Friday, December 27, 2013

The Legend of Boggy Creek resin model kit is here ...

     Howdy, y'all!  A while back, just before Thanksgivin' ... I got an e-mail from Lyle Blackburn, author of The Beast of Boggy Creek tellin' me about his newest release, The Legend of Boggy Creek Resin Model Kit.  Well, bein' an old hobby-head from back-in-the-day, I stepped-up and got me a first release of this awesome figure!  Lyle's kit was sculpted by Jean St. Jean and was cast by John Diaz of Resin Realities, up there in the Bronx, New York.  Both did an outstandin' job ... and all I can say is that this kit will not disappoint!
     Sculptor Jean St. Jean abso-friggin'-lutely shreds!  He sculpted this figure as if it were ripped right out of the movie poster, capturin' the iconic stance of the creature as originally depicted by illustrator Ralph McQuarrie!  Jean is obviously a master at his craft ... nailin' all of the details includin' musculature, hair-growth patterns and its facial expression as it lumbers through the slough.  Jean done his dang homework on this one, lettin' his artistic expression run as wild as the subject at hand!  This beast is lean & lanky, with its hair-growth longer around the head & shoulders ... and the arms, hands and fingers are longer as well.  Hmmm, this makes me kinda wonder if Mr. Jean St. Jean ain't been doin' some of his own sloughstalkin' out there in them woods!  Ever been to Fouke, Jean?  From the looks of his sculpture, you'd think that he might've actually seen one of these critters up-close & personal ...
     And John Diaz did a superb job of castin' this kit as well.  Four simple pieces and no visible mold lines or seams.  It was clean, and all of the parts fit well.  I did some minor putty-work where the arms joined the shoulders, but that was it.  I cain't remember the last resin kit that was this simple to build.  Diaz must've had folks like me in mind; hey, y'all ... simple thangs for simple minds!  No air bubbles, no deformities and everything was there; no missin' digits, no poorly casted parts ... and the detailing was nice and crisp on the figure as well as on the base.  I had minimal clean-up, and very little extra material to trim away with my trusty X-ACTO.  That-there resin material Diaz used is quality ... his cast is solid, and I wish that more of my other, older resin kits were this good.  Y'all be sure and give Resin Realities a look-see at
     All right now, lets talk about the build; 12-hours from my mailbox to the display case, and that includes me peckin'-out this review!  After inspectin' the contents, I had trimmed away any extra material and thoroughly washed the kit with dish soap to remove any oils or castin' agents and then let it dry.  For any modelin' novices out there, this is so the glue and paint adhere to the resin.  And speakin' of glue, don't y'all be usin' no dang plastic model cement; this ain't styrene ... so you'll need to use a cyanoacrylate, such as Locktite Super Glue.  I glued the arms first, and then filled the gaps with modelers putty.  I used Tamiya Plastic Putty 'cause it dries quicker than Sculpey; I filled the gaps and immediately used an old toothbrush to remove any extra putty from the figure.  Just a few quick buffs goin' with the grain of the hair, and I used my X-ACTO to pick-out what the bristles couldn't get.
     Next came the pre-paint; I like to use a flat-black for my base coat, and then layer all of my detailin' from darker colors to lighter ones.  I wanted to paint the beast and the base separately, so I was really careful not to spray-paint the areas where these two pieces will be joined.  Cyanoacrylate doesn't really bond all that well after the pieces are painted.  See the image below; I used ¼ of a wet cotton ball to fill each of the two holes where the ankles meet the base, and mashed them in with the handle of my trusty X-ACTO.  Once the base was sprayed, I simply picked the damp cotton out.  The bottoms of the ankles are flat, and can be lightly sanded or scraped with a blade.  I then proceeded to paint my kit usin' both a wash and a dry-brush technique; dry-brush works well with surfaces that are extremely textured.  For the swamp-water on the base, I done "borrowed" some of my wife's clear nail polish to give it a wet appearance.

     I wanted my figure dark, just like the beast itself!  I used grays, tans & browns for the hair... and then orange for highlights to mimic the dusky-sunset glow of The Legend of Boggy Creek poster.  The kit actually came with a miniature 5" x 7" version printed on cardstock.  You can now order yours from Lyle Blackburn on-line at  This kit is available in 3 versions; un-built & unpainted, as a faux-bronzed built statue or as a fully-painted, built statue.  Hope y'all didn't mind me geekin'-out on y'all, but this kit is amazin' ... and buildin' it brings back memories of my childhood.  Next time, I'll stick to sloughstalkin' and we'll be talkin' 'bout Callin' ... but until then, y'all be safe out there in them woods.  And, y'all have a Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Prove it …

The lesser-known "Frame 253" ...
did they stumble on the Bumble?
     Howdy!  How many of y’all out there have actually had an encounter with somethin’ tall, dark & hairy wanderin’ ‘round on two legs out there in them woods?  If you truly have had an experience, can you prove it?  Well, I’ve had an experience … and sad to say, I really couldn’t prove it.  At the time, I was fishin’ with my son … who actually got a much better look at it than I did.  He even had a video camera; but because the foliage was so thick, he couldn’t get focused on the critter to get any footage.  Does that mean that we were mistaken?  Nope.  Does that mean we were hallucinatin’?  Nope.  Does that mean that what we saw just doesn’t exist?  Well, it obviously exists; but in the eyes of skeptics, without the burden of proof ... it obviously doesn’t.  So if we say it’s real but the skeptics say otherwise, here is the real question … why do we have to prove it?  Well, let’s just weigh this question …
This was two years ago; I hope Caddo Lake gets a bunch of
snow soon ... and it freezes all that friggin' giant salvinia!

     As much as I’d like to prove it, so far I’ve come up zero!  Four years of scoutin’ and maintainin’ five game-cams in the area of Our Encounter have so far been a bust.  No tracks, no pictures and no video.  Them sloughs & woods around Caddo Lake definitely ain’t sparse … even if you just narrowed-it down to the specific area where we happened upon this critter.  It would be comparable to findin’ your contact lens in an Olympic-sized swimmin’ pool; it can be done, but you’d be pretty-dang lucky at best.  And considerin’ the elusiveness of the quarry, bein’ overwhelmed by the vast area to search and your stick-to-itiveness to find it … it actually is a possible task if you are patient and persistent.

