I said, "Bye," as she and Frank disappeared into the house.
Daddy looked at Elizabeth and me holding hands and asked, "Elizabeth, would you like to go with us tomorrow?"
"Sure, I would love to go. What time are you leaving?"
"Oh I dont know. Maybe 5:00."
"I dont know about that. I need my beauty sleep. I like to sleep at night; all night." I pleaded with her with my eyes and she said, "But I guess I could get up early just this once. Yes, I think I would love to go."
"Great," I said.
Elizabeth and I sat on the swing. Daddy backed the car around to the back yard. When Mr. Sam walked around the house to help Daddy, I put my arms around Elizabeth and said, "Look into my eyes. What do you see?"
Her eyes met mine and she said, "Well, I see that theyre brown. And a little blood shot." We laughed.
"Stop it, Elizabeth, or I will call you Betty," I said.
"Thats it Skeeter. No one calls me Betty."
"Be quiet and give me a kiss."
She reached into her pocket and handed me a Hersheys candy kiss. What could I say? I unwrapped it and popped it in my mouth. Then I leaned over and gave her a real kiss. She liked it.
Daddy drove the boat around to the front yard and I got into the car. We waved as we left and Daddy yelled, "See you around 5:00. Bye"
I said, "See ya tomorrow, Betty"
I was tired from practice and I was glad to finally fall into bed that night. I turned over a few times and let my mind drift. It was hard for me to adjust to Caseys death. He had been such a close companion for so many years. I was determined to get over the loss. Maybe it would help if we got another dog.
Then again, knowing and loving Elizabeth had really helped fill a void in my life. She was the first true love of my life. I had to figure out a way for us to stay together after she moved back home. Maybe I could move to Indiana. But, how could I do that? I had lived here all my life. It was the most beautiful place in the world. I loved fishing and hunting. Could there be hunting in Indiana? I doubted it. All the pictures Id seen of the state were of farms. And besides, there were Chuck, Dana and my parents to think about. How could I ever leave them? Slowly I drifted off to sleep.
I felt the wind blowing around my goggles. I looked down at the blue winding waters of the Ouachita River stretched far below like a blue ribbon laying across green wrapping paper. I nearly fainted. Elizabeths sweet voice said,
"Lean forward and put your head between your legs."
I screamed, "Yooee." I could hear her plainly above the whine of the propeller. Elizabeth was sitting in the open leather cockpit seat in front of me. Her head was turned in my direction. She had goggles over her lovely eyes. Some of her hair had blown free of the brown leather helmet. The wind was blowing the blue scarf tied around her neck. I tried to put my head between my legs and I felt better.
I looked at Elizabeth and said, "Keep your eyes on the sky."
"Dont be silly. How do you like it?"
"How long have you been flying?"
"I was born in the very seat you are sitting in. Lets go down for a closer look."
The yellow biplane dove toward the river. I felt the wind in my face. I felt my stomach try to come up through my throat. Elizabeth leveled the propeller plane at about 100 feet over the surface of the crystal clear blue velvet water. I was getting used to flying and started to like it. On the left, tall green pine and oak trees draped the red clay hills and deep canyons, as far as the eye could see. A large deer, maybe a twenty pointer, stood at the edge of the water looking up at us. Now I loved it. I said, "Elizabeth, honey, this is beautiful."
To our left, long straight rows of green cotton fields stretched across the flat lands to the horizon.
"Lets take her back up." Elizabeth said.
We climbed almost straight up, higher than we had been before. Up, up, up we went, up above the clouds that looked like giant puffs of cotton. They looked like you could jump out with a blanket, sit on one and have a picnic.
Below us, a large black spot appeared on the water. I asked, "What is that, honey?"
"Its a flock of ducks, swimming in the river. Lets go down and have a look." The plane tipped downwards until we were almost three feet above the water. When we were right over the large flock of ducks, they railed up out of the water, splashing the water from their feathers and feet. Elizabeth banked to the left lest we would fly through the flock. They were now flying right beside us, green necks outstretched, trying to regain formation.
"Wow," I said. "They are beautiful at this distance."
"I know," she answered. "But we have to get to work." She pulled the plane up over the rising ducks and banked it hard to the right. We swooped down again just over the tops of the cotton.
Daddy shook my arm, and said, "Wake up son. Its time to go."
"Oh Daddy," I said. "I feel sick, I dont want to go to school today." I was thinking, "I have to get that dream back." Finally I did.
