Fly Fisherman to Colorado Cannibals

There’s Sheb Wooley and the Calumet Indians on the radio. Sheb, sometimes known as Ben Colder, made a hit with Purple People Eater, That’s My Pa, and a bunch of other tunes during the ’50’s and 60’s.

When he first started his radio sponsor was Calumet Baking Powder. Hence the Calumet Indians – and at least two of the band were Indians! I hadn’t thought of Sheb’s original band in years. ‘Fact, the last time I saw that outfit was in Stillwater, the home of the Okie State Cowboys. Yah-hoo!

Which reminds me of various and sundry aggressive actions by State students against visiting OU types. But the worst row I ever saw, though, was opening day on a Pennsylvania trout stream. The were about five fishermen for every six feet of bank and things got a bit crowded. I don’t know who jostled who, but before it was over everybody got jostled! Right into the drink – and came out fighting mad.

I used to go fishing quite a bit, but I don’t go much any more. I like to fish when fish are biting – and I like to read when they aren’t – but I seem to have too much to do to take time off to go fishing. The last time I went fishing regular was back in the sixties. I used to go with my the wife’s brother-in-law, Charles Henderson, and Clarence Gorden every chance I got.

Clarence had a boy in ’42 before he got drafted. Well, his wife had it! Clarence got a furlough in ’43. They had another boy in ’44. He got back from Europe in ’47. They had another boy in ’48. Recalled for Korea in ’49, got a furlough in ’51. Yep, they had another baby in ’52! I always wondered if absence made the heart grow fonder or something.

Yep, the Gordons had four boys, all in band. Just not at the same time! They must have took after their mother, because Clarence couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket. And besides that he was the worst fisherman the Good Lord ever made.

Clarence could get hung up quicker and harder than anybody I ever saw. Once his hook got hung, he tried everything he had heard about or he could think of. But it was never any use. Once Clarence was hung up he was stuck. He might as well cut the line and go on.

Yep, he’d buy a bucket of minnows, a roll of line, and a box of hooks, and come in when they were all gone. Did he catch fish?

Let me tell you, Clarence bought a fishing outfit when he came back from Korea in ’53, and he wore his reel and his motor out but his stringer was still in cellophane!

Somebody asked Clarence why he went fishing so much and never brought home any fish. “That’s easy to answer,” says Clarence. “My boys all play the trumpet.”

Now, Clarence read about “inner tubing” in some magazine and he figures that would be his fishing salvation. He got a big ol’ tractor tube, built himself a little wire rack to carry his minnow bucket and tackle box – and one morning he goes down to Flint Creek. This was when they first opened Flint Creek.

Clarence’s wife told him that he had to be in by six or six thirty at the latest because she had someplace to go and had to have the car. Clarence had real good intentions, because his wife talked so much he got hoarse listening to her. Clarence sure didn’t want to give her something else to talk about.

Clarence always reminded me of Ab Parsons. Ab died, and they threw a big funeral for him. Ab wasn’t well liked so everyone in the county had to look in the box and make sure Ab was dead; so they would have an excuse to celebrate. They said it was the biggest doin’s since the land rush.

Thy put up a big marble stand for him and all. They got to talking about the wonderful funeral Ab had, and somebody asked if Ab had said anything before he died. “Naw, Ab didn’t say a word. His wife was with him to the end.”

And come to think of it, Clarence’s squaw and Ab Parsons’ were a lot alike in more ways than one. They were both a lot bigger than their husbands. They said Ab carried his wife over the threshold and had to make two trips.

That was before she got fat. When I knew her the whole Hattiesburg Fire Department couldn’t have carried that woman over a low curb – much less a threshold.

After they were married Clarence’s wife could have carried him. And probably not have noticed the extra load. But she was a talker. She had a tongue hinged in the middle and it wagged on both ends, it did.

Clarence is the one told me about the time Thomas Edison was asked to say a few words to a Philadelphia civic group. When Edison showed up a guy with a Prince Albert and top hat gave a forty five minute introduction.