     I can honestly say that I really don’t believe in "Bigfoot".  Really.  I do believe, however … that I know what we saw.  Even though we couldn’t readily identify this animal … it was real, it was there and we experienced it.  But sad to say, we have no physical evidence to prove it.  No video, no photos and nothin' material; sh¡t happens ... oh, well.  So now, let’s weigh the other side of the aforementioned question: can the skeptics actually prove that this animal doesn’t exist?  Nope.  They can’t.  How can someone prove that there cannot possibly be some large, intelligent bipedal hominoids thrivin’ somewhere in the thousands upon thousands of forested, uninhabited acreage on this continent?  Haven't there been many a folk (includin' those of us who have witnessed this mystery animal) who've made a concerted effort to try and prove its existence?  Sure … there’s actually been quite a few.  But I’ll bet you that there ain’t really been much of an effort made by the scores of skeptics for positive proof that it doesn’t exist.
     So can anyone prove it?  C’mon now, y’all remember … folks were once skeptical of gorillas, right?  And I ain’t tryin’ to beat a dead horse, but none of them skeptics have yet to definitively prove that the subject of the Patterson-Gimlin film was a person in a costume.  Now, they’ve attempted to debunk Patty … but none of ‘em has fabricated any sort of costume or suit that looks anything like a livin’ critter!  So … exactly who’s fabricatin’ what?  If the skeptics are gonna say that somethin’ like this can’t possibly exist … then I say that they need to prove it!  Show me the costume or gorilla suit used for the so-called money shot.  No lame attempts, no second-hand hearsay … and no antagonistic costume maker turned carnival-barker tryin’ to make a quick buck.  And since when was Patty a red-head?  Good God ... at least get the friggin’ hair-color color right!
     I’ll admit that I was semi-skeptical of this mystery biped until I witnessed it for myself.  What’s “semi-skeptical” mean, you ask?  Well … let me try to explain.  I’ve been huntin’ & fishin’ since I was six, and until June of 2009 when I actually witnessed one of these critters in the wild … I was pretty much-well on the fence whether I’d been sharin’ them woods with “Bigfoot”.  Now, in my defense … I never thought the existence of such an animal was impossible.  After all, I had witnessed all kinds of different critters, and I ain’t talkin’ ‘bout watchin’ ‘em on National Geographic specials, Wild Kingdom with Marlin Perkins or Jack Hanna’s guest appearances on The Tonight Show.  I’m talkin’ about runnin’ ‘round out there in them woods and seein’ all manner of nature. But mystery bipeds?  They just weren’t somethin’ I’d ever seen ...
     But I was also one of them kids that had seen almost every kind of science fiction & monster movie ever made.  I collected fanzines ‘cause I wanted to know exactly how "the masters” created the make-up and special effects for these film creatures that I had idolized.  Now, can anyone out there name just one featured-creature that looks anywhere near as authentic as Patty?  I can’t.  The closest I’ve ever seen were them primates in the “Dawn of Man” sequence of 2001: A Space Odyssey.  And 37 years later, even though I loved Peter Jackson’s King Kong, it was CGI.  So, when someone tries to tell me that Patty was a person in a suit … I simply say, prove it.  Really.  And good luck with that ...

     People like myself have been labeled as Bigfoot believers, Bigfoot enthusiasts, or just recently by our friends from across the pond as “Bigfootologists”.  Really?  Well now ... the noun ology is an informal word for some unidentified branch of knowledge.  Hmmm, that’s sort-of interestin’ … I might just take that as a compliment.  Let’s see, I'm kinda informal, and I am seekin’ knowledge on somethin’ that’s definitely unidentified ... cool!  Hell, I kinda like it!  But the fact is, I’m at least tryin’ to figure-out what this critter is.  So I guess that I really don’t mind bein’ labeled … just as long as I ain’t bein’ labeled as a skeptic.  At least I ain’t cynically peein’ in someone’s Cheerios by sayin’ that these animals simply cannot exist!
     Now, if I actually believed in that sort of ideology, I’d at least try and definitively prove it!  “Bigfootologists” are tryin'; but the fact is, the skeptics can’t.  This ain’t some Miracle on 34th Street scenario; Kris Kringle ain’t the one on trial here for believin’ he’s Santa.  Come to think about it, most folks may agree that Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer might just be a little far-fetched.  However, I’d be willin’ to bet y’all that Yukon Cornelius might agree that The Bumble may have been based on somethin’ a little more ... tangible.  So as far as I'm concerned, them skeptics can say “Bah, humbug!” all they want; but first … they ought to at least have to prove it!
     So, I say to all of the amateur field researchers and fellow “Bigfootologists” out there … kudos, y’all!  Given enough time and effort, one of us may soon be able to prove it.  That’s right … definitive proof that what folks have been seein’ for the past couple of hundred years out there in them woods is just an animal.  Proof perhaps, that this critter is simply just a species that we haven’t yet been able to document.  And just because it ain’t yet been documented doesn’t mean that it doesn’t or cannot exist.  And I say to all of them skeptics … y’all just need to grow a pair and get out there!  Really ... actually sweat a little and do some time in the grime to at least attempt to prove to us that it doesn’t exist.  Seriously, if that’s what y’all believe … then get out there and friggin' prove it!  But then again, I might be a little skeptical to think that y’all actually could
To all of you and yours, whether you just believe ... or for those of us who actually know, I hope and pray that y'all have a safe & happy holiday.
Good luck to y'all in all your future endeavors in the upcomin' New Year!
*The photo titled, "Frame 253 ..." is obviously a hoax, and was created while havin' some fun with Photoshop.  The image used of Bluff Creek was found on Google Images, and was obviously taken by someone else.  One would have to assume that it is obviously the iconic frame 352 taken by Roger Patterson, which in all probability is not a hoax and is subject to Copyright.  The Bumble, however, is mine ... posed in the iconic Patty stance ... and photographed by me.  I just wanted to be perfectly clear that The Bumble was not harmed in the process, and currently resides comfortably perched upon our bar ... enjoyin' some holiday cheer!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Fixin’ …

When flats happen; does it hafta be at 11:30 P.M. in the middle of nowhere?
Always carry tools ... always go prepared and always expect the unexpected!
     Hey, y’all … hope you and yours are havin’ a wonderful holiday season.  I’ve taken some time off of work, but it really ain’t been much of a vacation.  Instead of lazin’ ‘round the house or ‘round the fire pit … I’ve been doin’ a bunch of fixin’.  On top of all my other responsibilities, my main job in this household is fixin’ all the stuff that breaks.  Don’t worry … Dad can fix it!” is like some kind of challenge I get from my family on a regular basis.  I don’t quite know if they’re just tryin’ to give me somethin’ to do ‘cause they feel sorry for me, or if it’s some kind of sick game they play to keep me outta their hair.  Let’s face-it, if you’re the outdoors type … you’re constantly fixin’ somethin’.  Whether it's a flat on your trailer or the lock on your spare that disintegrates as you turn the key ... it's always somethin'!  I don’t care how much it costs or how good you think you’ve taken care of it … at the most inopportune time, it’s eventually goin’ to break.  Whatever the case, I’m beginnin’ to think my main purpose in life is fixin’ sh¡t!

