Tag Archives: crabs

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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One Bag of Balloons

I think those balloons cost about $1.87. But of all the activities in which our grandchildren were involved the week of our “Camp 1010,” the balloons were near the top of the list. Maybe not capping the wonderful washing they gave my car!

The boys particularly (William 13 and Thomas 10) are very athletic so every day was punctuated with the sounds of the basketballs being dribbled or swishing through the nets. They all three rode bikes. They loved riding around and around our almost quarter mile paved driveway. Mattie (8) built up too much speed one evening and landed in the bushes, which scared us all, but she came through that accident like a trooper after some good ice packs and attention from Grandaddy.

One day we went to Bald Point State Park on the Ochlochnee Bay and had a marvelous time discovering crabs, even a live horseshoe crab, and seashells. Mattie was enthralled with every little seashell. Then we went to the wildlife lab in Panacea where we all had a blast handling star fish, scallops, clams and coral, as well as getting a very close view of several sharks. Eating seafood before we left the bay was a big treat. William ordered flounder tacos and ate every bit of them.


The Lemonade Stand is an annual event. They make lemonade, posters, and all


Aside from the annual Lemonade Stand (which, this year, thanks to our very generous neighbors, brought in $109 for the hungry), we made mayhaw jelly, played badminton, croquet, and corn-in-the-hole. We played a Monopoly game that became a fixture in our living room for parts of three days. And they beat me (trounced me!) in Authors cards time and time again. We made homemade playdough the day Amanda’s two little girls were part of our group, and that day Charli netted a beautiful orange butterfly.


Mattie, Charli, Caitlin creating with playdough


But a great highlight of the week was the balloons.

I had intended to make slime instead of playdough, thinking the boys would like that better, but I never quite figured out the recipe, or maybe never worked up my nerve. Along in the afternoon that last full day, the girls began pleading for a teaparty, and the boys were not quite enthusiastic about that. I decided it was time to bring out the balloons. I thought they’d all, from six-year-old Charli to 13-year-old William, enjoy balloons for a few minutes.


Mattie, proud of her very big balloon she blew and tied off


It was an evolving activity that stretched into several hours and even the next day.

Some of the children had never blown up a balloon so it was a learning experience for them. They learned how to control their breathing, how to hold the “neck,” how to minimize their slobber, and even, eventually, how to secure the opening and have a bouncy toy instead of a deflating flutter. The fluttering, of course, brought squeals of delight.

The boys remembered that balloons pop quickly on hot asphalt. They also realized a nice full bag of balloons was available so popping them was an okay sport. The police never drove up to check on the explosions.

Aside from popping, other sounds filled the air. The balloon players became versatile in making balloon noises, some almost musical, some disgusting, and all quite hilarious to this porch crowd.

The activity gravitated to the water hose where water balloons became the new thing. The boys showed the little girls the techniques of filling the balloons with just the right amount of water. Squeals erupted as balloons of many colors popped and splatted on the asphalt (or on each other!). I stayed safe on the porch.

When Amanda came to pick up Caitlin and Charli, I instructed the children to pick up the many pieces of popped balloons and, of course, that command met with a few groans. After the little girls left, the other three straightened up the porch and each went to read in a favorite chair or corner before our much-anticipated supper with cousin Charles Douglas at Mr. Chick’s. I thought that was the end of the balloons.

The next day we had to take our three Birmingham grandchildren home. Somehow that depleted bag of balloons got in the car. And it wasn’t as depleted as I’d thought!


These Siamese twin balloons required a double blow from William and Thomas!

Driving toward Dothan we heard the sounds begin, the breathing, the squeaky twisting of inflated orbs, the deflating, the giggles. Confined safely in seatbelts those kids managed to play ball, to play a symphony of sound effects, to compete over who could blow the largest floater and much, much more.

Suddenly Thomas was bleeding from one of the warts Grandaddy had frozen for him (one of the perks of having a veterinarian Grandaddy) so we exited the highway. When Grandaddy opened the back of our vehicle to find a bandaid, a colorful river of inflated balloons escaped drifting quickly across the parking lot like live creatures. Our laughter notched to a high level when, as we drove down the service road to get back to interstate, we were actually sharing the road with a great big red balloon. When last we saw it, that balloon was bumping along on the median as if hunting for the right road.

So if you’re among the brave and the free, buy a bag of balloons (a big bag) and turn your children loose with it. You will be amazed at what develops!

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