This speech must have been by that famous speaker, On Too Long. It began with Edison’s humble birth and concluded with “And here is the man who invented the talking machine.”

“I didn’t invent the talking machine,” Edison said. “I only invented one you can turn off.” Then he sat down. And got a standing ovation!

Clarence couldn’t turn his squaw off, so he usually tried to avoid giving her anything to talk about. He said talking with his wife was like trying to read a map in a hurricane, and he didn’t want any part of it.

The only time I can remember he changed that policy was the time his squaw started complaining that when they were courting Clarence would bring her candy and sweet rolls and candy and cakes and candy. After they were married all Clarence brought her was his paycheck and she bought her own candy!

“Hon, I’m sorry about that,” Clarence says, “But you got to remember that a man would be a durn fool to keep feeding worms to a fish after he’s caught it.”

Well, anyway, Clarence went fishing with orders to show up early. So he does. At exactly five after ten. P.M.!

“Where have you been?” screams his missus. “I promised to take Sister to church at seven, and your supper has been ready since five. Where have you been?”

“In the lake,” says Clarence.

“What were you doing in the lake?” says his better half. At some length!

“Waiting for it to get dark,” sez Clarence.

“Why were you doing a stupid thing like that?” she asks, and takes ten minutes to do it.

“I lost my pants,” say Clarence.

And for once Clarence’ missus was struck speechless! Plumb! He did lose his pants. Just being Clarence, he snagged them old seat covers of his on a snag, plumb solid, and he couldn’t get them loose.

He did manage to clean his pockets out. Good thing, he’d have had to walk home like that barefoot boy with cheeks of tan if he hadn’t rescued his keys. Except the cheeks weren’t quite the ones Edgar Guest was thinking about.

It wasn’t long after that the Gordons became a two car family. But you know, there are a lot of talkable people like Clarence’s wife. The old saying goes that most folks know how to stop talking but not when.

Ones like Clarence’s XYL wouldn’t stop if you paid them. And there’s lots of folks like that. I don’t know but that there are as many talkable men as women. There’s even a few men that want to get their arm around you and yap at you nose to nose.

And most of them have a serious case of dragon killing breath. I never had a woman get close up and personal and then curdle my lunch.

Back when the Constitution was a newspaper instead of a propaganda mill they said an Atlanta marriage counsellor told a woman that “The best way to cure your husband of his constant nagging is to show him affection, understanding, abiding care – and stuff a couple of old socks in his mouth.”

That’s a thought. You know, noise doesn’t prove a doggone thing. Many a hen who lays an egg cackles like she just laid a boulder. And many a cackling hen proves a liar instead of a layer.

At least, Clarence wasn’t like a fellow sold me a new car one time. Call him Mack Muldoon because that wasn’t his name. “Mack” and two buddies had a cabin down at Gautier, at the old Poticaw Bayou camp. These three vendors of dubious transportation went fishing every weekend that rolled.

One night Muldoon’s wife gets to rumbling around in closets and there’s Mack’s fishing tackle. She gets alarmed and calls his buddies’s wives. The other two wives get to looking and they find their husbands fishing tackle, too.

So here they go, after midnight, Saturday morning, l
ighting out for Poticaw with their husband’s fishing equipment. Now, the roads were a lot worse in those days, and they didn’t get there until just after 4:00 AM. The old man had just opened the bait shop when the three women rolled into the yard. All three of the wives jump out and brace him at the same time.

“Is Mack Muldoon here? And his two buddies?” Mrs Muldoon asks.

“Yeah, they’re here all right. But you three broads might a
s well go home. They brought their wives with them this week.”

That little incident caused what you might call a rearrangement of sorts. All three of the women and two of the men are still living in Hattiesburg, but not with each other. Mack found employment up at Parchman Farms and I haven’t seen him since.

I don’t know about the men but the women seem right well satisfied. Those gals had no use at all for that shyster that advertises “Divorces, satisfaction guaranteed – or your honey back.”