     The perfect example was the spare tire lock which I routinely kept lubricated that fell apart when I really needed my spare tire at 11:30 P.M. about 45-minutes south of Marshall!  I really think that some things are purposely built cheaply to begin with.  It’s like there’s some big marketin’ conspiracy to manufacture junk so you have to go back to the store and buy more.  Take for instance “waterproof” trailer lights; good God, whoever come up with these has to either be a sick & twisted sumb¡tch or a marketin’ genius!  First of all, you go to your local sports & outdoors store or Y’all-Mart to replace a $15.00-$25.00 “waterproof” trailer light, and you come outta there with $150.00+ of other sh¡t you didn’t really need ‘fore you went in there!  And let me tell y’all somethin’ … there ain’t no such thing as a “waterproof” trailer light!  Every one of ‘em either has a drain hole … which also lets water in, or uses such cheap materials that after three or four launches, they corrode and short-out.  Hell, I even unplug mine before I back the boat in, but it don’t matter.  I’ve tried sealin’ ‘em with silicone, sprayin’ a corrosion inhibitor on the interior parts & contacts, and even use heat-shrink butt-splices to make my connections … but nothin’ works.  And it don’t matter that you’ve checked everything beforehand, ‘cause as soon as you leave to go pick-up your fishin’ buddy at 4:30 a.m., the first thing he’s goin’ to tell you ain’t good mornin’; it’s goin’ to be, “Hey man … you got a trailer light out.

When critters attack: financially gnawed,
I also used this opportunity to re-carpet.
     This may just be a useless rant, but anyone who owns a boat knows that it’s just a floatin’ hole to throw money in.  I don’t care how hard you try and take care of it … somethin’ always needs fixin’!  Navigation lights don’t go south near as often as “waterproof” trailer lights, but you can’t legally navigate without them; I always carry spare bulbs.  And screw wear & tear or the elements; sometimes, it’s nature that bites you the hardest!  One year, I had either squirrels or rats chew-up and short-out my main wirin’ harness, which was inside of the starboard gunwhale of the boat … to the tune of $1,700.00 worth of damage!  Thank God for insurance and that I always checked everything well in advance of goin’ sloughstalkin’.  Then there was the time that my steerin’ locked-up.  What the Hell?  I’d pumped grease in the zirt on the steerin’ cable on a regular basis.  I was later “schooled” by my buddy in Uncertain that the zirt I was puttin’ grease into was for the tilt, not the steerin’ cable.  Really?  Then why in the Hell would Yamaha put that zirt on the steerin’ cable?

     Then there was the time that I was headed to a tournament at Sam Rayburn … and my friggin’ trailer axel snapped at the spindle on I-10 near Anahuac.  I just happened to notice white smoke in my driver’s side-view mirror … ‘cause I damn sure didn’t feel anything.  The tire & wheel was lodged in the fender-well … or I’d probably have had boat damage or caused an accident!  What the Hell?  I had installed Bearing-Buddies and pumped grease into ‘em on a regular basis as well.  Nine hours later and $425.00 lighter (tow, axel & labor) … I showed-up at my destination with a new axel and the galvanized fender-wells torched off the trailer.  Any port in a storm; the only axel I could find was 1½” to 2” too wide for the wheels not to rub the fender-wells.  And on that same trip, the friggin’ trollin’ motor was actin’ up ‘cause of a faulty switch or connection.  Really?  It’s kind-of hard to bass-fish in a tournament without a reliable trollin’ motor!
     Sometimes, the tow-vehicle wasn’t immune to such misgivin’s either.  I had a 4x4 Suburban with a 454 under the hood; I called it the “Red Sled” … ‘cause it could tow a house and pass anything but a gas station.  One evenin’ I was headed to my local sports & outdoors store to purchase another “waterproof” trailer light and God knows what else … when the beast suddenly started acceleratin’ on its own!  This wasn’t no Toyota … it was American muscle goin’ all “Stephen King” on my unsuspectin’ ass!  I stood on the breaks and then simply turned-off the key … coasted to a stop and started it again.  The tires smoked as it rapidly accelerated again before I turned-off the ignition and coasted into the parkin’ lot of a buddy’s garage.  When I popped the hood, I noticed that the steerin’ cable got frayed and had knotted-up … causin’ it to stick at ¾ throttle.  Again, I found myself fixin’ sh¡t before I could go onto my next soughstalkin’ adventure.  Not only did I have to re-wire more “waterproof” trailer lights, I had to track-down another accelerator cable for the Red Sled as well.  I lost a day of fishin’ out of that trip, but at least the incident didn’t happen with the boat attached, or … God forbid, while I was drivin’ through Houston or out in the middle of friggin’ nowhere.
     The oddest thing that happened to the Red Sled was after an entire week of sloughstalkin’ when I was leavin’ Uncertain for home late one Sunday afternoon.  I was on I-59 South at the Carthage Exit when I noticed I had no power breaks.  And, as an added-bonus … I then discovered I had no power steerin’ either.  Try maneuverin’ that train-wreck while pullin’ a boat!  I eased into a truckin’ yard and popped the hood, and noticed that my serpentine belt was missin’.  Hmmm, no problem … ‘cause I always carried a spare.  Always go prepared, and always carry tools, ‘cause you just never know when you’re goin’ to be fixin’ sh¡t!  While tryin’ to put the spare belt on, I discovered the original belt, which had been thrown into the firewall.  Upon inspection, that belt was intact; but to my horror, the idler pulley was nowhere to be found!  I was loaded-down with gear and pullin’ a boat, but dead in the friggin’ water … so to speak.  I immediately called my buddy in Uncertain, asked him to grab an idler pulley assembly from Marshall, and I’d pay him for his time & travel.  When he got there, we discovered that the new idler pulley assembly was not really an assembly at all!  There was just a pulley and bearin’; no bolt or the bushin’ that was needed to assemble this fustercluck that I was now in …
     But have no fear, ‘cause a country-boy will survive!  Upon further inspection, the much needed carriage bolt was also miraculously located lodged in the undercarriage of my vehicle.  My buddy just looked at me and said, “You have got to be the luckiest sumb¡tch I know!  There still wasn’t no bushin’ … and no washers … but the much needed bolt.  My buddy just happened to have a ½” to ¾” pipe couplin’ … which we substituted for the bushin’.  It was just the right size for the idler pulley’s bearing to slide over.  I had extra washers of various diameters in my tool kit, and we spaced-it out to where the pulley was aligned for proper belt placement.  Talk about yer Shade-Tree Mechanics 101!  This was only a temporary fix, but at least got me back to Uncertain for the night.  I hit the parts department at the Chevy dealership in Marshall first thing the next mornin’ … and after 15-minutes under the hood … I was finally headed back home.
     Two of the worst things that can happen when you’re sloughstalkin’ are gettin’ caught in a storm or havin’ engine problems.  Well, I just wouldn’t be me unless I got to experience both of these scenarios simul-friggin’-taneously!  A buddy and I was fishin’ the back of Smith’s Slough before a front was comin’ in.  We had to access this area from the Carter Lake side, ‘cause the water was too shallow to run all the way down Smith’s Slough.  We were havin’ such a great time catchin’ bass, that we waited ‘til the very last minute to haul-ass back to Cypress Village.  Shortly after I got the boat on plane … the engine alarm come on.  I had to shut-her down … raise the engine and clear all the duck-weed and other vegetation from the lower unit and intake.  As we waited for the engine to cool … the wind, rain and lightnin’ commenced to whippin’ our asses!  Before we finally got onto Big Cypress, my buddy got clocked with a fairly decent sized branch, and the engine alarm came on again.  As it was rainin’ sideways … again, I shut-her off, put the trollin’ motor down and finally made it to the far bank.  We found someone’s dilapidated boathouse to hide in.  We hunkered-down ‘til the lightnin’ passed, and limped back to Cypress Village.  A new impeller was needed, and all was well again.
     I really wasn’t plannin’ to spend the majority of my Holiday vacation fixin’ sh¡t; however, I’m fixin’ to take the boat to get checked and get the engine tuned.   I’ve also been goin’ through all of my Baggage to make sure I don’t have any surprises to deal with in 2014.  I’d rather concentrate on sloughstalkin’ and spendin’ my time in the grime … and not gettin’ grimey from fixin’ sh¡t.  I’ll need all the concentration I can muster so I don’t end-up getting’ friggin’ Lost!  It’ll be a new year, with new territories to explore and new (mis)adventures to experience.  Oh, and at least a couple of more trips to Y’all-Mart for some of them new “waterproof” trailer lights!  Y’all be safe, and happy holidays to you and yours!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Baggage ...

