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.
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!
(Photos - Granddaughters Natalie and Lexi)
This website has a list of alligator eyes at night. You get the idea!