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By Loren Moore and Johnnie Moore
I was sitting at the table eating bacon and eggs for breakfast when I heard the sound of an outboard motor. That would be Wyatt ( that's what Loren called his pappy ) coming in off the lake. I got up and walked out on the dog run of the old cabin. Yeah it was Wyatt all right. I walked on out on the porch and stood there pulling the other strap of my overalls over my shoulder and fastening it.
Then I walked down to the boat and asked Wyatt if he had brought the moonshine with him. He didn't answer he just pointed at the toe sacks in the front of the boat as he walked by on his way up to the cabin. I pulled the toe sacks aside and there was six one-gallon jugs in the bottom of the boat.
I carried the jugs up to the hog pen and put them in the little shed that was in the pen. Then I went into the cabin and told Wyatt I was going to go run my fish trap. I cranked up the little 3 horse Johnson outboard motor and ran over to Whang-Doddle-Pass where I had me a homemade fish trap set out for catfish.
When I got there I looked around right careful like to see that there was no other boats around. Then I took the long cane pole with the hook tied to it and fished my trap up. When I got it up where I could get ahold of it, I laid the pole down and pulled it into the boat. It was half full of catfish. I dumped them out into the boat and dropped the trap back into the water.
I put the fish in one of the toe sacks and cranked the motor again. This time I was going over to Taylor's Landing to sell the fish to him. When I pulled up to Taylor's dock, old man Taylor was standing there watching me. He wanted to know what I had brung him this time. I told him I had a toe sack full of catfish for him.
"Oh," he said, "I thought your pappy might have sent me something."
"Wyatt's got it ready, he just hadn't had a chance to bring it yet." I answered.
To be continued
SWAMP RAT, CHAPTER 2 OF 5
It was mid afternoon, and Johnnie realized that she had not accomplished very much that day. She has been stewing about those "toe sacks" that she saw being carried to the shed. Now she wasnít the smartest broad on Caddo Lake, but she wasnít the most ignorant in the swamp either. So she decided that stewing was not going to accomplish anything, so she finished hanging her wash on the line and walked back in the house and put on a pan of fried potatoes and started cooking chicken fried venison for their dinner.
She walked out on the front porch where Loren was mending "trot" lines and said, "Loren, when you go running your lines tonight I want to go with you! Your supper will be ready by 4:30 today and Iíll leave the dishes until we get home." With that she walked back in the kitchen.
Loren sat there a few minutes wondering what in heck had got into her all of a sudden. She rarely went with him to check the evening lines. He decided he would go in the kitchen and see what was going on. When he got in there and smelled those fried potatoes all thoughts of what he had intended to ask slipped his mind. He was really looking forward to those "taters" and chicken fried venison. "Will you make some gravy to go with it?" he asked.
"Yes," she answered in as soft a voice as she could. She hoped he had not seen the cooler she had sitting on the floor near the door. He always fussed if she wanted to take something to drink along to run the lines. He said two to three hours she could wait and all she would do was say she had to go pee anyway. However he did enjoy her help and she knew that. He had begun to have problems bending over to reach the lines at night. She would just throw a boat cushion down in the bottom of the boat and kneel down and she could reach them just fine.
They ate their dinner and started for the boat, and as usual, there was the row about the cooler. "Now Loren, you just have it your way. I can take something cool to drink or you can do without any help."
"Oh, alright then," he said.
Johnnie climbed in the boat and said, "I want to run the motor tonight"
"No!" Loren said. "You donít know how and you donít know where the lines are."
"Have you moved them since night before last?" she answered as she sat down in the driverís seat.
"Well no," he said, "but when it gets dark you want know how to find your way around."
"Then weíll just switch up and you can steer."
"Oh alright, but you pay attention to those stumps, I donít want to get spilled over." He groaned.
"Well, it ainít deep, and you might just enjoy it," she laughed as she started up the motor and let it idle a minute before easing out of the boat run.
She idled the motor down and swiveled around as she got out in the middle of the boat run. "You know what, I think it would be neat to just go a little different this time. You always go the same way. And it gets boring!"
