Archive for October, 2007


Tuesday, October 30th, 2007

I am surprised at the popularity of Halloween these days. It didn’t seem that way when I was a kid. Oh, us boys ran around town soaping up windows and looking for lawn furniture to put into other yards. I remember one Halloween night we moved neighbors cars to the front of other houses. That caused quite a stir the next morning when they went out to go to work. But we never caused any real problems. I have heard stories of guys who managed to put wagons on top of the schoolhouse and on occasion a live donkey with it. What we didn’t have was “Trick or Treat”. Man, I think we would have liked that. I wonder who invented that activity? One very smart guy don’t you think?

There is a story that goes around this time of the year that I always like to hear. Now, I didn’t make this one up and I don’t know any of the people in the story nor if it is a true one. I hope it was a real happening. I don’t want to give the ladies that may be reading this any ideas, so I suggest they not read any further than the end of this paragraph.

Bill just loved Halloween. It was the holiday of the year he liked best. In late summer he began planning for the big event. Bill shopped all the candy stores and stocked up for the big spook night. He bought all colors and shapes of candies. When October came around he bought decorations for their house. He spared no expense. As the day approached he began cooking special cookies and muffins. Bill made sure he had plenty fresh fruit to give to the “Trick or Treaters”. Cutting faces into pumpkins to make Jack-o-Lanterns consumed all his spare time. His wife was long suffering and tolerated his obsession.

Finely the great night arrived. Bill assembled all the treats near the front door so they would be handy for the kids. And they came. In bunches they came from all over. He handed out the treats and enjoyed seeing all the little kids in their cute costumes. As the evening wore on into the night a lull came with kids to the front door. About this time his wife hatched an idea. She slipped into the bedroom, found one of the children’s old Halloween masks, removed all her clothes she dared, and covered up with a bathrobe. Quietly she made her way out the back door and around to the front. She rang the door bell. When Bill opened the door she yelled “Trick or Treat” and opened her bathrobe. Shocked, Bill stumbled backwards, fell over the coffee table, knocked over a table lamp and fell to the floor breaking a leg and cutting a gash on his forehead. In the racket and yelling the dog bit Bill’s hand. Mercifully, he passed out. His wife called 911. When the medics quite laughing they hauled him to the hospital.

Bill called in sick the next morning and decided he just might have overdone Halloween’s celebration. His wife agreed.

Now I see, some of you ladies read all the way to the end. Don’t you get any ideas, please. It might be a little painful on us old guys.

Way up Morgan Creek

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2007

Way up Morgan Creek, lived my friend Ray Woods. He lived past the slow moving pools that ran dark and deep, to where the stream becomes smaller and faster and jumps from one ledge to the next. Ray lived by himself in a little shotgun cabin, the last one on Morgan Creek. Often he ventured downstream to take me squirrel hunting in the pecan bottoms, or fishing for perch in the deep pools. I liked that best. Ray was a friend of mine. He knew where to dig for the biggest and best worms to use for bait, and how to thread them onto the hook to fool the fish. He could always find the finest willow limbs to rig our lines on. Bobbing corks were made from stoppers he said were from medicine bottles, but Mother suggested they might have come from a different kind of bottle. We always fished in the pools closest to the bend in the creek, for he said that was where the best perch lived. We never went further downstream. Often we set throw lines, which we tied to young springy tree limbs hanging over the pool to catch a catfish. We would build a little fire there on the creek bank and he would tell me stories of long ago and far, far away. Sometimes we would really catch a fish big enough to fry on that campfire. They sure did taste good out there in the open, with the frogs and crickets singing their serenade.

Old men told stories of a large catfish living in the bigger pools farther down the creek. They named him “Big-un” and said he broke fishing poles and tore up trot lines just for the fun of it. Those stories sure fired my imagination. There was where I wanted to fish.

One October evening, with a touch of fall showing in the leaves and feeling in the air Ray came by with a strange look in his eyes. He said he was going down Morgan Creek to the Blue Hole and catch “Big-un”. Wow, was I excited? “You can tag along, but you gotta’ stay out of the way and be quite” he said. “This is my mission.” I was hurt, but I tagged along anyway. Ray set his line and tied it to a young, green cotton wood tree with plenty of spring in it. He lay back in the grass and did not say a word. How strange. I kept to myself, as I watched the moon rise over Spider Mountain and fill the valley with silver light. Ray lay silent.