Onward through the slough; enterin' Carter Lake, before the salvinia scourge.
     Howdy-do!  Hope y’all are havin’ a great huntin’ season, and everyone is gearin’-up for the upcommin’ holidays.  So speakin’ of gear … I’ve been goin’ through most of mine, and sortin’ out the excess baggage.  Holy, sh¡t!  How much gear can one man carry out there in them woods?  Well, I guess that all depends on what-all one plans to do.  If I’m slough-stalkin’ … I try to carry everything I’d need so I don’t gotta be makin’ multiple trips back to a boat, truck or wherever I’m beddin’ down for the night.  I live by the motto, “Go Prepared” … but sometimes, I think I’ve gone friggin’ overboard!  Bet my beautiful bride wishes I’d actually fall overboard; say, somewhere out in a gator-infested swamp … so she can cash-in on my life insurance policy!  Then she might actually get to live-out the rest of her years in that Southern Living dream home with the wrap-around porch that she’s always wanted.
     Seriously, I’ve been sortin’ through all of my outdoor gear to see if I can streamline what-all I actually carry with me while I’m out there in them woods.  Now, I ain’t talkin’ ‘bout gear for a day-hike … basically, I try to pack everything that I might need on my back or around my waist for scoutin’ for at least a couple of days.  I wear a Camelbak hydration pack, which can pretty-much well contain most everything.  It holds 100 ounces of water, my one-man packable bivouac, a fleece comforter, plaster castin’ supplies, a custom First-Aid kit, a pair of binoculars, a night-vision monocular and a machete.  Hell, I couldn’t even begin guesstimatin’ what all this weighs.  And includin’ all the extra crap I’ve stuffed in pockets & pouches, such as trail food, bug repellent, a headlamp & rain-gear … that’s a lot of baggage!  And that’s just the gear I wear on my back …
How much baggage should one man carry 'round out there in them woods?  I generally travel light even when I'm
spendin' the night ... and don't like makin' extra trips unless I come across somethin' really significant.

     That don’t include what’s ‘round my waist … and I ain’t talkin’ ‘bout my damn beer-gut!  I wear a fanny-pack with a water bottle, and zipped inside is all the stuff I need immediate access to.  Let’s see … there’s my compass, cell phone, fluorescent orange trail-tape & reflective limb-lights, a Maglite Mini, an Olympus 1GB digital sound recorder, an 8MP digital camera, game calls (coyote, crow & wounded rabbit) and more trail food.  On my belt is a Garmin e-trex GPS, my sidearm with 2 extra magazines and a knife.  I keep a back-up pistol with extra magazine, keys & Copenhagen in my jean pockets.  And hangin’ from my chest on a harness is a Canon 35mm w/50x zoom.  Y’all getting’ tired yet?  ‘Cause when I’m out servicin’ my trail-cams, I also have to carry a custom tool pouch, batteries (24 “C” and 8 “AA”) and a can of 20’ wasp spray in-case I got squatters in my dang security boxes.
     Please keep in mind that all this baggage is mainly for goin’ off trail.  Now, I ain’t talkin’ ‘bout pullin’ up to some State Park where there’s a manicured designated campin’ area and all your gear is conveniently located in the bed of a truck ... nope.  Since the majority of what I do is slough-stalkin’ … everything either gets shuttled via bass-boat or by kayak to even get close to where I wanna scout or set-up a camp.  So like I said, my goal is to see if I can streamline what-all I actually carry with me while I’m out there in them woods.  I’m not sayin’ that I cain’t make due without some of this stuff.  Yeah, the back-up pistol is a luxury … but I don’t go many places without it.  The extra digital camera don’t weigh much, but if sh¡t can happen with electronics ... it usually will as far as my hapless-ass in concerned.  And even though my Galaxy S4 has a fairly decent camera … I try and conserve my cell phone battery for makin' calls.  On top of that, I done told y'all I ain't goin' to be postin' none of them-there "blob-squatch" photos.  I want somethin' clear, close & legit ... not some blurred or pixelated sh¡t!
     So, what-all can I do to lighten my load?  The first thing I tried was to weigh everything; I figured that if I actually knew an approximate weight ... I might psyche myself into tryin’ to do without.  With all of the gear mentioned above, I came up with 43 lbs. of baggage!  But when it was all said & done, I couldn’t really part with anything ‘cept maybe the plaster castin’ supplies.  If I do find somethin’ significant, I could always mark it and double-back … but the last time I did that, I got friggin’ Lost!  God forbid I should ever get pulled over; ‘cause if someone were to search the back of my truck … I’d have to explain what all that friggin’ white powder was!  I carry two canisters of plaster with the labels still on ‘em; however, I keep a bunch more castin’ material pre-packed into large zip-lock baggies.  These are what I carry in my Camelbak hydration pack.  If I find somethin’ worthy of castin’ … all I have to do is add water, re-seal the bag … mix it up, cut one corner and squeeze the mix into the track.