"Ahhh," I said.
Elizabeth asked, "Where were you? Where is your mind?"
"Drifting back awake."
"Hurry up then. Pull the handle."
"The handle for the spray. Its between your legs." I felt down and found the handle and pulled on it. A white mist drifted from the wing tips. We made several passes through the green fields.
Daddy shook me harder. "Come on son, the fish are calling."
"Daddy, I cant go to school today. I forgot to do my homework. Mrs. Smith will keep me after class. I feel sick."
Elizabeth said, "You have to keep your mind on what we are doing, or we will never get finished before you wake up." She banked hard to the left over five black and white cows drinking water from a blue kidney shaped pond by a barn.
"Are those Mr. Sams cows?" I asked.
"Yes," Elizabeth replied. "He wants us to excite them so they will give more milk." She looked to the right and said, "Get ready to drop the flour."
I looked to the right wing. Huey LeBlanc waved at me. He was wearing that stupid superman costume and flying right next to the plane. He looked at me and said, "Now tell me, Skeeter, do you like flying as much as I do?"
On the lower wing were five bags of flour. Huey flew between the wings and dropped the bags separately. Instantly, the cows turned white.
Daddy said, "Come on, son. Get up, you dont have to go to school today."
I jumped out of bed and said, "Good, lets go fishing."
Daddy and I pulled in front of Elizabeths house at exactly 5:30 A.M. I went to the door to knock. At the same time that I opened the screen door, Elizabeth opened the wooden door behind it.
"I admire a man who is on time," she said.
We had stopped at the All Night Doughnut and Coffee Shop for a dozen glazed doughnuts. Daddy had already loaded the car and boat with ham sandwiches, crickets, shiners, tackle box, fishing rods and cane poles. We were headed west bout 15 miles out of West Monroe when the morning sun fully rose above the pine trees along Highway 80. The cool morning air smelled like pine needles as it blew through the open windows. Daddy said, "We better hurry up. We are burning day light."
All of a sudden a black and white skunk ran from a thicket, into the road, stopped, and pointed its tail up at the bumper of the Chevy. Daddy hit the breaks and the Chevy slid to a screeching halt. Elizabeth and I screamed. I could smell the spray almost instantly. The Chevy was full of a chattering of choughs. Daddy said calmly, "Son, reach in that glove box and get the Old Spice out."
I splashed the Old Spice to cover up the stench as best I could. Daddy hit the gas and we were on our way. We had not gone very far when a skulk of foxes ran across the road. Elizabeth shouted, "Wow, look at that?"
A cluster of black lovebugs hit the windshield and left little white stains on the glass. Daddy asked, "Do you know what the bug said when he hits a windshield?"
"No," I replied.
"I aint got the guts to do that again." We laughed.
Through the white stains of the lovebugs I could see a series of signs in the ahead. The first yellow and black highway department sign read, "SLOW CURVE". The next highway department sign had a black arrow pointing to the left. The next sign appeared to be hand painted. It was black and white and it said, "Watch it, Buster. Curve." Daddy slowed down.
I looked straight ahead into the light and grill of a pickup in our lane. I felt like this was surely the end. Daddy dropped his doughnut and swerved to the right. Simultaneously the pickup swerved to our left. As it passed, I turned around to watch the trucks left wheels momentarily dip into the roadside ditch. The driver tried to snatch the truck back into the road. The truck careened from right shoulder to left shoulder several times and flipped over on its left side.
Our Chevy and boat trailer also swerved across the narrow ditch. Daddy knew better that to try and pull instantly back on to the road. He tried to ease the brakes down as we were skidding directly into the front porch of a pink house. The boat and trailer must have come off the hitch, for they passed us on the right headed directly for the first lighted window on the right side of the house. The Chevy came to a complete stop only inches from the porch. The noise from the screeching tires spooked a clutter of cats that were napping under the porch. They ran quickly across the yard in front of the Chevy.
Daddy said, "That was close."
"Yea," I said. "No one knows how scared I was except me and the laundry man."
Meanwhile the boat lunged, tongue first, into and through the wall just under the bedroom window.
A man and woman came screaming out of the house, still in their pajamas. The man had on a pointed night hat that matched the PJs. He had dark bags under his eyes and looked to be about 60.
Daddy asked them, "Are you all right?"
