Sunset from Sunset Marina on Toledo Bend near Many, Louisiana.
Bloggers Note: Every week there are stories and information that I want to tell in my message but there is simply not enough time. My message this past Sunday “Going Fishing” from Mark 1:14-20 was like that. This story by Terry Higginbotham was left on the cutting room floor. But it is worth the read. Please note: this is not my work. The original author is Terry Higginbotham copyright 2004.
The summer of 1972, my brother and I were filling cricket and bait buckets for Mr. K.C. Bray at the Sunset Marina on the Toledo Bend Reservoir just south of Many, Louisiana.
It was just another hot, humid, July in the southwest Louisiana. Each day the same as yesterday and with almost certainty the same as it would be tomorrow. The wind was so still that the Spanish moss barely rustled in the old cypress trees. But these were the type of days I liked, cause the fishing would be good. Good fishing meant good tips.
Lil’ Brother and I never did make a lot of money, but enough to keep us just short of even on our account at Mr. K.C.`s store. Our daily provisions consisted of two cokes, a moon pie, a Miss. Dailey’s fresh made sandwich, and all the crickets we needed to catch our supper. By 7:00 p.m., every evening we would have our 3 bream apiece. We would gut `em, stick `em, and cook `em over a little fire we would make on the bank near our tent.
Lil’ Brother and I had spent the last two summers camping on the banks of the Bend. We fancied ourselves as a modern day Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn. We were accountable to no one and responsible for only our daily bread. Don’t get me wrong, we were not bad kids nor did we come from a broken home. We had loving parents, grandparents, and friends. We were just lucky enough to grow up in a part of the world and in a time that allowed us to live free, truly free.
Our parents would come to the Bend on the weekends and we would get a reprieve from our day-to-day attempts to “survive”. We didn’t know until years later that mom and dad gave Mr. K.C. money to cover our supper in the case fishing ever went bad. They would bring us fresh clothes, comic books, candy, and fresh tackle for our nightly fishing. They would stay for the weekend then head for real world late on Sunday Evening.
On Friday night we would all go down to the dock. We would sit for hours talking about the week’s events. Lil Brother and I would tell about our adventures. Dad would tell us stories about the jobs he was on. Dad was an ironworker and we were fascinated by his stories of “walking in the air”. To us he was a superhero. Saturday we would spend the day fishing, swimming, and skiing.
Sunday morning was spent at “church”. We would go down to the dock, bait a couple of hand lines. We would then lower the hand lines through the cracks in the dock. The really big fish would rest in the shade, just under the dock. The best way to get to them was to fish through the cracks where the two floating partitions of the dock joined. While Lil’ Brother and I would fish for the Big Ones, Daddy would read to us about becoming “Fishers of Men”. Some of the best times of my life were spent belly down on that old dock, coaxing those big bluegills out with worms and crickets. As I look back on it now, it wasn’t because of the fishing but because of the time spent with Dad and Lil’ Brother.
Recently my dad came to visit. I was in the midst of a major project and wasn’t spending much time with him. Maybe a few minutes in the morning and an hour or so at night, before I passed out from exhaustion. On his last night, I finally got to tell him about the new boat I just bought. About the rods and reels, tackle, and accessories just waiting until we got a chance to go fishing. I told him about the cabin on Toledo Bend that we were going to rent, as soon as I got enough time to go. I told him about how excited the kids were when I had brought home new rods and reels for them, last month. He seemed to enjoy the talk although he seemed very quiet and almost sad.
My dad left that next morning. As we shook hands, he drew me near and presented me with an old box. He whispered, “The secrets to a happy life are in here”. Dad was always a little strange when it came to good-byes, so I just smiled, waved and watched him slowly drive out of sight.
The small box was worn red with a small picture of a man battling a giant bass. Below the picture was the caption “Sunset Marina Toledo Bend Many, Louisiana”. I slowly opened the box and smiled as I became aware of its contents. Truly these were the “secrets of life”. In the box was a small bible with a bookmark with Matthew 4:19 printed on it. It had been a while but I did remember, “Follow Me and I will make you Fishers of Men”. Beside the Bible was a small hand line wrapped in a piece of paper with my dad’s handwriting scrawled on it. I unfolded the note and smiled as I read the simple key to a happy life.
“Son, Make time to fish through the cracks”.
Today isn’t just another hot, humid, July day in southwest Louisiana. Not quite the same as yesterday and with almost certainty the same as it will be tomorrow.
“Hey Jon, throw dad another moon pie”.
“Just a minute dad, I think Erin’s got another one”.
“Be careful not to lose him, it’s a little tricky getting ’em back through the cracks”.
“Was fishing this good when you were a kid?”
(c) Copyright 2004 OuachitaGroup All Rights Reserved
Owner of HuntStats.com and The OuachitaGroup, Terry Higginbotham, is an avid hunter, fisherman, and outdoorsman. He runs a research project studying the Whitetail Deer and the American Wild Turkey. Information from this study is available online at HuntStats.com or by email at: articles@HuntStats.com