Lee Kinard had a classic 1984 Chevrolet El Camino for sale. It was a one owner with low mileage and was in great condition. He parked it just off U.S. Hwy 41 in the outskirts of Richwood. It didn’t stay there long, but the nice folks who took it forgot to leave a check. Lee told us about the theft in our Sunday School class. I asked him if I could park my boat there.
It had been six years since the boat had been in the water. I cranked it every few months just to keep it in working order. Occasionally, I would even wash it and clean out the leaves that had blown in. I bought a new tag every year, just in case I decided to go fishing.
It was a 1983 Bass Tracker that I inherited from my father-in-law, Mr. Bennett Horne of Thomasville. He was an exceptional fisherman, going year-round regardless of the forecast. He caught way more than his share of speckled trout and red fish from the waters of the Aucilla and Econfina Rivers. People didn’t use GPS in those days. Mr. Horne didn’t need one. He could remember every hole where he caught fish, and he knew exactly where the giant rocks were that lurked just under the water at Aucilla. He knew where to find the oyster bars in the flats and the grass where the trout hid.
I knew it was time to say goodbye. But that boat held so many good memories that sometimes I just enjoyed going out back for a visit.
There was the time we caught reds at Aucilla along with two dozen other boats, all crowding into one small honey-hole of fish. Everyone was trying to get as close as they could, but not so close as to upset the others. Avoiding eye contact was the norm. The fellow who was at the center, who had found that magical spot for the rest of us, was fishing alone. We all were catching fish, but he was loading the boat.
The man stood up. “Get ready to move,” whispered Mr. Horne. We figured he had caught all that he wanted. We were ready to slide into home plate. That’s when the fellow quickly dropped his pants and sat down on a bedpan, one like you might see in a hospital. Mr. Horne whispered again, “I think I know why he fishes alone.”
Another memorable time was when Mr. Horne and I, along with his good friend Shelly Chastain, were invited to have Thanksgiving dinner with One Armed Frank. The outside buffet was provided by Frank’s neighbors, “River Rats,” he called them. Frank had both arms but one hand was always nursing a can of beer. He ran the landing at Econfina. He would gladly use one hand to help launch boats and such. There was no expectation he would use both. We knew not to ask.
The nice thing about Frank was that he always gave a good report. Frank would tell you about the folks who just left with the limit and had only been there a couple of hours. He would caution you to watch out for flying fish, that they were, “jumping in the boat.” Shelly would try to look serious and say, “Frank, I was so afraid you might have a bad report today.” We knew that Frank was not just selling bait. He was selling hope.
We made lots of trips in that boat and brought home plenty of fish. The fish are long gone, but the memories are still fresh.
I parked the boat at Causey’s Service Station. A few days later Charles Henerson took it home. That boat has given me more good memories than I can put into a column. I hope it gives Charles some that are just as sweet. I knew it was time to say goodbye.