The man looked at his wife and said, "I guess so. What happened? I tried to tell Maybell we shouldnt buy a house that close to that curve. I painted that black and white sign there the last time a fellow ran into this porch."
Elizabeth and I didnt feel much like talking right then so we kept quiet. However, we all got out of the car. I thought it might blow up, like when a car runs off a cliff on television.
We walked up onto the porch and Daddy said, " I am so sorry. I was trying to avoid that truck. Oh my goodness."
We all jumped off the porch and ran back to the flipped over truck. A young lady was sitting on the right side of the truck with her legs hanging over the bottom of the truck that was now facing us.
"Are you all right?" we all asked.
"Oh sure. Im not hurt. I told Jimmy he better get the brakes fixed on this truck. I guess he will just have to wait at work at the plant. Looks like I will be late getting to pick him up. Its all his fault. Do you have a phone?"
Daddy helped her down to the ground. The truck was not blocking the road so we left it there. We all followed Maybell and her husband into their house. He said, "By the way, Im Buddy Jones and this is my bride, Betty Lou"
As we entered the house I noticed an open door to what appeared to be a bedroom. The trailer tongue had rammed through the wall, up under the bed and had picked up the headboard and broke it. It apparently had knocked the couple onto the floor.
We called a wrecker and sat down to wait. After drinking a cup of coffee, Daddy went out to check the boat. It had a gash about half an inch wide by six inches long across the floor toward the back of the boat. Mr. Jones patched up the hole in the boat with something he called super putty that he made himself. He said, "Dont touch it for several hours until it hardens and she will be as good as new."
Finally the wrecker arrived, set the truck upright and extricated the trailer from the Jones house. Daddy, the driver of the pickup and Mr. Jones exchanged names, phone numbers and addresses. We hitched up the trailer and drove away.
Daddy said, "We came for rest and relaxation and were going to get it. Even if it kills us." Elizabeth and I were silent until we got to the water.
Lake DArbonne was a beautiful sight to see. It was surrounded by pine, oak, maple and sweet gum trees. We drove along a gravel road and went down a hill. Cypress trees were growing on the sloping land. The lake was covered in flooded cypress and weeping willow trees. The air smelled like pine needles, cypress mulch, and fresh earth. Daddy backed the Chevy down the landing, and into the water as I was waving directions near the back right fender of the car. I turned around to look at the boat. It was gone. No where to be seen.
"Daddy," I screamed. "We lost the boat."
"What do you mean we lost the boat? How can I get fun and relaxation if we dont have a boat?" He got out to have a look. The trailer tongue was still attached to the back of the car.
"Oh shoot," Daddy exclaimed. "I forgot to put the plug in the boat." Daddy drove the Chevy up on to the bank. The boat came up to the surface dripping water everywhere. I guess we would really have lost the boat if Daddy had not also forgotten to unfasten the belts holding the boat to the trailer. Elizabeth and Daddy and I found some pails to bail out the remaining water.
Daddy said, "At least the patches held up. Looks like fun and relaxation are just around the corner."
Daddy removed the retaining belts from the boat and backed down the landing and into the water again. I guess the cars brakes must have gotten wet because the Chevy didnt stop at the edge of the landing. Daddy, the car, and trailer all sank into Lake DArbone. The boat floated off with the current and headed down stream. Daddy climbed through the open car window and swam to the surface. He saw the boat drifting along the shore and swam out to the boat. He climbed into the boat, started the motor and headed back to the landing.
I heard someone laughing loudly behind me. I turned around and looked into the face of none other thanyou guessed itHuey LeBlanc. His Daddy, Mr. Al LeBlanc was standing behind him and chided Huey gently through his laughter.
"Huey, dont laugh. This is not funny."
Daddy started laughing. Elizabeth broke from her extended period of silence and laughed also. I had no choice but to join in. Beautiful Lake DArbonne was surrounded by noise. The frogs were croaking, the orchestra of crickets was playing, the whippoorwills were orchestrating and the five of us were laughing uncontrollably.
Finally we all reduced it to a low snicker. Mr. LeBlanc offered to pull our car out with his heavy duty four wheel drive Jeep truck and Daddy accepted. The car came out with some difficulty. Daddy opened the door and three large bass flopped out onto the ground. Huey and I caught them with our hands before they managed to get back into the lake.
Mr. LeBlanc was dressed in a white knit golfing shirt and khaki trousers. He removed his white golfing cap and showed us his perfectly smooth scalp.