"NAW, Itíll just take longer."
"You ainít got nothing but time she yelled as she took off for the "Seven Sisters".
TO BE CONTINUED
CHAPTER 3 OF 5
Loren knew it was no use in arguing with his momma so he sat there thinking about where he could move his trot lines next. As he was picking his nose, the little motor hit a stump and jarred the boat so as to make him stick his finger further up his nose and it started bleeding.
"Dern it, Maw, I told you to watch them stumps, now look what you made me do."
She told him to hush up, he didn't have any business with his finger up his nose anyway.
When they got to Seven Sisters, Johnnie shut off the motor and grabbed a paddle. She paddled the boat over to the last sister (tree) and Loren fished up his trot line with that cane pole with the hook on it. He always tied his trot lines to the tree way below the surface to keep other people from finding them. Loren and his maw ran this trot line and took off several catfish and rebaited it.
Then it was on to Little Green Brakes where his next trot line was. After that one was the one at John's Hole. When they had finished running that one, Loren would tell his maw that was all he had baited and they could go home now. It would be dark by that time, and he would be ready for some more of that chicken fried venison.
"Alright Loren, We'll do this your way tonight. I told you I wanted to go backward and you don't listen. So just get a piece of ice out of that cooler and put it on yore dern nose to stop that infurnal bleedin', you know better'n to poke yore fanger up your nose when we're motoring along. Any time for that matter." She started over to Little Green Brakes to his next trot line.
Loren reached in the cooler. "What's this here you got in this jar, Maw?"
"Some peach Tea," she answered. "It's real sweet like you like it."
He iced his nose and the bleeding stopped and by then they were at the next batch of lines. He took a big drink of the "tea" and said. "Dang Maw that's good. Howed you make Peach Tea?"
By then she had seen they had a big cat on the trot line and it was pulling like fury, so she just got busy and didn't answer. They worked furiously to work all twenty five of the hooks and in all pulled in 19 catfish. The biggest one they took off first and it weighed on guess around 30 pounds. The rest were good sized around 4 to 12 pounds each.
They were both pretty exhausted by the time they finished that and rebaited. Loren leaned back and took another long drink of the "tea." She started the motor and they went on to the next batch of lines. When they reached John's Hole, His mama could see they had several big fish. The Limb Lines were all twitching real hard in the water and the "trot line" was weighted down pretty deep. So they sat to work feverishly to get all the fish in the boat. There was another huge cat. This time an Opp! It sure took some fight as it probably weighed a good 40 pounds. There were at her last count another 10 fish and each of them weighed around 4 pounds each. She was beginning to think they would be up all night cleaning catfish and that was something she did not relish. She was thirsty, and decided she would take a little drink of that tea. She picked up the quart jar and it was empty! Just enough ice melted to wet her mouth good.
She let out one of her "blow off" breaths and said. "Dern, son, were you thirsty?"
"Yeah, Maw, I surely was." Loren had a silly grin on his face and she knew he was smashed.
But with the amount of fish they had to clean she decided to not say anything for now. She just cranked up the motor and headed for the house. This was going to be a long night cleaning and filleting fish, and Wyatt just better not be soused or he was gonna catch it, if he was in any shape to hear. If he was passed, out then it would be hell to pay come morning!
When they got back to the house, Loren told his maw to pull the boat over to the big wire cage they had out in the water, he put all the fish in the cage to keep them alive until morning when they could clean them in the daylight. Then he started up to the house, but he seemed to be having trouble walking. So he just laid down on the ground next to the boat and went to sleep.
The next morning when the sun woke him up, he sat up and looked around. Now where in tarnation am I, he thought. His mouth felt like it was full of cotton, his head was splitting open, and he was covered with mosquito bites. He managed to stand up, and he saw that he was just a little ways from his home. "If I didn't know better, I would say I had been into Paw's shine again." he said out loud.
The bright sunlight hurt his eyes but he made it to the front porch and laid down in the shade. It wasn't long before his maw came out on the porch and found him. "Maw, I think I'm dying."
