After forty or fifty years of hunting and fishing experiences, I’m sure most any sportsman or lady will have enough comical memories to fill a small book. I know I certainly do. I thought you might get a kick out of hearing a few of them in my column this week.
FLYING FISH As a kid growing up in very rural Red River County in northeast Texas, I eagerly awaited the yearly visits from my “Uncle Luke”. My uncle was a very accomplished fly fisherman and in his later years, owned Camp Karefree, a fishing camp on an Oxbow Lake off the Mississippi not far from Memphis, Tennessee. When I was about 9, my uncle visited us at our home out in the country and wanted me to “guide” him to some of my secret fishing holes on farms and ranches around my home. I had “fishing rights” to several good spots and when I learned Uncle Luke desired to catch some big bream and Goggle Eyes, I knew just the place. We arrived about an hour before dark and Uncle with his state of the art (for the day) fly rod and me with my cane pole and can of worms, proceeded to put together a big stringer of chunky bream. During the last few minutes of light, I remember well my Uncle double hauling that popping bug. The imitation bait made a long arc and at the peak of its travel toward the lake’s surface, “SOMETHING” picked it up and took up straight up! WHAT KIND OF $$%&&**% fish do you have down here in Texas, boy!!”, said Uncle as he held on to his flyrod and attempted to take up some slack line. An owl had swooped down and nailed his little popping bug and with its feet tangled in the line, began flapping its wings which took it up a good fifty feet above the little pond. Getting the lure/line free from the owl’s talons was not easy without leather gloves. Uncle finally wrapped and old sweater over the bird and somehow managed to get it untangled from his fishing line! This was one of those outdoor moments that I remember as well today as the day it occurred, way back in ’59!
WAY BACK THERE- Back in about ’64 when I was a fourteen year old kid, I used to go spend a week each fall hunting with Poppa Dinkins, down in Waller Country, not far from Hempstead in southeast Texas. Poppa was about 85 years old at the time and weighed about 140 pounds soaking wet. He was tough as a boot and I can imagine what he must have been like as a younger man. He had spent his entire life ranching, hunting and living in the outdoors. Poppa’s ranch consisted of 2,500 acres, much of which was in prime deer hunting country. In his ranch house, hung the mounted heads of 35 big white tail bucks, he had used his old double barrel Damascus twist steel shotgun with buckshot to take them all. I remember Poppa telling me, Boy, (that’s all he ever called me-Boy), “I sold that 300 acres we call the Prairie Field to a race car driving fellow. He’s running a few head of cows on the place now so make sure and don’t hunt up there, we don’t own it anymore. You know where it’s fenced off, don’t you? Of course, I did and agreed not to go over there. Back in those days, Poppa turned me loose with his new Ford truck; he was rough on trucks and bought a new one every year. On that crisp November morning, a long, long time ago, I dressed early, ate a quick breakfast with Poppa, loaded my Marlin 336 C 30/30 and headed out in his new pickup for the hunt.
My intention was to hunt a patch of woods known as The Glass Field. I got to thinking about how many deer I had seen around a pond at the Prairie Field and the truck just sort of naturally wound up near the fence line that separates Poppa’s land and that of “that race car driving fellow”. I remember being drawn to that pond like a magnet was pulling me. I had no more than set down against a big oak growing on the upper end of the pond than I saw a man come walking over the dam, coming right at me. I set tight, knowing I was in the wrong. The big man (I remember him being big, maybe he really wasn’t all that big) walked up to me and said, “Good morning, son, I’m A.J. Foyt and you are hunting on my land. He let me off the hook easy when he showed me the property line, told me about his cattle and I promised to stay on Poppa’s side of the fence. I never met Mr. Foyt again but always had fond memories of a man that was that nice to a kid that “happened” to get on the wrong side of a barbed wire fence.
BLIND IN THE WOODS
Just last summer, I decided it was time to clear a shooting lane in some heavy cover on some land I have leased near my home. Since my mid thirties, I’ve worn eye glasses and without them, I can find my way out of the woods but that’s about all. Well, I was using my ax to cut small new growth saplings. I noticed a vine growing up one of the saplings but I DID NOT notice the hat size red wasp’s nest on the vine about 15 feet up the tree, With my second swing of the ax, I was buzzed by several very angry wasps, one managed to plant it’s stinger in the top of my head. I made a mad dash out of there, tripped on a root and fell. With the wasps in hot pursuit, I forgot all about glasses and when I partially regained my composure, I instantly noted that I could not see my ax. I could not see the leaves on the ground or much of anything! This was serious. I was back in the woods by myself. I could slowly walk out of there without glasses but then I’d have to cross the road and walk about a mile. Nothing to do but find those glasses! OK, I decided to get on my hands and knees, grid off the immediate area around where I took my spill and find them! You have no idea what a disheartening feeling it is to feel your way around on the forest floor and make contact with your glasses’ frame BENT and without the glass you needed so desperately. I managed to find one of the glasses that fell from the frame, hold it up next to my eye and cell phone and call my wife to come to the rescue. From that day hence, I carry a back up pair of glasses in the truck, ATV or boat. Whatever it takes to avoid this happening again!
Listen to Outdoors with Luke Clayton on radio stations from Nebraska to Texas on weekends or anytime online at www.catfishradio.com