Huey said, "Daddy, put your hat back on. The reflection of the early morning sun is blinding me."
"Mr. LeBlanc said, "Yes, I looked in the mirror this morning and thought that I had seen more hair than this on a piece of bacon."
We all laughed again. This time, the laughter seemed to disturb the ducks because hundreds of them quacked loudly, and flew off the waters of the lake. They flew north.
Mr. LeBlanc said, "Why do things get scared and always fly north?"
Daddy walked over to the boat.
"Al," he said. "Will you kinda keep your boat close to ours? We have had sorta bad luck this morning. We better get to fishing. I really looked forward to some more fun and relaxation."
Elizabeth and I jumped in the boat as Daddy steered it through moss clad cypress trees to the open waters in the middle of Lake DArbone. A huge white egret flew from the water surface into a tall cypress tree. The bird had legs about 2 feet long and a 5 foot wing span.
Daddy said, "That is one of those LORD GOD birds. A fisherman looks at one and says, Lord, God, what a bird."
The wind felt good blowing in our faces. Water was splashing on either side of and behind the boat. We were finally on the way to real fun and relaxation. Several duck blinds were scattered across the lake. Daddy stopped the motor about 50 yards in front of one. The duck blind was constructed of now completely dried willow tree branches. The brown bushy structure was about eight feet high with the back completely open to allow boats to enter the blind. The upper three feet of the other three sides of the blind were open to allow for easy spotting and shooting of ducks.
I had never been duck hunting, but I had heard Mr. LeBlanc talk about it. He had told me that people pull the boats into the blind and tie them to the platform that runs along the inside front of the blind. People get out onto the platform and call the ducks with duck calls. Quack, Quack, Quack. In addition the ducks are attracted by decoys that are anchored outside the blind.
Daddy said, "I bet there is a ten pound bass right in the middle of that duck blind." He reached for his yellow tackle box. He selected a red and white Bomber bait. It was about 3 inches long and one inch in diameter. It looked like it had about twenty hooks on it. Actually, it had three sets of treble hooks, making a total of nine hooks.
Daddy said, "Im going to cast this Bomber right under the edge of the platform." He tied the bait on the fishing line.
I baited a cricket on the hook of my cane pole fishing rig.
Elizabeth asked, "Skeeter, will you bait my hook?"
"Whats the matter? Are you scared of a little cricket?"
"Well, I will just sit here and watch."
I baited Elizabeths hook. Daddy tried to cast his bait. He raised his arm, cast downward and then yelled, "Sh."
Daddy never swore around me and I knew when he said "Sh," that there was a definite problem. I looked around and noticed that he had cast all nine of the hooks through his Marine Corps fatigue hat. I excused myself and crawled between the edge of the boat and Elizabeth, who was sitting on the middle seat of the boat.
The Bomber bait hung onto Daddys hat and head like some weird cross between a giant albino ant and a leach. I managed to pull it out with as little discomfort as possible. Luckily the hooks had just barely broken the skin. I had no sooner pulled the hooks out when Elizabeth moaned, "Oooh." I turned toward her not knowing what to expect. Her cane pole was nearly bent double.
"What have you got?" I asked.
"I dont know," she replied as she pulled on the pole. "I put the cork into the water and it went down straight away."
After several minutes of fighting, she landed a large chinquapin bream. I guessed it weighed a pound.
"Will you take the fish off the hook, please?" Elizabeth pleaded.
I thought "Oh boy, here we go." I removed the fish from the hook and put on another cricket. Before I could get the fish on the stringer, she had another. I pulled it off and she quickly pulled in another fish. She had ten fish in the boat before I could even sit down. Meanwhile, Daddy had been casting away into the blind. Like me, he had not caught a fish. Elizabeth got tired after about the fifteenth big fish. She put the pole down in the boat and leaned back in the seat.
Daddy tried to make conversation and asked, "What are you doing this summer, Elizabeth?"
"Im going to summer school."
"What kind of grades did you make last year?"
I thought, "Oh no, here it comes. The life cycle of hummingbirds. Next thing you know shell be discussing ballet.
Daddy said, "I would probably faint if Skeeter made an A in school. Id probably think he was cheating."
Daddy reeled his line in. He took a Marine Corps knife out of his tackle box and cut his line just above the Bomber bait.
"Which bait are you going to try now?" I asked.
He moved his fingers through the tackle box, rattling the hooks. "Lets see," he mused. "Which bait will bring the big bass home to Poppa?"
