“Woah Hueal, I gotta another one,” my daddy yelled at my Uncle Hueal from the back of the boat.
We were catching speckled trout and this one would put us over the 100 mark for the day.
“Well pull him in, Co-ach,” my Uncle exclaimed. Uncle Hueal called my daddy the Co-Ach, which meant “coach,” I guess because my daddy was a big football fan. My daddy called Uncle Hueal “Senator,” a name that came from the famous 1940s radio character, Senator Beauregard Claghorn from the Fred Allen show. My Uncle Hueal’s family name was Cleghorn.
On that day my Daddy, Uncle Hueal, my Uncle Neil, a family friend named Les Atkinson and I caught almost 200 speckled trout under the highway 98 bridge on Lake Powel near Camp Helen. Just west of Panama City Beach, Florida, Lake Powell formed the boundary of the Camp, which was a vacation haven for employees of Avondale Mills, a textile mill company located in my home town of Sylacauga, Alabama. Every year my family and Uncle Hueal’s family would go to a place named Kiska Court, which was only a mile from the Camp. Often, my Uncle Neil’s family would go too and this year, Les and his family decided to go. With the big group going, my Daddy decided to take our ski boat so we could fish and on this hot, windless July day, we were all glad he did.
The lake – especially under the bridge – was a favorite fishing spot of ours, but we had never caught the fish like we did that day. Our good fortune was due to a tip we received from old man Brown – I don’t think Brown had a first name, at least I never heard it – who told us to take the white feather off the silver spoon we were planning on using and replace it with a yellow feather. Brown was sort of a beach sage. If you needed to know anything, you went and talked to Brown. He knew when the fish were biting and he could even tell you when it was going to, years before the Weather Channel was even imagined. Brown had lived in the Panama City Beach area all his life and he seemed to know everything, although I never actually saw Brown do anything except sit on his couch and look out his big blue picture window. It must have been the dark blue glass in the window that gave him his uncanny insight into the rest of the world. It was mesmerizing. Every time I went with my Daddy to visit Brown, all I did was look out the glass. I never heard anything he ever said.
When the fish started biting, we were circling around two sets of pylons under the bridge. As the day wore on and the sun started setting, my Daddy told Uncle Hueal to mark the spot for us, so we could come back another day and try them again. There were no Global Positioning Systems (GPS) back then, so you used some kind of landmark to remember exactly where you were.
“You got it Co-Ach,” my Uncle enthusiastically said. Uncle Hueal did everything with enthusiasm. That was one of the great things about him. He was the life of the party and on that fishing day of a lifetime, he was keeping us all in stitches telling one funny story after another. After Uncle Hueal marked the spot, we caught a few more fish and decided we had run out of ice chest storage space, so we got ready to return back to the docks.
The only bad thing about catching 200 speckled trout was cleaning them. We spent several hours after we stopped fishing cleaning fish. When we finally finished around 10 that night, we probably gave away about half of them to the locals, including the Kiska Court owner Buddy Fore and his old black maintenance man named John. Of course, to pay homage to the master, we gave Brown about 20 pounds of the fillets.
I can still remember how good the fish tasted the next night when we had a fish fry for the ages.
Two days later, we went back looking for the same spot. As we were circling around pylons, trying to pick out the ones where we were, my Daddy asked Uncle Hueal about the spot he marked for us.
“Senator, how did you mark our spot?” my Daddy asked, reaching into the ice cooler for a Carling Black Label beer and pitching it to Uncle Hueal.
“I put an X on the side of the boat,” Uncle Hueal said, popping the top on the can.
We all looked over the side of the boat and there, just above the water line, was a big “X” marked in the dirty film that clung to the hull of the boat.
We all just looked at Hueal and started laughing. Needless to say we didn’t catch many fish that day, but we still had a great time. My Daddy and Uncle told that story for about 30 years until they both died. I would love to hear it from them just one more time.
Causes John Haslam Supports
I support the Constitution of the United States of America.
I support St. Jude's Hospital.
I believe in GOD.