Childhood memories of creek banks, water walking at night

Published 12:00 am Saturday, February 12, 2000

The other night, as I made my way home from some meeting regarding the future of something I'm sure was very important, I found myself zooming through the back roads of Butler County. There, looming like an apparition out of the mist, was a part of my youth, smack dab in front of me. I saw the reflected rays, and could almost smell the wood smoke and lantern fuel. As my vehicle approached the bridge somewhere near Industry and Friendship, I slowed, rolled down the window, and tried to hear any sounds coming forth from the creek bank. It was not quire spring, but you could still tell that a young man's thoughts had turned to fancy…and to the creek bank.

What happened was I came upon a group of fellows going night fishing. They were unloading their truck of the poles, lines, tackle boxes, coolers, lawn chairs, Coleman lanterns, flashlights, cups of worms, liver, and other

smelly goodies that catfish like, and all the other real necessities to go night fishing.

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I remember many an epic journey up and down the various banks of Persimmon, Pigeon, and Mashy creeks, the Patsilagia and Sepulga Rivers, as well as many an evening spent paddling around various backwaters and beaver ponds carrying on the manly pursuit of night fishing. Everything seems so different at night, with the buzz of bugs the size of robins around the lantern, and the testosterone laden rumblings of the bullfrogs taking the place of background music as you made your way up (or down) a creekbank with a handful of poles and a teenage body full of confidence that a full stringer of fish lay ahead.

Marvin and Newton and all the crowd of crazies loved to go night fish. It got us out of the house, put us in harms way (usually), and gave us a great chance to come up with some really great stories for later. What really made night fishing even better was the frequent opportunity to cross paths with reptile of one sort or another.

I remember the time I brought a college buddy of mine home for the weekend. He hailed from one of the big South Florida cities that borders on the edge of nature, but doesn't take in all the majesty of the jungle that surrounds it. He came down with no knowledge of trot lines or how to go jugging or the faintest idea of how to work a cud of Red Man into cuspidoral splendor. It took a pretty fair amount of persuasion (and casting aspersions on his manhood) before he finally left with us on a run to the beaver pond off Tram Road, and even more threats before he got in the boat with us to check a trotline run across the beaver pond. Being a city boy, however, he thought the idea of Newton hitting the water with a paddle before he pulled up the line was just our countryboy way of pulling his leg. We told him it was to scare a snake or alligator (yes, we always had gators in the swamps of lower Butler County) off the line before you pulled it up. I can truly say the highlight of the evening was when he finally tried to check the line and pulled up the water moccasin about the size of his arm who had been dining on the big old bream that had taken the bait. The real fun came when he tried to walk on water back to the Dart. We spent the best part of an hour trying to coax him down from the cypress tree where he decided to wait out daylight.

That was just one of the things that flashed through my mind as I saw the campfire and lantern through the trees. The other thought was that I wished I could be with them, right then.

And I guess that in my mind, I was.