Palaver from Persimmon Crossingwith Warren Faulk
Boat Rides I Should Never Have Taken
I grew up around people who would rather fish than eat, and were fortunate enough to be able to do quite a bit of both. And there is no end to the stories that are told around the dinner table.
Daddy's favorite story was of a trip on Mobile Bay back in the 40's. He and a friend went out on the oyster beds maybe a mile from shore to catch a mess of white trout. As luck would have it they got caught in a squall. Daddy had an old rope cranked Scott-Atwater outboard motor on the skiff. The motor and the rain didn't get along too well. Dad had his hands full trying to keep the motor running and the boat pointed toward shore without getting swamped. When things settled down a bit and he had time to look up he saw his friend kneeling in the front of the boat and heard him say "Lord, if you will just let me out of this mess I won't ever go fishin' with Mr. Albert again." HE did, and he didn't.My brother and I got one of Daddy's old boats that had been sitting around rotting for years and decided to repair and use it. The front two feet of an otherwise very thin plywood boat looked like a sieve. We nailed a board from seat to floor, vertically, in the bow and poured that little triangle near full of road tar. Then we took a 1/2 horsepower Elgin with a leaky headgasket and headed for the creek. Little fishing was done. We spent most of the time trying to outrun an alligator. It passed us up and passed under us several times. The motor would only push the 11' boat for a few yards before overheating. The 'gator was destroyed a short time later for killing sheep. It was 9' long and well known along the creek.
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Christmas morning 1959 my Dad and I decided to go fishing. We rented a skiff, stacked all our equipment on the pier and stepped into the boat. I reached up for the outboard, lost my balance and motor and I fell into the river. I held onto it, stood up and put it back on the pier. That was a long time ago but I still remember that the water was warm and the air near freezing. And I remember the long ride back to town to turn the motor in for repair. We then went back to the river, me all dried out and went fishing with nothing but a pole to propel the boat. Not one of my more graceful outings.
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Sometime in the 60's my brother and I took a 14' "speed boat" with an 18 horsepower Evinrude out of Alabama Point into the open Gulf. It was a beautiful, cloudless day as we trolled west about 2 miles, picking up a few Bonita. We then saw a tiny cloud a bit further to the west. For some reason it made both of us uneasy. We turned and ran back toward the pass at full speed, Mike still hooking fish and skittering them along the surface of an increasingly angry sea. I didn't think we were going to make it ... and we didn't. I'm sure the spirit of Moses must have been with us. The waters of the pass separated , leaving nothing but sand in a long strip down the middle of the channel, with towering waves going out from that strip toward either shore. Our boat bottomed out gently, with the prop buried in the sand and the motor still running. Instead of rolling over us the two outbound waves slid back under us and we continued on our way without difficulty. If I had tried that maneuver 1000 times I would have broken 999 shear pins and lost power each time. By any estimate our boat should have been splinters and both of us drowned in 9' of rough water. As it was we were unharmed and the only water we took on came in the form of rain.
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I once decided I just had to have a canoe. I had very little money and I drove a VW bug which isn't much to cartop a boat on. I bought a canoe kit which was sent postage paid for about $20.00. The kit consisted of several yards of 10 ounce duck canvas, some precut 1" x 2" fir strips, a box of carpet tacks, a few screws and a set of plans. I spent $5.00 on a can of rubberized paint, found a piece of rope and a brick for an anchor and I had the makin's. Twenty-four hours later I was fishing out of "my" boat. I caught lots of fish and had great fun with my 10' vessel. The only problem was that everytime I would shift my weight, one or two of those carpet tacks would take off like BB's. They really hurt and if you lost enough of them, the boat would leak and begin to fold up, necessitating a trip to shore for repairs.
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I was invited to go fishing with some friends in Vietnam. I was to bring a large trash can with ice and drinks. When I arrived at the launch site the "fishing boat" turned out to be a commercial job of about 35' standing about 100 yards off shore in a channel. Access was by 7' round, tar coated, woven bamboo basket boat.
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With two aboard and the drinks, my boat was loaded to the maximum. Still, a little Viet fisherman was able to propel us without incident to the mother ship, using a thin board for a paddle. I spent the time composing a letter to my mother. Dear Mrs Faulk, We regret to inform you that your son died in Vietnam, not as a result of hostile fire, but while transporting beer in a basket to some other fools with whom he was fishing in a free fire zone. We are led to believe he died with a smirk on his face, thinking that he could once again cheat the Grim Reaper....
-- Warren Faulk
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