Like they say, “A woman’s heart and her tongue are not related.” That’s been near fifty years, and I heard a guy deponing on the subject of happy marriages a while back. “My marriage has always been happy because I can make my Jill do ANY LITTLE THING she wants to do.”

That’s a philosophical way to look at it! At least, Jack wasn’t in the same fix as the old boy who proposed holy hemlock to a gal and she turned him down. Being optimistic, he figures he will give her a chance to change her mind or rag her a little. Tactful, in either case. So he pays a kid to take her a note.

“Darling Elizabeth,” he writes, “I proposed to you last night and I cannot remember whether you accepted or not. Please advise.”

“Dear Joseph,” her reply read. “I am so glad to get your note. I knew I refused someone last night, but for the life of me I could not recall who.”

Now, Socrates was the old Greek whose wife had been nagging and nagging and nagging him and she finally got so wound up she dumped a chamber pot on his noggin. “It never thunders but it rains,” says Soc as he combed the lumps out of his beard.

Socrates told a young friend “By all means marry. If you marry and get a good wife you will become content. If you do not, you will become a philosopher.”

That makes perfect sense. Like the old saw says, “It doesn’t matter who you marry. They will be someone else in the morning.” Yep, you might as well “Marry in haste and repent at leisure.”

After all, “There’s none so happy as one who marries a stranger.”

Now, a lot of folks these days don’t understand that last one. One of the biggest problems in marriage is many kids expect more out of matrimony than Aladdin’s Genie could deliver. They want everything that mama and daddy worked forty years to get, next week. And they don’t get it. That turns wedlock to hemlock, plumb pronto!

Yep, when things don’t pan out at a keg of beer and a case of skittles per day per expectation they feel betrayed and call in the lawyers. If you marry a stranger you should have realistic hopes, but not impossible expectations. That gives you better chance of being happy with your other half.

Of course, these days and times the idea of marrying a stranger is strange to most folks. They have had romance drilled into them, and the historic notion of marrying to join and extend families and for mutual aid and comfort has been thrown out.

Whether that’s good or bad is arguable. What isn’t really debatable is the fact that romance is fine if both parties are hardheaded realists.

“Love makes the world go ’round,” they say. “They” lie like dogs, too. Love does not make the world go ’round. That quaint notion is untenable. It’s the sound of the dinner call and chicken fried steak smothered in egg gravy that really makes the world spin on her axle.

Of course, some idjits make the mistake of marrying for money. That’s a bad call. As Themostocles remarked while arranging marriages for his daughters “Better a man without money than money without a man.” A woman without money is a heap better than money without a woman, too.

Which another old saw says, “There’s more to marriage than four bare legs in a bed.” That is pure gospel, but “Many a man has fallen in love in light so dim he wouldn’t choose the day’s apparel by it.”

The usual result of “Love hath cats eyes” is the same sort of shock one gets from a punch in the nose! A marriage needs more than a couple of sheets – as every empty pockets who ever tried to start a new household can attest!

Those who forget that better keep a third truism in mind. “T’is a great evil to be on with a new love before you are off with the old.” That last mistake provides the undertakers and the grave diggers with work!

“Love is blind” is still popular – if inaccurate. Love is like some political wonks, selectively blind, as Bill Shakespeare noted when he wrote “I have no other but a woman’s reasons; I think him so because I think him so.” That peculiarity of human nature is called “womens reasons,” but “Because is a woman’s reason” is as common among men as women.

Hoolio Caesar commented that “Men freely believe what they wish to believe.” That very human idiocy is responsible for most of the tragedies of this world. And it leads most of us to disappointment if not to outright misfortune. Especially if one’s beliefs concern a prospective wife, a business partner, an investment, or anything else that concerns ones future happiness or money.

Those old saws ought to be taught in school. Along with how much sleep a colicky baby will make you lose, how horrible you will feel the next morning, how hard it is to live with somebody you don’t like, and other important points.