     Y’all are prob’ly thinkin’ that I’m nuttier than a squirrel turd for carryin’ around all this baggage!  Actually, it’s great exercise, and after doin’ this for a while … I kinda got used to it.  Like I said … this is the gear that I need for a couple of days & nights ... not just a day hike.  I guess I shouldn’t b¡tch about my baggage, ‘cause these are the items that I choose to carry when I’m walkin’ ‘round out there in them woods.  But if y’all really think about it, this ain’t nothin’ compared to the baggage that the folks in our armed forces or some of our first responders hafta carry on a daily basis.  So while we’re gathered with family & friends enjoyin’ the holidays, y’all be sure and say a prayer of thanks and keep the folks carryin’ ‘round the real baggage in mind.  Y’all take care, be safe and God bless!

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Campin' ...

Our camp site on Horse Island in 2010
     Howdy!  This next installment concerns the night my son and I slept out on Horse Island in Smith’s Slough.  This is where we had Our Encounter with somethin’ large & hairy walkin’ ‘round out there in them woods!  Any of y’all like campin’?  To me, there ain’t nothin’ more relaxin’ than sleepin’ outdoors … ‘specially at night.  The sound of owls, frogs & crickets just seem so soothin’.  I even love to sleep out back in my hammock on those rare occasions when I don’t have to go to work the next day.  Matter of fact, if it weren’t for skeeters, I’d sleep out in that hammock a lot more often.  Now, different folks camp different ways; some consider campin’ stayin’ in an RV … but that ain’t for me!  I can’t tell y’all how many times I’ve been awakened by an RV showin’ up late to a camp site, settin’-up and then runnin’ a friggin’ generator or an AC all night.  Really?  Hell, I used to have this buddy that rigged a window unit for his tent!  I ain’t sh¡ttin’ y’all; as long as he had a tent pad with water and electrical, he was set.  Oh, well … to each his own.  But I’ve been guilty of them situations too; like when I took the family campin’ when the kids was little.  Or, usually somewhere I was fishin’ for a few days … and really needed electrical to charge my trollin’ motor & crankin’ batteries.
     But what I really enjoy is primitive campin’ … hikin’-in with as few provisions as possible, and goin’ to places where you ain’t goin’ to hear nothin’ but nature.  If it don’t fit on your back, around your waist or if you can’t carry it comfortably … it don’t go.  No ice chests, camp stoves, chairs or comforts ... just hard-core roughin’ it; I like to go to remote places that are off trail … which means those places where there ain’t no trails!  But once I got married … doin’ that sorta campin’ became a rarity.  The first time I camped with my wife, we stayed in a hen-house unit off of Dam B, at the Martin Dies Jr. State Park.  The screened unit and public shower were a must for her needs.  But pretty-much well after that, my wife transformed as far as campin’ went.  She became a Girl Scout leader, and could pack-in and set-up with the best of ‘em.  Her campin’ skills really showed after we went through Hurricane Ike, ‘cause other than the heat … she never wavered when it came to roughin’ it.  Our family was fortunate that we still had a roof over our heads, and our kids were fortunate that my wife and I are country-folk who know how to improvise …

     After my son and I had Our Encounter at Caddo Lake in 2009, we decided to scout around out there in them woods!  The area of our encounter was an island, which could only be accessed by boat.  My son had just turned 14 when we planned to go campin’ out there.  Even though he had been huntin’ and fishin’ with me since he was a toddler, he had never really roughed-it … so we planned to stay overnight durin’ Spring Break of 2010.  We started gatherin’ gear before the Christmas holidays, and the items we didn’t already have were purchased as gifts.  He usually got new huntin’ clothes, a jacket and boots anyways.  But that year he got a hydration pack, a fanny-pack, a one-man bivi and machete as well.  At the time, he was too young to carry his own sidearm, so I purchased a can of UDAP Bear Spray with a chest harness for him.  He is very proficient with my Smith & Wesson .357, so I opted to carry it on this trip just in case.
     The area of our encounter was definitely not designated for campin’!  Even though it wasn’t technically in the Wildlife Management Area, it was public land … but I didn’t really feel the need to build a fire (which ended-up bein’ a HUGE mistake).  I did have the proper APH (Annual Public Hunting permit) … which meant that I could legally carry my gun.  Even though I was not huntin’ … in the eyes of the law I had the means to hunt.  I had even purchased my son an LPU (Limited Public Use permit) just in case we wandered off into the WMA, so better safe than sorry.  I had arranged for us to stay with our friends in Uncertain, and bass fish the majority of the time that we were there.  God forbid that somethin’ went wrong while we was out roughin’ it … so I had my buddy I could rely on for back-up.  He knew exactly where we’d be … how long we’d be out there and when to expect us back.  My son was now very familiar with the area and knew how to operate our boat as well as navigate back to Cypress Village … even in the dark if he had to.