She sat down in the rocking chair next to him and went to rocking without saying a word. After a while, she got up and went back in the house. When she came back out she had a glass of that peach tea. She handed the glass to me and said "Drink." I drank. In a little while I began to feel better.
To be continued
CHAPTER 4 OF 5
Johnnie went in the kitchen and began frying bacon and eggs. Soon she called Loren to come to breakfast. He came in and sat at the table. He held his head in his hands. She took one look at him and said, "Loren go get yourself in the shower and wake up, You don't come to my table looking like a hung over swamp rat."
He drug off to the bathroom and stayed in the shower long enough to wake up a bit. When he got back to the table he shook his head over the fresh hot eggs and biscuits and said, "I just don't think I'm hungry, Maw."
Johnnie had dumped the cold eggs in the slop bucket and made him fresh hot eggs while he was showering. "Yes, you are hungry and you need to eat. Now get on with it Son. We got things to do!" She spoke a little sharper to him than she ever normally did.
"Yeah Maw, I know, we got to either take all them fish over to Taylor's or clean em ourselves." He was eating slowly and trying to keep the food down.
"Them fish are taken care of already. When you fell out on that bank last night I just poured all of em back over into the boat and took them over to Taylor's. He paid me and I got the money right here!" She showed him the Bull Durham Tobacco Sack she kept hidden in her large bosom. "I also took him the rest of that rot gut your Pa thought he had hid out in the hog shed. Got paid for that too."
"OH Maw! You Didn't! Pa will be mad enough to kill!" Loren was about choking on his bite of biscuit.
"Let him raise all the hell he wants to, ain't nothing he can do now short of raising a hand to me and you know that he knows I'd lay him out cold dead if he ever tried that. Now get up and come on. We're going about some business!". She grabbed her bonnet off the post on the way out the front door and Loren was right behind her. She stomped off down to the little 14 foot jon boat he used mostly, and got in and started up the motor. He knew she meant business, he just didn't know what she was up to. So he said nothing. Besides his nose was sore from the finger stuck up it and his head hurt. She started out of the channel just as Wyatt stepped out on the front porch. She saw him walk to the edge to relieve himself and she sniffed at the sight of him. A grown man should know to use a bathroom!
She gave that little motor all it would take and they got over to Whang-Doodle Pass pretty quick. She looked around good and saw no one was fishing in the area. Then she said, "Alright, Go ahead and pull it up!"
"Pull what up, Maw?"
"Now don't play your fool games with me, I know what's down there, pull it up."
Loren saw she had the paddle laying across her lap and he knew he had better do as she said. So he took the long pole with the hook on it and pulled up the trap. "What in blazes, he shouted." He saw the big hole ripped in it. "Must have been a big un!"
"Yeah, it was a big-un, Your mama! Now take this ax and chop it up."
She handed him the ax. He was afraid not to mind her, he could tell she was in a foul mood. So he axed the wooden frame and it fell apart pretty quick.
"Now, roll the wire up around them wood slats and stick it up in the fork of that big cypress tree over yonder." She instructed him.
He minded her without a word. She started up the motor and got it reved up pretty well and got just to the right of the biggest stump she knew of where the water was pretty deep. She flipped the handle of the little motor quickly to the left and then quickly to the right. Just as she goosed the gas a bit. That caused a flip flop and turned the boat wrong side up.
She swam over to the stump and turned and looked to see that Loren was hanging onto the overturned boat. "Son, you swim to that stump just to the other side of the boat. That motor will take her down soon enough."
"But I can right it, Maw," he screeched.
"You do as I say boy. NOW!"
Loren swam over to the stump, climbed up, and sat down. He looked at his mama all forlorn and said, "What we gonna do now?"
"Well, I reckon we're gonna set a spell," she answered.
He hung his head between his bunched up knees and just sat there saying nothing. Never in his whole life did he think his mama would go crazy.
They sat there for a little while in the sun and finally Johnnie spoke, "I been aiming to have a long talk with you, and I figured this way I could keep you still enough to listen."
He looked over at her all stunned like. He still said nothing!