Daddy selected a Hawaiian Wiggler. The bait consisted of a small head attached to a fringed skirt, much like the skirt of a hula dancer. Two treble hooks were attached to the head. Daddy tied the Hawaiian Wiggler onto the fishing line and held the fishing line in his fingers, letting the bait hang suspended in his hands. The wind blew the bait, giving it the appearance of a hula girl dancing in the morning sun by the sea. With his hazel eyes fixed squarely on the dancing bait, Daddy said, "Son, have I ever told you about the girl I dated in Hawaii during the war?"
I dropped my pole from my hands. It dipped, end first into the water, then bounced back to the surface. I let it float there. I had never thought of Daddy ever having another girlfriend. I mean he and Momma always were. They always existed. That was the way things were meant to be.
Daddy studied the bait in his hands as he continued, "Yeah, I thought it may come as a shock to you. Ive been meaning to tell you for some time now. Trouble is, I havent told your Momma yet. I dont know if it would make any difference now. Maybe it would.
Anyway, I met this girl by the base. Her Momma owned the theater in town. We saw a lot of free movies. This Hawaiian girl and I were falling in love. Her Momma offered to fix me up in the movie business if I stayed in Hawaii.
About that time, the hospital informed my CO that I was well enough to travel home. I had to make a decision. And it was a hard decision to make. A friend had written me and told me about your Momma seeing Leonard at Northwestern College. What if they got married? What if they were already married? The mail traveled slowly. I had my family to think about. Then again, my older brother Artie had been killed when his B-17 Bomber was shot down in Germany. When my Daddy heard the news, he had a heart attack and died. I didnt even get to go to the funerals."
"Daddy, are you crying?" I asked.
"No, son. I guess a bug got in my eyes."
He rubbed the tears from his eyes and continued, "My Momma wanted me to come home to Minden to take over the grocery store. My younger brother, Lawrence, was ready to start college in Oklahoma. He was a high school football star and had a scholarship. Well, I thought of all the good things and bad things of either choice. I decided to take a chance with your Momma."
As daddy was talking, my fishing line hung up on a log sunk in the bottom of the lake. Daddy took my pole and pulled it to unhook the line. I baited the hook with another cricket and asked, "Then what happened?"
Daddy looked at a snake swimming toward a floating log.
"Certain things did not turn out like I expected." He said. "My Momma got mad when Roberta Mae and I eloped. She had wanted us to have a large church wedding. She was so mad that she sold the store. You know that your Uncle Lawrence got mad at me, 5 years ago and hasnt spoken to me since. All I have is your Momma and you kids. You all have made me really happy."
I watched the snake climb up on the log and lie still as a green dragonfly buzzed past its nose.
Daddy studied the Hawaiian Wiggler closely and said, "I wonder what it would be like to catch at least one bass today?" Then he cast his line into the duck blind again. I picked my pole out of the water and said,
"I wonder if the white perch are biting?" I replaced the cricket with a shiner and put my line back in the water.
The dragonfly flew from the log to my floating cork and landed on it. I asked, "I wonder if that dragonfly can see any fish by my hook."
Elizabeth adjusted her position on the boat seat and looked at Daddy.
"Mr. Hayden," she said. "I guess your decision about Roberta May was a lot like the choice Skeeter and I have to make. It seems like we are falling in love. The more I see of him, the more I admire and love him."
I felt a blush creep up my face. I was long since ready to change the subject. This was getting entirely too serious and personal for me. I said, "Maybe we should try fishing across the lake, over there by that flying saucer."
Daddy looked in the direction of my gaze and said, "Thats not a flying saucer. It looks like a man in a boat with an umbrella for shade. As you were saying, Elizabeth."
She continued, "I will be going home soon, when my Mom gets better. I think 13 is much too soon to get married. I want to wait until I finish college to get married. Yet I dont want to lose Skeeter. What should we do?"
Daddy made another cast with his line, and said, "If I were you two, I would just enjoy each others company while you can. Live your life for today. Get to know each other as well as possible. Take home some good memories of each other. When youre apart, you can always write letters to stay in touch. If it is true love, it will survive time and distance. Why, you can always see each other on holidays."
Daddy looked all around the duck blind and said, "Now let me see, Mr. fish. Where are you? Are you swimming right under the platform up against the left wall?" He cast the bait, but it didnt go under the platform as intended. Instead it went onto the platform and hung both treble hooks solidly into the cypress wood. Daddy pulled on the line. The hooks would not come free.