     After visitin’ with our friends and fishin’ for a day and a half … on Monday, March 15, 2010 I grabbed our gear, loaded the boat and headed for Horse Island.  My son took video of most of our trip, and I took plenty of pictures.  When I finally poled the boat through the Cypress knees and beached-it in the back of Smith’s Slough … it was already pushin’ Noon.  The first thing my son saw when we got out of the boat was a bear track!  It wasn’t that big, and was at the water’s edge so we couldn’t cast it.  We found a clearin’ about 150 yards from where we beached the boat, and decided that was where we’d make camp.  If we had to make a hasty retreat, it made sense to not camp too far away from the boat.  As we made camp, the temperature was pushin’ 75° … so I had assumed we’d have a fairly mild night.  Well, y’all know what they say about assumin’ … ‘cause this “ass” decided we wouldn’t need sleepin’ bags; I left ‘em at the poutin’ house!  Hell, we had a couple of fleece throws each, plus we had our huntin’ jackets & thermals. Why would we need sleepin’ bags?  That’s just more baggage for us to carry …
     We set-up camp, ate and went scoutin’ for a couple of hours.  I had carried in a Coleman® lantern just in case, hung it and gathered some wood for a fire.  I cleared an area of brush and leaf-litter, and prepped a campfire … ready to light if we had an emergency.  We never lit either one; the plan was for us to be as quiet as possible and observe … not to let the world know where we were by havin’ a bonfire.  I had also rigged a trip-wire system around our campsite, to alert us if we had any wildlife get too close for our comfort.  We set-up our one-man bivouacs about 20 yds. off the bank of the slough.  It was still too early for snakes, and I figured the same would apply for the gators.  I pitched the bivis together, and then covered ‘em with skeeter nettin’ … ‘cause evidently it wasn’t too cold for them.  The last thing I did was set-out my Olympus 1GB digital sound recorder so I could capture audio of our entire evenin’.
     As the sun finally set, we heard a barrage of coyotes off in the not-too-far distance.  After awhile, it was apparent that they’d found somethin’ to eat … or turned on one of their own.  Next came the barred owls … whose concerto-bizarro  lasted throughout the entire night.  Shortly after 8:00 p.m., my sinuses went berserk.  At first I couldn’t breathe, but after a while, my nose ran profusely.  I dug into the First Aid Kit and found some liquid Benadryl … which calmed me about an hour later.  Our first visitors of the night were the pack of coyotes, which sounded as if they were within 50 yds. of our camp.  By 9:30 p.m., they were so close and loud, I unzipped the bivy with my pistol in hand … and walked in plain sight of them.  They didn’t like that much … and left as quickly as they had appeared.
   The Benadryl must’ve finally kicked-in, ‘cause my son woke me a little after 11:00 p.m., and I could smell again.  Somethin’ was close to the camp, and reeked like skunk.  I whispered, “Do you smell that?” and he replied “Yeah!  We sat in silence in the darkness, listenin’ for any sound.  Somethin’ could be heard movin’ around us … but I couldn’t figure-out exactly what it was.  Within’ 15-minutes, the smell was gone.  This really puzzled me, ‘cause if it would have been a skunk, and that skunk would’ve sprayed … the smell would have lingered ‘til mornin’.  But the smell dissipated when whatever it was could no longer be heard.  That was real unsettlin’ … and the .357 clutched against my chest seemed to lose its comfort appeal.  But that wasn’t as near as unsettlin’ as what would happen after midnight …
     I awoke again, but not ‘cause of any noise or smell … but ‘cause it was friggin’ cold!  There’s nothin’ worse than a damp cold … and bein’ that we were camped in a swamp … we had to play the cards we were dealt.  I really felt sorry for my son, ‘cause it was my fault we didn’t have our sleepin’ bags.  I had bass fished the last day-and-a-half in shorts and a t-shirt.  How in the Hell did it suddenly decide to get so friggin’ cold?  We each had on silk thermal underwear … both the tops & bottoms, jeans, a t-shirt, a huntin’ shirt, thick socks, huntin’ boots, and heavy jackets with hoods!  There was no wind, and we each had two thick 4’ X 8’ fleece throws; and I ain’t talkin’ them cheesy-ass rags you see at your local sportin’ goods store near the check-out aisles … I’m talkin’ thick-ass, heavy-duty sweat-shirt material.
     I had finally got back to sleep when my son woke me.  Dad … I gotta pee.” he whispered.  Well, with what-all had already transpired with the coyotes comin’ into camp, and then the mystery animal that reeked of skunk movin’ about … you can’t expect a 14 year-old boy to hike out into the darkness to take a leak.  I unzipped the bivi and walked him to the edge of the slough.  He did his business, and we had just crawled back into the bivis and settled down.  Suddenly … I had to sneeze; I quickly buried my face into the crook of my arm and let go.  Within 5 seconds … we heard a huge splash in the slough behind us.  Now, I’m not talkin’ a beaver slappin’ its tail kind of splash … I’m talkin’ somethin’ penetratin’ the water, like a large rock.  Thing is … there ain’t no rocks out there!  I was now on full alert; we didn’t say a thing … we just sat and listened.  This happened two more times within’ the next hour, and then we must’ve finally fallen asleep.
     The next time I awoke, it was gettin’ first light.  After watchin’ my son finally sleepin’ peacefully … I got up and scouted for tracks or sign around the immediate area of our campsite.  I found nothin’ of any significance … except for coyote tracks.  There was no smell, either.  None of our gear was disturbed, and I made a quick hike to the boat … which was in the same state that we had left it.  While my son slept, I started packin’ gear and made another trip to the boat.  When he awoke, we talked about our night of roughin’ it while I fed him some granola and trail food.  What I needed to do was get him back to the poutin’ house for a hot shower and a proper breakfast.  We scouted some more after we broke camp … and then headed back to Cypress Village.  Thank God the boat ride back was not as cold as what we had endured the night before.  Once we got on Big Cypress, I let him drive so he could hunker behind the windshield …
     When we got back to our friend’s place … they had said that it had got down to 38° the night before!  I’ll never leave the sleepin’ bags again … and I’m sure my son would make damn-sure of that.  We relaxed the rest of the day, and didn’t fish ‘til Wednesday afternoon.  We scouted again mid-day on Thursday, and fished only in the mornin’s and evenin’s.  We left on Saturday, March 20, 2010 … two hours prior to the lake record bass bein’ caught on Caddo Lake.  My buddy called to see how far we had gotten, and told us the news.  We were fishin’ the exact same area where that bucket-mouthed sow was fought just the mornin’ before!  But another cold-front was comin’ in, and as much as I wanted to fish while the barometer started to drop, we had to pack our sh¡t & git ‘fore the weather got nasty.  I ain’t big on highway drivin’ while pullin’ a boat through nasty weather … ‘specially havin’ to drive through Houston!
     When I finally got to review my audio from the Olympus, I found that I had captured everything … includin’ the sneeze and the splash, as well as the other two splash incidents and a distant cry I cannot seem to identify.  It doesn’t sound like a coyote or a barred owl.  I’m not goin’ to say that it sounds like somethin’ when I ain’t really sure what it is.  That’s not what I do here … I only try and present evidence, not speculations.  One thing is for sure … I’ll be campin’ out there again!  I’ve already sat out there numerous times for several hours in my boat; say from sunset ‘til 2 or 3:00 a.m., but I haven’t had the luck that my son and I had that cold night in 2010.  As bad as the giant salvinia has gotten this past year, I can no longer get my boat back there … so maybe after huntin’ season is over, I’ll get as far as my boat will carry me … hike-in and do some more campin’.  And when I do, I’ll be sure and post whatever I may or may not encounter.  ‘Til then, y’all take care … and be sure to stay warm this winter!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Lost ...

