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Monday, July 1, 2013

Dyas Gone By: Camping Out At The River

Days Gone By
by Lavoy 'PaPa' Caldwell

The last time I took you on a typical day in the summertime with young PaPa, this time it will be a story involving a special time of the year. My Dad worked all the time, he was a logger/pulpwood producer and worked everyday except Sunday, but one week out of the year he would not work. This week was spent down on the river, at a magical place called Kirk. Kirk was a name given to a railroad crossing beside the river just up river from Malone, located beside the railroad, just up the hill from the river was the “Old Twilley” house that we used as a base camp. A normal trip to the river would include my dad, my brother, Stanley, an assortment of Uncles and cousins and myself.

We , my brother, cousins, and myself would spend the week before this adventure preparing for the trip. We would lay in a good supply of fish bait, consisting of big ole fat earthworms and red wigglers, we would also go down to the canebreak and cut a good supply of cane poles to be used as bank hooks. Other provisions would include freshly sharpened “scout’ knives, maybe a slingshot or two, a hatchet or two for splitting kindling, fishing tackle, a pack or two of Beechnut, and of course a few cigarettes pilfered from PawPaw. Once we had our cache of supplies laid in, the wait would begin, was kinda like waiting for Christmas. The day would finally arrive that the adventure would begin, always would start a little after dawn with a big breakfast and the load out of the boat, motor and all of our provisions, normally it would take at least 3 pickups to haul all of the gear and people, but off we would go. Off on the adventure of a lifetime, leastwise it was at the time, and as I write this I think back, and it was a most wonderful time in the life of young PaPa.
It would take about an hour to get to Kirk for you see it was located down a long and winding road that snaked though the woods and possibly had not been traveled since last time we were down it, there were always trees across the road, that would have to be cleared, but finally we would arrived. Was always the younguns job to unload the provisions and gear while the men folks set about getting the boat in the water, preparing fish baskets and scouting out trotline and bank hook locations. We would start by “airing out” the house, killing any rats that had taken over, along with any stinging insects (red wasps, hornets, and the like). We would then break up into smaller groups to gather firewood and haul water to the house, once we had a good supply of firewood and 20 or so gallons of water hauled in from the spring, it was off to the river for a bunch of young hellions. We would fish for a while, and if the fish did not cooperate by biting, we would be in the river swimming an cooling off. Lunch time would come and would consist of some Vienna sausages, a hunk of hoop cheese, a few crackers, a dipper full of fresh spring water and maybe an apple or two. After resting up for a while, the younguns would be off exploring up and down the railroad tracks, of course would have to see which one could walk the furthers on a rail without falling off, always an ear for the train, hate for the train to slip up on you, was always time to jump off track, but not always a good space to land, couple ot times ended up in a large blackberry briar patch, not good.
 
After spending all afternoon exploring, we would be back at the house for supper, normally first night supper would be some fried country ham, scrambles eggs, hoop cheese, some fresh tomatoes, maybe a hoecake that Daddy cooked on the old woodstove and coffee boiled in a pan on the stove, grounds and all, river coffee could be chewed as well as drank. After supper the men folks would leave us younguns to clean up and put away all the leftovers, while they went about doing whatever they did. The particular night that I am writing about went on to have a long lasting effect on young PaPa.
You see the “Old Twilley” did not have indoor facilities, did have a large barn out back that served as a restroom. Well as you would expect, nature began calling me by name so out back to the barn I went, always trying to be prepared for anything, I carried a large flashlight with me to ward off any hants or ghosts or critters that I might encounter. While in the barn, answering the call, I heard something outside. Figuring that it was a cousin or my brother trying to scare me I waited to scare them….I waited…heard the sound again…I waited…had gathered up some old corncobs to throw at the sound,…I waited…sound was closer now…was inside the barn with me….corncobs in hand, ready unleash a barrage, I flipped the switch on the light…WOW….much to my surprise the sound was not my cousins….was not my brother…was not one of the men folks, but it was the largest bobcat I had ever seen…at least 500 pounds of bobcat and it was between me and the door. I screamed…I know a young hellion such as myself should not scream like a girl, but I did….fortunately the scream scared that 1000 pound bobcat as much as he scared me and it ran off….not a minute too soon for me. I ran, no I flew back into the house and the safety of numbers. It took a couple of Camels and a good long time before I ever went to sleep that night. And way off in the distant woods you could hear the bobcat prowling and talking….always wondered what he was talking about.. Could have been, talking to one of his buddies trying to figure out what that light was and where that horrific noise came from while he was simply going to the barn to answer his call of nature…..but that is another story for another time.

Lavoy “Papa” Caldwell is one third of the Morning Madness Crew on Alabama 100.7 and the advertising manager for Lake Wedowee Life.

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