Tag Archives: Charles Douglas

Gone Fishing

Every family has them, the family fish tales. Ours is no exception. Whether good, bad, or crazy, these stories are part of the fabric of our relationships.

In a veterinarian’s family quite often pleasure and business are mixed. That means that an afternoon of fishing might occur at a farm pond after the calf delivery or the relief for a bloated hog had been successful. Something like that was the setting one Saturday afternoon when William was about ten and Julie nine. It was a planned occasion because we had folding chairs with us, not usual equipment for a veterinary truck. The chairs became part of the adventure. Julie wanted to sit in a chair and fish. The bank was steep. She couldn’t get her cork far enough into the water to suit her without moving the chair. Her dad warned her repeatedly that the chair would fold if she kept moving it. She continued to edge it closer and closer until–Julie and the chair splashed into the pond. True to her spunky nature, Julie surfaced spluttering and laughing. It was a chilly afternoon and we weren’t ready to leave so our resourceful vet pulled a pair of coveralls from behind his truck seat and we set Julie into them. Even with the legs rolled up as far as they would go, she could hardly walk. The crotch was dragging the ground. I don’t remember whether we caught any fish that day!

One day when she was visiting us, my sister Jackie went fishing with the kids and me. We thought she should experience some South Georgia pond fishing. William and I baited everyone’s hook and I sighed happily. It was always so good to be on a nice grassy bank with the sound of crows cawing high in the pines and a cork floating ready to disappear any minute. Jackie was happy to be outdoors but not so pleased to be holding a fishing pole. She held it dutifully, somewhat as if she were prepared to attack a monster. After five minutes she said carefully, “I believe I’ll just lie down in this nice grass and take a nap.” I insisted she had to fish. “Fish will start biting just any minute,” I encouraged her. She held on as if the pole were holding her up. In a moment I heard a soft cry. Jackie had caught a fish. It took William and me both to pull it in and flop it in front of poor Jackie who looked ready to faint. It was a big sleek yellow belly. While Jackie, now thoroughly exhausted, lay down for her much desired nap, William put the fish in a bucket. Turns out, that was our only keeper that day. And it was the last fish, to my knowledge, that Jackie has ever caught.

William (later to be called Will) as a teenager, used to go river fishing with Mitch Kemp. He would tell wild stories about the dangers of the Ochlocknee River–alligators, snakes, and such. His main catch was gar which he never brought home. Now it gives me pleasure to hear him tell of occasional fishing escapades with his boys on Alabama rivers.

Our favorite family fishing memory is not a fish tale but a crab tale. Charles asked an employee of his, David Lee, to go with us one day to Panacea and show us how to crab on the salt flats. We took a roll of nylon cord, a five gallon bucket and a sturdy fish net. In Panacea we purchased the grossest, most unsightly, smelliest fish heads the fish market had. David helped us find the “perfect” crabbing spot, a salty pond surrounded by sea grass but with trails to the water. Following instructions of our dark skinned friend we pulled in and netted forty blue crabs that day. There were high squeals of glee, some of dismay, lots of laughter and mud. At home, even after sharing with David, we had all the crabs we could eat. We boiled them and sat around our kitchen table cracking claws, digging out the sweet morsels, and jabbering about the fun we’d had.

Charles Douglas acquired a love of fishing at a very young age. He loved to fish before he could either put bait on or take fish off. I remember well because I was the one who threaded those yucky worms on and then extricated the fish, one slickery one after another. I was glad when he became an “independent” fisherman. Even then, though, help was needed sometimes. I think he was about ten when he accompanied my sister and me to our niece Joan’s apartment in Jacksonville. Joan was awaiting a liver transplant at Mayo Clinic and we were her designated companions for that night. Her apartment was right beside a nice picturesque canal. Charles D went out to investigate, and we were having a quiet chat when he came in with a wispy willow branch asking for thread and a safety pin. Joan, always an encourager to the young, found these items and we laughed as he went back out. A sign plainly warned, “No Fishing” but who would worry about a little boy and that flimsy stick? Well, he caught a fish all right, a seven or eight inch one. And he couldn’t get it loose from that pin. There we were by moonlight beside the “No Fishing” sign struggling to get that poor fish loose and back into the canal. I expected to be caught in a big search light’s beam any time.


Proof of the catch by Charles D. Reeves, April, 2011


Charles D made a much bigger catch a few years later at a Grady County pond. He caught a few small ones that afternoon but what he wanted was a big wide-mouthed bass. He’d reported to Grandaddy there was a bass cruising near the shore. Grandaddy was sitting in his truck studying his Sunday school lesson when he heard a great shout from across the pond. Charles D says that fish kept nibbling and nibbling on his bait and then suddenly the line went to whining as the fish realized he’d been snagged. He tried to pull Charles D but he’d met his match. Charles D tugged and pulled and wrestled until he finally piled him up on the shore. Grandaddy agreed that was one for the taxidermist so he still presides in Charles D’s room, along with a long snake skin.