The moon climbed higher, but Ray never moved. Suddenly the cotton wood twitched, then jerked. The water in Blue Hole churned to a white froth. The limb bent double as Ray leaped to his feet to grab the line and yelled I’ve caught him. Into the water Ray dove with the line in his hand. He managed to get astraddle the fish yelling all the time, “I caught “Big-un”, I caught “Big-un”. The line snapped from the limb and the man and fish headed down stream and into the Colorado River. The last I heard of Ray was a faraway cry of joy, “I caught Big-un”, as they headed for the Gulf of Mexico and open water.

Years later I was down on Morgan creek, near Blue Hole, getting a load of rocks to build a walkway when Ma called. “Hollis”, she yelled, “You have a letter!” Now who in the world would be writing me a letter? I didn’t know anyone outside the creek bottoms that would need to write me. I hurried home to see. Getting a letter in those days meant one of two things, glad tidings or sad news. The postmark and return address was Ma Smith, La Grange, Texas. It was easy to see an older person did the labored printing in pencil on the envelope. With trepidation I tore the it open. The letter read;
Dear Mr. Baker,
I felt you would want to know, your friend, Ray Woods died a few
Months ago. We buried him here on the river bottom. He spoke
Of you often. Yours Truly, Ma Smith

I packed my pick-up and headed for La Grange the next day. I found Ma Smith living in little shanty down on the Colorado River across from the town. We sat in a swing on the porch and chatted. She scratched out a living with the help of a beautiful garden and a few Rhode Island Red hens. She said she spent most of her spare time ironing for neighbors in town and fishing. The mention of fishing brought us to Ray. Together we pieced the story of what had happened to Ray after he had caught the catfish named “Big-un” from Blue Hole on Morgan Creek. He probably rode him down the creek to the Colorado River, then through Austin, through Bastrop, Smithville and on to La Grange. There, along the bank of the river a low hanging limb of a pecan tree, knocked Ray from the back of the catfish “Big-un”. Ma Smith said she found him clinging to the branch more dead than alive. “I nursed him back to health and he lived in this area for the rest of his life.” He was the greatest cat fisherman I have ever known. That is how he made his living: catching catfish and selling them in town. “In fact, everyone around here knew him as “Catfish Woods”.

We walked down river, past his cabin, to a meadow where the folks had buried him beneath a mighty pecan tree. There he could keep watch on the river he loved so much.

I retrieved a Morgan Creek Blue Hole rock from my pick-up and set it at “Catfish Woods” head. I trust there are plenty deep pools, full of catfish, in Heaven.

Sort of an Obituary for a Friend

Saturday, October 13th, 2007

I lost a good friend the other day. I say friend, I never spoke to him, but we waved to each other often as I drove to work. Well, I waved. It looked like he was waving back as he wiggled his long ears and hopped off into the 100 or so acre field where he and his family lived. Mr. J. W. Rabbit, better known around here as Jack Rabbit. Or more correctly, jack rabbit. I affectingly just called him Jack for short. He seemed to me a connection to the land in a primeval way. Jack died when he was hit by a motor vehicle. His internment was a little primitive and we will all miss him. You see, his home, the large, open field he and his ancestors have lived on forever, had been claimed in recent years by the Carrol family, has been sold to a developer. The developer has cleared the land of brush, put in underground utilities, and built curbed, paved streets. One more piece of the farm has gone to the city.

This, at first, distressed me. However we have been doing this very thing since landing at Plymouth Rock. I remember when we first moved to this area from the big city. The first night, camping out on our newfound property, the whippoorwills calling kept us up most of the night. They weren’t really whippoorwills we later discovered. They were chuckwillswidow. They look alike, act alike; they just sing a different song. We cleared the land of brush and mowed the grass to make it look more like the city we had just fled. And, sure enough, the chuckwillswidow had to find another place to live. Not only the loss of the night singing birds, we lost the quail. Remember how peaceful it sounded, late in the evening as the shadows lengthened, the call of the Bob White quail made a peaceful feeling that seemed to envelope us? I miss that.
Across the road from Jack’s field was another open field where lived families of Shrike and Scissor Tail Flycatchers. They have been evicted by yet another home developer. Who knows what other creatures we have run off in building more and more houses. I don’t suppose we should be surprised. We did the same to the buffalo and Indian.
I don’t really mind those folks building beautiful houses, soon to be homes. And I welcome the new folks that will move into them. That is the way our society is working. I trust, when I drive to work each morning, just as the sky is blushing orange, that the people going for the paper, will take a moment to wave back to me. Then I will remember Jack, and say a prayer for his health, where ever he has gone.