For some reason or other, I’ve always loved being around water. Why, when I retired, I held a state water and wastewater license.
My first recollection of liking water was when I was 5 years old. Every evening, I would follow my grandma down in the cow pasture to head the cows up to the barn for milking. I’d carry a short cane pole and a worm or two and fish in the spring while Ma was getting in the cows. She’d always come by the spring and say, “Boy, you caught anything?”
My reply would always be, “no, ma’am, but I think I got a few bites.”
My dad and his brothers also liked to fish. So about every Saturday evening we could, we’d load up our cane poles, dig some Georgia Wigglers and head over to Pee Dee River to fish off the bank. Sometimes we’d catch a mess of fish, but Dad said we could catch more if’n we had us a boat.
Back then, people would make their own little wooden fishing boats. A lot of people would take their boat to the river. When they got through fishing, they would pull their boats into a cove they could drive to and chain their boats to a tree. I remember the cove right above Blewett Falls Dam in Richmond County would have half sunken boats chained to trees. When the owners came back to fish, they’d bail out the water; put a little gas motor on the boats and head out into the river to fish.
At that time, my dad was working at a woodworking and home supply store in Rockingham. He decided he would go in early and work over and build us a boat.
I remember the day he brought it home. My eyes lit up like stars. The boat was about 12 feet long with wide sides that came together at the front end to make a square. There were three seats evenly spaced inside the boat. Dad had painted it battleship gray like the ships he had traveled in during World War II.
I asked my dad, “Can we take her out tomorrow?”
He replied, “No, son. We’ll have to fill the boat with water and let the joints swell so it won’t leak.”
Finally, a few weeks later it was time to put our boat in the river. Dad didn’t think we needed a motor, so he had made two wooden paddles. I didn’t think this was such a good idea but later would learn why he did that. Didn’t make no difference though, all I wanted to do was take a ride in it.
We launched our boat by pushing it off the bank into the water — up under the Old Steel Bridge which was over Cartledge Creek. We started paddling down the creek where it runs into Pee Dee River. Well, I might have been riding on the Queen Mary for the first time, for this was truly a new adventure for this young country boy.
The large trees with their huge canopies stretched like a cloak over the creek. Every once in a while a ray of sunshine would make its way to the water like a rainbow. All types of animals, beautiful birds, and snakes were sunning themselves on the fallen trees and along the banks.
Every once in a while, a turtle would roll off a log and make a splash in the water. It seemed the whole forest was alive with activity. I had almost forgotten about fishing as our boat glided silently down the creek with every stroke of the paddle. Every little bend of the creek offered something different and majestic for my young eyes. Now I knew why Dad hadn’t wanted a noisy motor on our little boat!
Next week, we will continue this story as I tell you about how the fish were biting so good that we were catching them on both ends of our poles as the water started rising.
J.A. Bolton is a member of the N.C. Storytelling Guild, Richmond County Writers’ Club and Story Spinners inn Laurinburg.