A Porch of My Own

A Porch of My Own

Thursday, August 4, 2011

You Get A Line, I'll Get A Pole......

Daddy drove the car down the gravel road, the deep, loose gravel crunching under the tires. The tall trees hugged the side of the road leaving a thin slice of sky above us. We went deeper and deeper into the woods. I was starting to feel claustrophobic, although I didn’t know what that word meant at the time.

We weren’t sure where we were going or when we would get there. Daddy was taking us to a friend’s camp house on Horseshoe Lake in Louisiana. We would fish and spend the night there.

My memories of this trip are blurry. I’m not sure how old I was. But there are a few things that stand out in my mind, all of them creepy! 

The camp house had a wooden deck on the side near the lake. You had to walk out onto the deck to get to the bathroom. I remember I had to get up during the night to use the bathroom. It’s not clear in my memory if it was an outhouse or if it was just outside the house. 

As I walked down the deck I looked out at the lake. A bright moon shone and the lake was covered with duckweed in places, or “alligator water” as we called it then. And sure enough, there were what seemed like hundreds of pairs of alligator eyes floating on the surface of the water. The moonlight reflected off their eyes. The Spanish moss hung from the trees. A mist rose from the lake. I can see it even today in my mind. It was horrifying and beautiful.

I began to question whether I could “hold it” until morning, or did I really have to use the bathroom!

Earlier in the day we kids took a walk through the woods. We had gone a good ways from the camp house when we heard grunting and snorting noises. We stopped and looked at each other. A group of large wild hogs entered the open area where we were. Yikes! Time to make a hasty retreat. We ran in fear for our lives! We made it back to the camp house with everyone accounted for. 

Daddy used to love to fish. He often took us to scary “dangerous” places to fish. The boys were taught to cast and fish for bass. For some reason we girls only used cane poles and fished for bream. I guess he thought we couldn’t grasp the complexities of casting or maybe we didn’t show an interest. When I was grown up I wished that I had gotten to bass fish as it seemed like more fun and had more action.

Sometimes Daddy would take us out in the jon boat. We never had any other kind of boat that I remember. One time Kathy and I went out in a boat by ourselves and we had trouble trying to get back to shore. We only had paddles, which was ok since we didn’t know how to use an outboard motor, or any kind of motor for that matter. We kept paddling against each other and going in circles. Daddy stood on the shore and gave us instructions and waved his arms a lot, and we made it safely in but it was touch and go for a while!

I used to think I liked to fish. When people asked I said, sure, I love to fish! But when I went as an adult I found it boring. I had no patience for it. I wondered if I had gotten tired of it. I reluctantly admitted that I didn’t really like fishing. 

One day it dawned on me that it wasn’t the fishing I had liked, it was being with Daddy. In spite of the horrific places we went to and the phobias that I acquired from those places, I loved being out with Daddy. He would take me out in the boat and teach me how to put worms and shiners on my hook and how to gently take the hook out of the fish‘s mouth. When we got back with the bream, he taught me how to use a spoon to scrap the fish scales off, and how to cut the heads off and gut the fish. I asked him one time if it hurt the fish and he said, no, they didn’t have any feelings. I never have researched to see if fish have feelings, but I believed Daddy when he told me they didn’t. Because who wants to cut something's head off and know they are feeling it.

Mama would fry up the fish we caught. The bass were filleted but the bream were fried whole. If you were too little someone had to mash up your bream and remove all the bones before you could eat them. It was a tedious chore but we did it with patience, rubbing the meat between our fingers until it was so shredded there was no place for a bone to hide. We must have been good at it because no one ever choked to death on a fishbone!

Daddy has been gone for 6 years and we lost Mama a few months ago. We continue to have fish fries with the family gathered together. My brother Andy is the supplier of fish. He switched from bass fishing to saltwater fishing many years ago and always has a freezer of redfish and trout. He brings his equipment and fries them up outside, usually at my sister Kathy’s house or my brother Lee’s house. Those of us that can make it come and bring side dishes and desserts. He takes requests for fish fries, as he did for my daughter Sarah’s wedding shower and Kathy’s 60th birthday party. As we did growing up, the cousins join us when they can.

(Photos - Granddaughters Natalie and Lexi)

Our grandchildren don’t know about the fish fries we had growing up, when we would all catch fish for supper, and clean them when we were no bigger than the littlest of the kids now. And go out in the boat with our dad and learn how to fish. But my children have taught their children to fish. And the girls how to cast. And I hear tell they’ve even been to some pretty creepy camp houses to develop their own phobias. 

This website has a list of alligator eyes at night. You get the idea!


  1. Who are you and how did you get in my childhood?! I swear if I didn't know any better I'd think you were my sister, only she's an avid fisher-woman and I never went to a fish camp on horseshoe lake, but we spent many summers on the English Bayou in SW Louisiana. I've been chased by hogs and thrown chunks of cypress branches at alligators too. Girl we have a lot in common.

  2. Good times for sure! These days I try to stay away from any place gators hang out but we swam in their water lots of times. And hoped they didn't find us tasty looking! I live in a dry place now, a little too dry lately with this drought. But I love the dry climate and the big sky.
    Hope you go fishing with your sister sometimes and enjoy the memories on the bayou!

  3. Such great memories..some scary one, but good ones!
    I have memories like this with my Pappaw. He loved to fish and he would take me any time I went to spend time with him.
    Great photos!!!

  4. You just need to know that I kept hearing the "Deliverance" theme song as I read your creepy/enchanting post!

    Great pics- and great memories. Thanks for sharing!

  5. Nah, in Louisiana it's all Zydeco! Check this out Sue... http://jomammatexs.blogspot.com/2011/07/im-back.html