Monday, November 27, 2006


Continued from "Ghosts in the Fire"

There are probably a hundred or so posts that are imbedded in the last three, but as Admiral Farrugut said "Damn the Torpedos, full speed ahead!"

So I don't know where Dad came up with a Canoe. Nor do I know where he came up with the "Rubber Band Trotline" either. Both made for a rollicking good time on a fall day in 1969.
Twice a year my mothers family would get together at Toledo Bend Lake. We would camp on an old road that now led to the lake in either direction. There was a dirt path wide enough for a car that you now used to get to the road.
Moms family was made up of Southern Baptists; and they were hardwired to the bone Baptists that did not believe in doing anything on a Sunday but go to Church. All cooking and shopping was done on Saturday. it was even against State law to buy anything on Sunday...called the "Blue Law".
So it was during the fall get together that Dad Bruce and I loaded the Canoe and set out for a point and an Island, a good mile away where my Dad would show us how to set up a Rubber Band trotline. Actually, there were to be three.
Let me now describe the Rubber Band Trotline for you. First, you must find and aquire 1/2 inch rubber band stock that comes in 100 foot lengths {available at most Army-Navy Stores}. Then you need about 100 feet of of Trotline with as many hooks as you can get on there.

(Annelisa, a trotline is a 1000lb. test strength length of Nylon Cord that hooks are attached to in intervals of 2-3 feet. Usually they are strung between two stumps in the water, baited and allowed to sit for a time before being checked and re-baited...'run' as the Old Timers say. Davy and I had 7 @ 50 hooks each out one year and took Catfish off of them till our hands bled)

Now double the rubber over to make fifty feet and attach to the trotline You now have 150 feet and you will need to find a stump appproximately that far from the bank. Tie the rubber band to the stump and take the trotline to the shore. There should be a little tension on the line. And you should be able to pull the trotline all the way in onto the shore and bait the hooks; the increased tension, provided by the rubber band pulls it back out towards the stump.
As my son says, "Ingenious". Of course, in Dads case we had three of these bad boys ready to deploy.
With my Father in the stern and Bruce stationed amidships, and myself in the bow with a quick "heave to" we glide from the safety of the firmament onto the glassy surface of Toledo Bend. My Mom and Bruces wife have arrived to see us off. The look of consternation on their face makes me wonder if "Edmond Fitzgerald" may be scrawled on the side of the Canoe.
'Steve, are you sure you don't need a Jacket?" shouts Doris, my Mom.
"I don't think so, I'll be awright"
Its 76 degrees. I glance to Dad who has managed a thin grin. I watch as his cigar rolls from one side of his mouth to the other and the grin never changes. How does he do it?
"Bruce, you boys be careful out there!" Jean is the love of Bruces life. She is wearing white Clam-Diggers, a flowered top and a crazy straw hat. Looks like a cross between Betty Boop and Minnie Pearl.
"Aw, Jean, I've been doing this all my life" says Bruce.
"You be careful just the same"
"Yes, Mother" Bruce whispers, giving me a quick grin. They have been married for years, have three kids, and his pet name for her is "Mother".

We arrive at our destination... midway between a small island and a point of land. We successfully tie off two of the rubberband trotlines. I am starting to get pretty excited, as is Bruce. My Dad was always coming up with pretty cool stuff and this was looking like a real winner.
Bruce is about 6'5" and weighs a good 300 lbs and so far has been pretty good ballast for the Canoe. But when Dad asked for a knife (he had misplaced his) and Bruce stood up in the middle of the Canoe, there was real concern in Dads voice as he said;
"Bruce, I don't think you should stand up in this canoe."
"I have been standing up in Canoes all my life, Jack!" is Bruces reply.
I, for one, was pretty certain that Bruce had never been in a Canoe at all and that we would all soon be very wet.
Sure enough, we rocked once to the left then once to the right... I glanced at Dad who had that Cigar clenched in his teeth and....the canoe turned over and I was rising to the surface.
Now I can see the sky and the bottom of the Canoe.
I can see Bruce break the surface and gasp for some air.
Then , very slowly, I see my Dad 's hat then his nose and then there is that Cigar. It's still clenched in his mouth and I see him give a few puffs and a little smoke and then a few more puffs and PRESTO its like magic...he has been fully submerged but that ubiquitous cigar is still lit!

We made it to shore....we lit a fire from Dads cigar... we stripped down to our underwear and hung our clothes to dry...we heard the rumblings of motors and cars on a gravel road that led right up to us. It was my Mother and Jean and Mom's Southern Baptist Family... they had gotten word and come to check on us. I am sure they would have stayed away had they known what we were wearing. The caravan of cars slowly parades by with those Baptist Bitter Beer faces gawking out the window.
Finally the car carrying Mom and Jean pulls up and stops. Jean climbs out of the car and hollers at Bruce "Just what do you think you are doing there Brucie Boy"
Bruce looks down at me and grins "Just tryin to get dry, Mother"
except for a pair of wet tighty-whiteys, he and I are bare-beamed and buck naked.
Jeans got her hands on her hips now and yells at Bruce "Don't you know you can't just take your clothes off any ol' where, light a fire and think you are going to get your clothes dry?"

Bruce looks down at me again and winks "Been doin' it all my life, Jean!"

Man, we did catch some fish that night.


Barbara said...

Great story in somewhat the same vein as Mark Twain's Huck and Tom. I guess boys will be boys. Loved the idea of the cigar which refused to go out under water. I notice you left out all the 4-letter words that were inevitable that day...

Dave said...

I remember finding those trotlines at night with a spotlight. The gnats were so thick I needed wipers on my dark sunglasses just to spot the stumps as we crept through the water. I think that was the night we decided that four coolers full of catfish fillets was enough and we didn't need to bait the trotlines anymore. That was the best fishing trip of my life and I've been on hundreds!

steve said...

Barb- Dad and Bruce seldom cursed and 'hell ' was about as bad as it got!
Davy; remember how we would flood a little water into the boat to help keep 'em alive? Called it our "Living Well". Was that the trip that Shila set herself on Fire?

Dave said...

Yup, and she damn near caught the whole forest on fire. What fun!

steve said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Mother of Invention said...

I'm sure there are lots of fish tales in you guys! (Love the cigar bit too!) Looks like Dave jut gave you another post idea...Shila, the firebug!

Anonymous said...

Steve, You've got your Dad's gift for telling stories. Thanks. I really enjoyed it!

Your friend.

Bruce Myers.

steve said...

Thank you Bruce!!
and as you reminded me in your Email, the actual event concerning the cigar was way better than my attempt to embellish...
Davt, you see what we are up against here... there is an air of disbelief about and I have discredited and perjured myself (albeit for the first time, ahem).
perhaps your account of theCombustible Redhead from your site would give better credence the the TRUTH... as Shila pointed out to me last night, I was a good 1/2 mile away and could only see the glow of firelight on the trees....

red-dirt-girl said...

i'm seeing a book of short stories emerging here Steve.......a sort of Tales of Toledo Bend or Tails....whichever you prefer! This post was awesome - par usual for you......thanks for the smile and the laugh!

Old Lady said...

Great story

Annelisa said...

Great story Steve! Came from your x-Mrs Buttonholes story, via the first half of this're still the best story teller around!

(loved the cigar bit too :-D )

Thanks for this XX