These are the actual coordinates of
the area of "our encounter". I don't
mind sharin' stuff; but if y'all decide
to venture out there, be real-dang
careful out there in them woods ... 
     How y’all doin’?  Hope all is well and folks are gettin’ back out & about after that whole shut-down fiasco.  I’m goin’ to be concentratin’ on a couple of new areas to do my sloughstalkin’ … and will wait ‘til after huntin’ season to do more time in the grime so I don’t mess-up someone else’s hunt.  Both areas will be in east Texas … and both are hot-spots for wood-ape sightin’s.  I have been studyin’ maps and satellite photos of both these areas, which are dense and sparsely populated.  I like to know what the terrain is, mainly so I don’t screw around and get myself lost!
     Any of y’all ever been lost out there in them woods?  I have, and it ain’t fun.  The first time I got lost was when I was thirteen and deer huntin’ on the Louisiana/Mississippi border.  I was told to stay in a stand, and after what seemed like hours … decided I was goin’ to hike back to the deer camp my ownself.  Well, my first mistake was not doin’ what I was told; my second mistake was not havin’ a compass, and my third mistake was not payin’ attention to where the sun was, even though it was one of them gray, overcast winter days.  Ahhh, to be young and stupid …
     Now, I had been dropped-off by my cousin on a Honda ATC 90.  If any of y’all don’t know what that is, it’s a three-wheeled ATV which was popular back in the 70’s.  It was still kind-of dark, and best as I figured we didn’t ride more than thirty minutes from camp.  My cousin continued past the stand he had dropped me off in, and I figured I could just follow his trail back to camp.  Well, I figured wrong, ‘cause as good of a tracker that I may have imagined that I was … I couldn’t find no tire-tracks through all that leaf-litter.  I could find a bent or broke saplin’ here and there, but no knobby tread imprints.  And on top of that, my Army surplus canteen was almost empty, and I was gettin’ pretty-dang hungry too.
     I had started my trek back at 2:00 p.m., and it was now pushin’ 3:30 when I finally found a dirt road.  The first thing that I noticed when I come outta them woods was what had looked-like a very large coyote crossin’ about 100 yards to my left!  I took the safety off and walked the road in the direction of the coyote, but when I finally saw its tracks … they were much too large.  Hmmm, this must be a wolf, I remembered thinkin’!   I followed that road for another thirty-minutes and decided to continue to my right back into them woods.  Not knowin’ what direction I needed to be goin’ in, I decided that it’d be a good idea to keep the sun in front of me … which sets in the west.  Mississippi had to be due east, and I was bound to find another road.
     When I did, I looked to my left and that wolf crossed the road again; but this time, only about 75-yards away!  At that point, I got scared … and fired a .30 cal. round at that canine as it disappeared into the thicket.  Now, my heart was racin’ and saw that it was now 4:15 p.m., and only had another hour ‘til dark.  I yelled, “Hey! Is anybody out there?” … but got no response.  I then fired three more rounds, rememberin’ that my cousin had said that if you ever get lost, fire three rounds in rapid succession and somebody will find you.  Really?  Well, I hoped he was right and I decided to stay on that road.  I was thirsty, but was now completely out of water.  I found a marble-sized rock in the dirt, cleaned it off as best as I could … and stuck it in my mouth.  After a while, the saliva flowed and I at least no longer had cotton mouth.
     A little after 5:00 p.m. I was about to cross an old, wooden bridge when I noticed not one, but two wolves boundin’ up the bank and dartin’ into them woods!  My heart was racin’ faster … and I was just about to fire three more rounds when I heard an engine comin’ down the road from behind me.  My cousin came a racin’ down that road on his ATC, and slid to a stop a foot in front of me.  Where in the Hell have you been?  I told you to stay put you dumb, sumbitch!  Now, hop-on; ‘cause if we don’t get back to camp soon … we’re goin’ to get our asses whipped!  After we returned and I explained to everyone what had transpired, I was told that, yes … there had been wolves sighted out there.  Life lesson learned without becomin’ dog chow, and I never went out in them woods again without a compass or a plan.
     After Our Encounter in 2009, I decided to scout the Smith’s Slough area of Horse Island.  I had me a Garmin e-trex hand-held GPS, and had marked waypoints for the places that I had deployed my first two game-cams.  Gettin’ in and out of them woods to service my cams was a no-brainer … that is until the drought started.  The water-levels dropped, which made polin’ my 1,300 lb. boat in and outta there a chore.  The real game-changer was a fallen tree, which kept me from accessin’ a specific shoreline.  Due to that tree, I now had to walk completely around a large swamp to get to my cams.  Gee … it couldn’t be that dang hard … just keep the swamp to my left and walk around it.  Plus, I have a GPS …
     Sometimes, technology will bite ya!  I told my buddy that I would be tryin’ to service my cams one September mornin’ … and exactly where I’d be as well as when I should get back.  I turned on my GPS before I left his place, knowin’ that it would take a while for my Garmin to search for satellites.  It was a weekday, and I didn’t see another soul on the water the whole 20-minute boat trip from my buddies dock to Smith’s Slough.  I motored in as close as I could get to that fallen tree, chained-up the boat, grabbed my gear and took off into them woods.  Before I did, I marked the waypoint as “BOAT” and buckled the GPS back into its case on my belt.  I also marked my way with fluorescent-orange trail tape just in case.  About 45 minutes in, I found somethin’ peculiar; a saplin’ had been bent and twisted about 3’ out of the ground.  It was just bigger around than what I could get my hand around, and the rest was layin’ on the ground.  Well, this was an island, and I knew that an ATV couldn’t have done this; it was bent and then twisted ... it could only have been done by somethin’ with hands!
     I took a couple of pictures, and went to mark a waypoint on my GPS … but to my horror, it was turned off!  Now, I knew damn-well that I had put brand-spankin’ new batteries in it, so what was up?  I powered the unit back on, marked the waypoint as “LMB_TWST” and hit the go-to feature for “THING_02” … which was one of my game-cams.  The GPS showed that I was less than 500 yards from my cam, so again … I buckled the GPS back into its case on my belt.  After about a 30-minute scout, I found THING_02, changed the batteries, switched-out the SD card and locked it.  I reached for my GPS to hit the go-to feature to find THING_01 … and the damn thing was turned-off again!  Really?  Well, I just figured that if sh¡t could happen, it would damn-sure happen to me!  Somethin’ must be wrong with my unit …
     I knew which direction that THING_01 was in, and knew that it was only another 500-600 yards ahead.  After findin’ my cam, I changed those batteries, switched-out that SD card, locked it and decided to eat some lunch.  Cell phone service is sketchy at best out there, but THING_01 was in a clearin’ where my son and I had set-up camp durin’ Spring Break of 2010.  I called my buddy, told him what I had accomplished and what I had found.  I told him that I wanted to scout around some more, and should be back around 2:30-ish.  He said he was headin’ to Marshall, so I said I’d call him as soon as I got back to his place.  I pulled-out my GPS to hit the go-to feature for “LMB_TWST” … and noticed the damn thang was turned-off again!  O.K., now I was startin’ to get p¡ssed.  Since I was in the clearin’ of our old camp site, I sat on a log and watched the unit search for satellites.  As soon as it said that it was “Ready To Navigate” … I hit the "Go To" feature and watched the screen closely as I headed back through them woods.
     I made a wide circle around THING_02 and headed for the area of the limb-twist.  All of the sudden, I watched in horror as the unit started to search for satellites.  I tried to find a clearin’ in the dense woods, but before I could, it powered off again.  Well, sh¡t on me!  Evidently, them woods are so thick that it cain’t find any satellites and powers itself off to conserve batteries.  Well, I knew the direction I needed to go, and also knew that I’d tied quite a bit of trail tape out there, so surely I could find my way to the limb-twist.  A good hour went by, and I hadn’t seen any fluorescent-orange tape, so I decided to find another clearin’ and call my buddy.  I pulled-out my phone, and the first thing I saw was the low-battery warning!  Well, sh¡t on me again!  Evidently, even though my phone was fully charged when I had left … due to the fact that it was roamin’ for cell towers all mornin’ the battery was drained.  I immediately turned it off!
     It was at that point that I decided to quit lookin’ for the limb-twist and start lookin’ for my boat.  That mornin’ … the sun was out, and I had made a mental note of where it was positioned when I chained-up my boat.  But what I now noticed was that it was gettin’ overcast, and the sun was disappearin’ behind the clouds.  After another half-hour of findin’ no trail tape, I found another clearin’ and decided to call my buddy.  I had minimal battery-life left when he finally answered.  I told him what my situation was, and he told me that he was still in Marshall, a storm was headin’ my way and that I needed to get outta them woods!  He said he’d be there in 45-minutes, and to turn-off my phone.  He said that when he found my boat, he would fire a round so I could work my way towards him and then fire a round every five-minutes.  He said that if I was really far away, for me to fire 3 shots and we could work our way towards each other.
    Well, what another fine friggin’ mess I’d gotten myself into!  I relied on technology, and screwed-around and didn’t think I’d need a compass when I packed my gear.  What a dip-sh¡t!  I started movin’ in the direction that I thought the boat was, and wandered into the edge of the swamp.  Due to the drought, it was dry … but the dried giant salvinia was like walkin’ on a giant sponge!  Every third step, my snake-proof boot would sink about shin-deep into the matted vegetation and find mud.  I was makin’ headway when I noticed that my legs were startin’ to cramp; not from the mire, but from dehydration.  At this point, I had already drained all of the water from my hydration pack, and only had what was left in the bottle on my fanny-pack.  My boots were waterproof, but noticed a wet feelin’ in the soles …
     I found a log and had just sat down to check my feet when I heard the rumble of thunder off in the distance.  Great!  Sounds like I was fixin’ to solve my water problem, but bein’ in them woods durin’ a thunderstorm ain’t the safest place in the world to be.  I had a great respect for lightnin’ … but if there were any high winds associated with the approachin’ front, I didn’t wanna have to dodge any of them drought-dead trees or fallin’ limbs!  I unzipped my boot and felt the burn as I slid it off.  The insides of my snake-proof/waterproof boots were wet from a mixture of sweat and blood.  As my feet perspired durin’ the course of my hike, the skin got completely rubbed-off the backs of both heals!  I had just placed pieces of gauze from my First-Aid Kit in between my socks and the backs of each ankle when I heard the first shot.  My buddy had come to the rescue!  I guesstimated from the report that I was just over a half of a mile off course.
     I covered that distance before he fired his third shot, and was yellin’ to let him know where I was.  Wringin’ wet with sweat, dirty and scratched-up from crashin’ through the brush … he said that he could “smell” me comin’ through them woods!  I said, “Daaamn! I thought I’d never get outta there!  He just laughed and said, “Son, this is Horse Island; people get lost out here all the time, and sometimes they don’t make it out!  Now, I don’t know if he was just funnin’ me or tryin’ to make me feel good, but I was damn-sure glad to see him!  The first thing he did after I shook his hand was give me an ice-cold bottled-water.  Then he said, “Here; this is a ‘lil souvenir from your great bigfootin’ adventure!  He held out his fist and emptied two spent 9mm shell casings into my dirty hand.  The rumble of thunder was gettin’ closer, and the sky was turnin’ purple-black to the northwest.  I stowed my gear, unchained my boat and cranked-up the Yamaha.

