In the 1980s we made a yearly fishing excursion to Suwannee, Fla. during our Christmas vacation. You must be a highly sophisticated traveler to appreciate this unique village where the Suwannee River meets the Gulf of Mexico in the Big Bend region. What we discovered was a place where the fishing was great, the guides were as knowledgeable as they were profane, and the accommodations were of the one star variety. Our first trip to this distinctive destination was one I will always remember for many reasons and I will now regale you with the details.
Our living quarters for the visit were block houses with enough beds to sleep a dozen people. The restroom facilities were comprised of a single potty, a luxurious shower stall complete with two cement blocks in the center (so your feet wouldn’t touch the slimy green stuff on the floor) and a standard porcelain sink that had running water on an intermittent basis. These amenities along with actual electricity made our barracks a charming abode for the week. Unfortunately when 12 guys go on a fishing trip personal hygiene is not a high priority. At the risk of being indelicate I must report that by the end of the first night our little garrison smelled like someone took a sleeping pill and a laxative before they went to bed.
Regrettably, that was not the only issue with the sleeping arrangements. John (night train) Knight and Bennie (the jet) Lindsey went to snoring early in the evening and it sounded like a fully engaged logging operation going on in our room. I chose to sleep in the truck to avoid the noise and smell.
The next morning we forgot all about those minor inconveniences because we had fishing foremost on our minds. At first light we were introduced to our guides, and each group was assigned to one of those fine fellows. My group was given an old codger named Rufus. Additionally there other guides whose names were Monroe, John Melvin, Old Man Jack and BB and they were to take out others of our party. The guides didn’t seem to be friendly with each other, and I was later to discover that the reason was competitive rivalry. It seems that they had a substantial standing wager on who would be the “low boat,” that is to say the guide of the boat with the least number of fish had to pay the others at the end of the day’s activities.
So off we went to the creeks of Suwannee, and Rufus proved to be everything he was touted to be. We caught more red fish than I had ever seen, and since there was no limit (according to Rufus) we happily loaded the cooler and the floor of the boat. We learned to be careful to land every fish we hooked because if you let one escape you would surely receive a lusty profanity laced scolding from Rufus. Upon our return to the dock it was determined that we were not the “low boat” and I was much relieved because the punishment from Rufus for that transgression might have been a butt whipping.
The second night was roughly equivalent to the first in terms of stench and noise but an additional event spiced up the evening. Little Mack decided to try to court some of the local girls, and in order to impress one of them and to show his sincerity he gave her his senior ring from high school. Unless I’m mistaken that ring is still in Suwannee and Mack is in Georgia.
The second day was another resounding success, and by sundown we had an impressive pile of fish. The question then arose — how are we going to get all these fish home? The coolers we had were woefully inadequate for this mountain of flesh. Eventually it was determined to put them in the back of Lamar (Goat) Conner’s El Camino Sport and dump ice on them. We spent $200 trying to keep those fish cold on the long journey home.
It was a trip worth tackling if you wanted to catch red fish until your hands were sore and didn’t mind a couple of sleepless nights in a funky smelling, noisy room.
I knew the moment we left that I would be back again — as soon as possible.
Columnist Alvin Richardson can be reached at email@example.com