Such as “It ain’t kosher to use your spouse as a punching bag.” Nothing looks worse in this world than a husband with a black eye. Unless it’s a husband with two black eyes or a wife with one.

You know, we lose a lot of wisdom when people don’t hand down the old saws. Of course, a few of the old sayings remind us of things best forgotten. For instance, “A penny saved is a penny earned.” These days a penny earned and saved ain’t worth fooling with!

Say, speaking of money, have you heard that germs get passed from person to person on money? That can’t be true. There’s absolutely nothing that could live on a dollar. Still, no matter how low the value of the dollar falls, it cannot fall as low as some people will stoop to get a few.

Which, speaking of twisters and trailer parks reminds me of a story a Cajun friend who lives over in Grosse Tete, Louisiana, “tole me.” Grosse Tete, that’s just this side of the 17 mile bridge on I-10, between Baton Rouge and Lafayette.

I am interested in odd town names, like Swords, Bowlegs, Boozer Mountain, Clinker, and such. Grosse Tete ranks high on the list. Grosse is French for “big” or “fat,” and I can’t say here what sort of female chest adornments that other word means in Franch. Plural! Makes you wonder why the burg was named that!

Anyhoo, a twister blew through there and tore up my friends trailer. This friend is name of Augustin -and he coaches a high school baseball team. One time his team was playing Slaughter, in Slaughter, and the regular right fielder was indisposed. So Augustin starts a replacement, name of Geautreaux.

The first Slaughter batter pops a high fly ball to right field, and Geautreaux drops it. Man on base. The next batter pops a high fly ball to right, and Geautreaux drops it. Two on, first and third. The third batter pops one to right and Geautreaux drops it. Run scores. So Augustin pulls him and puts Arcenaux in.

Score is one to nairn, two on, and the next batter bloops one straight at Arcenaux. Who drops it. Two to zip, two on! The next batter hits one a mile! Straight up! A little breeze carries it to right field. Arcenaux drops it!

Three to zip, two on! The next batter tears the cover off the ball, a screaming liner to the right fielder. Arcenaux drops it.

Four to none, two on. Augustin changes pitchers, puts in Hebert, his ace. If you ain’t up on Cajun, you call that A-bear. Hebert, he whiffs three, retires the side, score four to nairn after the top of the first.

Arcenaux trots back to the dugout and glares at Geautreaux. “Dammit, Geautreaux, you got dat right fiel’ so screwed up nobody can hold on to dem dam ball out dair, I gawrantee!”

Every time I run across someone named Geautreaux, I think of Charlie Go. Charlie had a TV shop and one day called a parts place in New Orleans. The counterman wanted to know “Who dis?”

“Geautreaux TV in Hattiesburg, Miss’ippi,” says Charlie.

“How you spell dat,” says the counterman.

“G-e-a-u-t-r -” begins Charlie when the counterman cuts him off.

“I can spell Geautreaux, how you spell Hattiesburg,” he says.

Now, that counterman was a “pure bleed Cajun, name of Alfred Packer.” How in heck he got a name like Alfred Packer when he’s from down in Gator Alley where you can stand on the porch and holler Bergeron at the top of your lungs.

And from all over “dat swamp” you will hear “Which one?”

Anyway,if Alfred Packer rings no bells with you – Packer was snowed in the Rockies with a companion. After a few days Packer had a fit of appetite and ate the companion. When the snaw melted Packer walked out of the mountains fat and happy.

Alfred said his right bower had wandered off in the snow and hadn’t been heard of since. And several other things. The folks around Leadville started looking for the remains. Which they soon found. Well gnawed.

Packer was tried and convicted, of course. When the judge passed sentence he supposedly said “Alfred Packer, I condemn you to hang by the neck until you are dead. Cuss you, there wasn’t but one Democrat in Fremont county, and you ate him!”

Packer was a Harvard graduate, and a lawyer. I suppose that explains his cannibalistic tendencies since lawyers tend to consume everything in sight.

And of course, we have a Harvard educated Constitutional lawyer in the White House.


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