Well you guys sure have some tales to tell, but I have a real doozie. Al and I were running interstate last year, and had just parked the trailer at the Mississippi terminal. When Al checked in, the boss told him that the trailer we were to haul was loaded and ready to go but there was a problem with one of the hoses. Knowing Al the way I do, I figured that we would spend the time cleaning his rig, you know how he is, he keeps that old REO shining.
Al was annoyed, but since it was lunch time we went to the local diner for a bite. While we were there Al got to talking about fishing. You know how he loves to fish. This local guy told us about Dead Man’s Fishing Hole, on the Mississippi river. He warned us, “Don’t go there, there’s a sign posted by the spot. On it are pictures of the dead fishermen, killed by that killer channel cat.”
Al’s eyes got intense and big; he was real quiet, just staring at his sandwich. I got a chill up my back that got the hair on my neck standing straight up.
“Al, you’re not thinking of going there?” He looked at me and, you know, that old grin of his slowly spread across his face.
“Ray, what’s the matter, you afraid of a little old fish?”
I just shrugged. What could I say? We left the diner and Al bobtailed it to Home Depot. When he came out he had a long piece of cable, cable clamps and the biggest hook that I ever saw. He also had a pack of those compressed corn things that you feed to the squirrels. I didn’t say a word.
We drove in silence to Dead Man’s Fishing Hole. When we arrived, sure enough, there was the sign posted with the dead fishermen on it, five in all. Now I’m not one to take in the beauty of nature, but all of a sudden I thought it was too nice a day to die. There was a sweet breeze blowing, the river lazily sliding by and the greenest prettiest trees to sit under. Al was oblivious to all of this as he backed the REO up to the banks of the Mississippi.
He wrapped the cable around the rear axle of the REO three times. Then he used four cable clamps to make sure that it wasn’t going anywhere. Next he pushed the other end of the cable through two of the squirrel food corn cobs and then secured the cable to the hook with more clamps.
With the strength of Paul Bunyan, he tossed that baited hook into the middle of the river. Once it had settled, he took out two chairs, got out some Cokes and chips and we sat down to wait. I have to admit, I relaxed a bit. The flies weren’t too bad and it was sort of pleasant sitting there chatting with Al.
We had both had dozed off when suddenly that cable went tight. Al jumped up and I nearly fell over. We watched the cable cut through the water, back and forth, back and forth.
“You see that!” Al said pointing to the middle of the river? “See the wave?”
Sure enough, you could see that something was moving under the water. As the fish thrashed about, it became obvious to us that it was the damn biggest fish I had ever seen that wasn’t on T.V. He would come toward shore, and then swim away, giving the cable a hard jerk.
“How you going to reel him in?” I asked.
“We’re going to let him get tired and then I will pull him out with the REO.”
We waited, but that old fish never seemed to tire. Then I noticed something that scared the heebee jeebees out of me. I grabbed Al by the arm and pointed to the tires on the REO.
In front of the tires were drag marks. Behind the tires was a little ripple of mud. That fish was pulling the REO right into the river! Al ran to the rig, started her up and put her in gear. I could hear the diesel revving. The REO moved a bit forward, and then snap, the fish gave another jerk. The truck slid back. Each time Al gained a few inches the fish gained one more. Little by little the rig got closer to the river’s edge.
It wasn’t long before the back tires were about a foot into the water. I was starting to panic.
“What are you going to do? You’re going to lose the truck.” I shouted to Al.
He got a determined look and said, “Ray, I’m going to give it all she’s got and pull that blanky blank fish out of the water!”
He put that REO into the lowest gear it had, then just as he gave it the gas, the fish jumped out of the water. While it was mid air, that darn thing looked me right in the eyes. It’s cold, hard stare scared me near to death. Then it did a mid air turn and ran for the middle of the river. The diesel was roaring, the tires spinning and mud was flying everywhere. This went on for ten long, frightening minutes. It was a standoff and Al knew he couldn’t keep it up.
“Ray” he shouted over the roar of the engine. “Cut the cable!”
I ran through a hail of mud to get to the tool box. I found the cutters and slid to the back of the rig on that slimy old Mississippi mud. But I froze, the pictures of the dead fishermen flashed through my mind. I was afraid to go into the water.
“RAY!” Al shouted.
I snapped out of it and in water up to my knees, cut the cable. There was a loud pop as the cable whipped into the air and slapped into the water. The rig almost went airborne as it lurched onto the muddy shore. I fell backward into the river and mud.
Al jumped out of the REO as soon as it stopped and ran to get me. I was stunned, the reality of what happened sunk into my brain as I looked at the three of us. Al, me and the REO were covered in Mississippi mud. But mostly me and the REO.
Without saying a word, Al went into the tool box and fished out two old towels and plastic bags. I was touched that Al would think of my muddy self and get me a towel to dry off. HA! He carefully placed the bags on the seats of the REO and then put the towels on them.
“Ray, get in.” Was all he said.
Let me tell you, we did get some strange looks as we drove to the truck wash. We were so bad ourselves that Al just hosed us down. We sat in the warm Mississippi sun to dry off and then went to the truck stop to shower. Not a word was said, but let me tell you for sure, if Old Albert ever tells me that he wants to go cat fishing again, I’m going to punch him right in the nose.