He said, "I guess we have to paddle into the blind and get this one out." He paddled the boat slowly into the blind, as he held the long casting rod up. The tip of the rod was scraping willow branches in the roof of the duck blind and came to within an inch of a wasp nest. The nest was about 8 inches in diameter and had about a hundred big red wasps swarming around it.
Daddy did not see the nest so I shouted, "Wait!"
Too late. The wasps swarmed quickly all over the inside of the blind. They were almost as quick as the three of us, as we dove into the water to escape. We swam under the water until we cleared the duck blind and grabbed onto a floating log. Luckily, Mr. LeBlanc saw the whole thing from his boat. He quickly guided their boat to us, threw his anchor into the back of our abandoned boat, and pulled our boat next to the log.
We climbed back into our boat and Daddy said, "What a revolting development this is." He sounded just like William Bendix on the Life of Reily.
Elizabeth exclaimed, "Gee, Mr. LeBlanc, you saved our lives."
Mr. LeBlanc removed the unlit cigar he was chewing on from his mouth and replied. "Well, I wouldnt carry it that far. I was coming over here anyway to see if you wanted me to have Huey clean your fish. Im going to fire up the portable stove in a minute and fry ours. Theres nothing better than fried fish on the creek bank. You just made me come over here a little earlier than I had expected."
Mr. LeBlanc always had a genuine grin on his face and made you feel like he was glad to be around you. He was a short heavy set man and he reminded me of a bald headed beardless Santa Claus.
Mr. LeBlanc started his boat and headed back to shore. Daddy wrung the water from his Marine Corps hat and said, "Fishing is a wonderful way of fun and relaxation. Lets try it over there past the flying saucer."
We woke up Mr. Carter, the drugstore owner, when our boat got near his. He was resting under the shade of an umbrella. When we stopped our boat next to his, I greeted him and said, "Hello, Mr. Carter."
He wiped the sand from his eyes and said, "Oh, hi boys," he noticed Elizabeth and added, "and girls. Well I guess you caught me napping. Ive been so tired lately. Havent gotten much sleep."
He sat up straight on the wooden boat seat and continued. "Howard you know I have eight children and each of them has four children. All of them have been staying with us for the past two weeks. Luckily we have lots of room in our house. Do you know how much noise 32 children can make? This is the only place I can get any sleep. It sure is relaxing."
I patted the white and brown spotted dog lying in the back of Mr. Carters boat and thought about Casey. Daddy started our boat again and we waved good by as we headed to the clump of willow trees near the bank. Elizabeth said, "I guess Ill try fishing again."
May I break the flow of the story for some updated information? Yesterday I was in the Sheriffs office in Morgan City, LA. While there I met a game warden who told me an interesting and alarming story about catching more fish than the legal limit. When I got home I decided to change the rest of this chapter concerning the kind and amount of fish, Elizabeth caught that day in 1961. I dont know what the legal limit of bream is today, much less what the limit was in 1961. I dont know what the statute of limitations is on such a crime. For the benefit of any Louisiana game wardens reading, I changed the story to make an honest woman of Elizabeth.
I looked at Elizabeth and said, "Elizabeth, why dont you start using the shiners for bait. See if you can catch some white perch."
"OK, if you will bait my hook."
Elizabeth slipped her fishing line into the water. Again, the cork never stopped on the surface of the water, but went straight down. The cane pole bent double again and she pulled up a nice one and a half pound white perch.
"Thats a nice white perch," I congratulated her. "I bet it weighs more than a pound. I guess you Yankees call this a crappie."
"I call it Pomoxis annularis," she stated. "Thats the scientific name for it."
Daddy and I had nothing to fear from the game wardens. Neither of us had caught a single fish. Elizabeth caught 12 more in about 12 minutes. All I did was bait her hook, remove her fish, and fill the stringer.
Elizabeths pole nearly broke in half. She tried and tried, but could not manage to pull the line out of the water. I crawled up next to her and we pulled on the line together. The object she caught came out of the water very slowly. The first thing to come up to the surface was two large greenish points. Then a large green head about the size of a softball came out. Both Elizabeth and I screamed and dropped the pole. Daddy grabbed the pole from the surface before it sank. He struggled to pull the thirteen inch diameter turtle from the water. When the turtle was on the floor of the boat, he stuck his huge ugly head inside his shell.