Will enjoys beach activities with his kids–throwing Frisbee, building sandcastles, swimming–but if he gets a chance he really likes to fish too. On one occasion he decided to fish far out in the waves away from all swimmers but the trip back and forth for bait became annoying. So he packed his pockets full of bait and prepared to have a care-free time. He’d no sooner begun than he noticed ominous fins which quickly surrounded him. He managed to get back to shore without being attacked and decided fish bait in the pockets was not a good idea.

My brother Charlie likes to tell about the time our quiet, very proper little mother visited him and his bride in Alaska. They took her camping on the Seward Peninsula. Mamma went for a walk on the seashore. By and by Charlie and Elaine saw her approaching carrying something. With a perfectly straight face she held out a very dead fish and said, “I found supper for us.”

I’m sure you have much bigger, funnier, more adventurous fish tales. Claim them, enjoy them, spin them eloquently around a campfire or your kitchen table. Even if you tell them truthfully and accurately, they will still be entertaining.

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Grandchildren Trees

The week our first grandchild was born happened to be Earth Week. When my husband and I ordered hamburgers at a McDonald’s near the hospital we received along with our meal a tiny pine tree planted in a Styrofoam cup. We laughed about the incongruity of an Earth Day gift in a Styrofoam cup. But we liked the little tree and, even though we had lots of huge pines already, we set out to plant that one. We planted it where it would receive plenty of sunshine and grow to a lofty height. This tree, we told each other, would always be our granddaughter Amanda’s age. It was quite naturally dubbed “Amanda’s Tree.” In the picture we took of her with her tree when they were a year old she’s smiling big and the tree only reached to her little feet dangling from the stroller. Now, at twenty-five, our girl turned woman has to look high in the sky to see the top of her tree.

When our next grandchild was born someone was giving away maple trees in cups. We planted Charles Douglas’s little tree near a couple other maples hoping for bright colors in the fall. “This tree will never be as tall as Amanda’s pine,” I worried. But Charles, my husband, reasoned that wasn’t the point. We were planting a nice tree to honor the birth of Charles Douglas Reeves. Later, when he was old enough to question why his tree wasn’t as big as Amanda’s, I assured him his would be much brighter.

Our third grandchild was born on the first of January, not in March like the first two. No one was passing out trees in Birmingham. But when we got home to our place in Cairo, Georgia, we looked around and decided this grandson, William Stacey Graham, Jr., should have a tree also. It just so happened that not far from one of our huge pines was a brand new long leaf seedling. Charles staked it for protection and that became William’s tree. As you can imagine, for two or three years he was totally unimpressed by that little tree. As he grew in wisdom and stature, however, he was glad to own a tree as his cousins did.

And then along came Thomas Hamilton Graham, born in February. No trees were being given. But Charles and I had begun to crave a ghinko tree. We’d enjoyed their fall color when we lived in Athens and then had been intrigued by the sprawling ghinko at our church in Cairo where it hugs up under a magnificent sweetgum. We purchased a ghinko tree that spring and planted it by the driveway where a palm tree had died leaving a nice rich spot. Thomas’s tree grew year by year more slowly than the other trees but with a certain exotic atmosphere true to its Chinese heritage, its fan-shaped leaves turning gold in the fall.

By the time Martha Elizabeth Graham was born in March, 2009, we had become enthusiasts of the majestic and romantic magnolia trees. Charles planted one for “Mattie” across the driveway from Thomas’s ghinko tree. I thought about the women in the movie “Steel Magnolias” and felt sure this little girl who, even at her difficult birth, was called by her father “a fighter,” would become both gentle and strong like them. Our first picture of Mattie with her tree shows her instant curiosity over those shiny leaves.

Growing a tree for each of our five grandchildren has not been without some disappoint-ments. Thomas’s ghinko tree lost its whole top one year in a storm but it has recovered and looks beautiful now. Charles Douglas’s maple contracted some kind of moldy disease and died. Charles D took it in stride. We planted him another tree but it died too. By then Charles D himself was about grown and able to laugh about losing two trees. “Don’t plant another one,” he said. “Look at all these trees we have to mow around already.”

And now we’re selling our place, our beloved “Lane of Palms.” What will happen to all the grandchildren trees? I comfort myself in thinking some other children will enjoy playing around those trees. But I know that is just a leafy dream. We can look at our pictures from “tree photo ops” over the years and reminisce. But I hope most of all that our grandchildren will always love and respect trees and find joy in their beauty.

As Joyce Kilmer wrote in his poem titled “Trees,” “Poems are made by fools like me, But only God can make a tree.”

If you’ve planted trees for your grandchildren, or made some other kind of collection, given books to the library in their honor, or made a tradition of some kind with them, please share your comments below.


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