     We motored out of the slough, and I followed him down Big Cypress back to his place.  We had just unloaded both boats when the sky opened-up.  We sat on the porch of his guest-cabin and drank a beer while I carefully peeled the socks off of my skinless ankles.  Thank God he got me outta them woods when he did.  It rained over 11” by mornin’ … and the temperature had dropped 30°!  About the only thing I could’ve done if I’d have gotten stuck out there over night was to hunker-down in a tree-fall, put my “manpon” in and suck-it-up!  My buddy used to joke about that incident … until the two of us got lost in them same woods that very next summer!  We even had a compass, but it took us an hour of wanderin’ around in circles until we came-out on the bank of Big Cypress, and then another hour of walkin’ within’ eyesight of the bank of Smith’s Slough to wind our way back to my boat!  We don’t joke about gettin’ lost no more …
     I’m pretty-dang-sure that I’ll get lost again somewhere, sometime in the near future; but, I’ll betcha that I’ll be a little more prepared!  I now religiously carry my compass, wrap my ankles and try to carry as much water as possible.  I also pack a survival blanket and a pancho as well.  My fishin’ buddies used to laugh at how much gear I’d pack when we’d camp-out for one of our private little drink-and-drown bass tournaments.  They’d laugh, that is, until sh¡t would happen and somebody needed somethin’ fixed or the right tools to fix it.  I always seem to be the go-to guy when it came to fixin’ sh¡t!  But as far as gettin’ lost goes, the main thing I do right is to always tell someone where I’m goin’ and when they can expect me to return.  Too much can happen out there in them woods, and it’s always good to share the specifics of where you’ll be and about when you’ll be gettin’ back.  Always go prepared … and try to expect the unexpected.  I hope someone might learn from this, and that y’all will be a little more careful out there in them woods.  Take care, be cool … and y’all come back now, you hear?