Daddy shouted, "Skeeter! Get the boat paddle and try to pry his mouth open while I pull the hook out." When I held the hickory oar in front of the turtles mouth he snapped his head out and bit the paddle in half. Splinters from the wood must have stuck in Daddys hand; he thought the turtle had bitten his finger, so he screamed. "Oooohhhhhhhhhhhhh I hope it thunders soon."
He and Momma had often told me a turtle wouldnt let go until it thunders. I guess the thunder tale was just an old wives tale, because the turtle let go of the paddle, scurried over the edge of the boat and disappeared into the water. Daddy was relieved to see only a flew splinters sticking in his still intact finger.
"I think you two have caught enough fish for today." He said. "I dont mean to be selfish, but I am the one who needs the fun and relaxation. So far today, I have wrecked the boat, sunk the boat, sunk the trailer and the car. I was attacked by vicious man-eating wasps and a man-eating turtle. Not only that, but I have lost my best casting rod in that duck blind. Besides all that, I have not caught one measly fish. I would like to use this fly rod and catch some nice bream, while you two paddle me around the edge of the lake. If I dont catch a fish by the time we reach that tree two hundred yards from here, well go home. Would yo please paddle me around?"
Elizabeth and I sat on the back seat of the boat. It was nice to be touching, so close together. She paddled on the left, as I paddled on the right. I guess I was a little stronger than she was, because the boat went a little too far to the left. With a thud, the front of the boat hit a weeping willow tree trunk.
Daddy was next to the trunk of the tree with low hanging branches all around him. The snake on the branches was a cottonmouth water moccasin. It was resting in the shade of the willow tree when this huge floating object knocked it down. The snake looked about 18 feet long to me as it landed about half way between the middle seat of the boat and Daddys feet. Instantly, Daddy grabbed his .38 caliber pistol and fired six shots into the snakes heart shaped head and into the bottom of the boat.
At the same time Elizabeth and I jerked our feet across and pulled out the super putty patching up the bottom of our half of the boat. The water spurting from the front and rear of the boat looked like "Old Faithful," only double.
As we were headed safely back to shore in Mr. LeBlancs boat, Daddy mused, "I have never heard of a boat sinking so fast."
I could smell the fish frying for a hundred yards from the bank. When we got on to the shore, Huey had fried about half the fish. The hot grease was sizzling around, about six more browning fish in the black iron pot over the green Coleman Stove.
We sat on a blanket eating fish, drinking beer or cokes, telling stories, and laughing. It turned out to be a fun and relaxing trip after all. Thanks to Mr. Al LeBlanc.
When we finished feasting, we discovered a flat tire on the Chevrolet. Daddy changed the tire and we headed for home. Elizabeth and I fell asleep so the trip home went quickly.
Amazingly, Mr. ONeal was not upset when Daddy recounted the story about loosing the boat.
"Thats OK," he drawled. "As long as you got some fun and relaxation. I have boat insurance. I didnt like the seats in that boat anyway."
On that trip I learned some very good lessons that I still observe today.
1. Be sure of your choice of girlfriends.
2. Never enter a duck blind in the summer when the wasps are active.
3. Always cut the fishing line if a turtle has your hook in its mouth.
4. Never, I mean never, shoot a snake when its in the bottom of your boat.
5. Never tell a fishing story when a game warden is close by.
To this very day in 1999 the Hayden/LeBlanc family get get-togethers for hunting, fishing, card games such continue. In the summer of 1988 we were staying at the large, rustic, red, A-framed LeBlanc camp on the bank of the Buffalo River in the foothills near Nashville, Tennessee.
Al LeBlanc went way out of his way to entertain the 35 friends and family guests. He loaded up his truck with canoes and we car-pooled about 15 miles up stream and canoed back to the camp. We all had fun on the way catching fish with fly-rods, swimming, or just riding the rapid water past the caves.
The food and fun was great during the week long vacation. Mr. Al announced that he had to go back to his home in Jackson, Mississippi to check on things and mow the yard. While mowing the yard he felt chest pains. He slipped down to the ground and out of this world. We all have missed him. He gave the world a lot of fun.
If you enjoyed this story, you should buy my book. You might win this book at smoke school or you can buy it online and bring it to smoke school and I will sign it.
Blue Bayou Days- The Summer of 61/ a novel by Uncle George
More smoke school stories and family stories
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