"Loren, now I intend to say my piece. You know I been taking me some correspondence classes. Them books your Uncle Joe been shipping here are college classes and I been studying and when I wrote back to him the Test for the courses went with the letters and he sent them on. Now I took me a course from the Chicago School of Nursing. I took a course in grammar. One in Math and one in Learning Social Etiquette. That means how to behave around gentle folk. I reckon all of them will take some practice since I ain't never been out far from this place."
"But now you listen! I ain't raising you no further to be a Swamp Rat like your Pa. Wyatt has done got himself soused up in that rot gut whiskey until he ain't never going to amount to nothing. I'm leaving here today! I been watching you and I figure if that back you hurt falling off that jeep last winter is mended enough for you to lug around them jugs of whiskey. Tote the sacks of fish around and tug on these boats. Then it's healed enough to get you into the military. I don't care what branch you join. But your going someplace and join. We are taking the old Chevy to Dallas today to your Uncle Joe's."
"You can find a job out there! Uncle Joe says that them factories are hiring. I aim to go to the hospital at Baylor and go to work. Aunt Susie done asked if maybe they would hire me and they said yes, most likely soon as I could apply, and I reckon that will be tomorrow morning. Now you can come with me, get a job in Dallas, join the military or stay here. If you want to be a Swamp Rat all your life I guess I can't stop you. Your nearly twenty one years old and old enough to make up your own mind. You'd best think faster than you have ever thought in your life cause here comes our rescue party."
A boat was approaching and Loren could tell it was Old Jeff from over at the Waskom store! "You had this all planned out didn't you ma? You know Pappy is gonna raise hell." Loren was near in a panic.
"Let him," she said. "I'm through with him. Heck, Loren, you weren't born yesterday. You know me and him ain't had no married life in years. I reckon he'll find someone else to do his fetching and totin. I packed me the Chevy last night. I been saving my chicken, and egg money and as much of the house cleaning money I could. Now I'm going.! You coming or setting on that stump. Your clothes are in the Chevy too. I can just toss em out!"
About then Old Jeff eased his boat up close to the stump she was sitting on and said. "Lordy, Miss Johnnie you went and done it, just like you said."
"YEP!" She said as he helped her aboard. She sat down and they both turned and looked at Loren.
Old Jeff said "Boy, you about ready to get off'n that perch?"
TO BE CONTINUED
Chapter 5 of 5
Sure am. Jeff paddled his boat over to the stump I was setting on and I got in. Then he took maw and me back to our place. When we got there maw crawled out of the boat and went straight to the old Chevy and got in. She started the motor and looked at me.
She said, "Well, you coming with me or not?"
I stood there for a minute and finally I asked, "If I come with you can I bring my dog? If I leave Buck here Pappy will be mad at us, and he'll probably shoot him."
"Oh alright," Maw said.
I called Buck and he came running.
We both got in the front seat of the Chevy because there was no room in the back seat. As Maw was driving up highway 9 to Waskom, Buck was sitting next to the window with his head sticking out. The wind was blowing his ears so they flopped up and down like a bird's wings. It was blowing his lips back so he looked like he had a silly grin on his face. His tongue was hanging out of the corner of his mouth and slobber was streaming back over his shoulder. He was the happiest black lab in the whole wide world right then.
I took a piece of paper out of my bib pocket of my overalls and looked at it. "Maw would you look at this?"
"Just a minute," she said. When she stopped at the stop sign on the entrance ramp into Intrastate 20, she reached over and took the paper out of my hand. It was an advertisement I had tore out of the Waskom newspaper. It said that the state of Texas was starting a new class for the training of game wardens in Dallas this fall.
"Do you recken I could go to that class and be a game warden?" I asked.
Maw, she sat there for a minute without saying a word, and then she started laughing. She laughed so hard I thought she would bust a blood vessel. Finally she said, "Loren, I'm not laughing at you. I was just thinking what the headline would be in the Waskom Paper. I can see it now. 'New game wardens Loren Moore and his dog,Buck, assigned to Caddo Lake!'
But that's a whole nother story for a different time.
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