Dead Bolt from a Wildlife Refuge
Sunday August, 12, 2012
By Al Gray
By Al Gray
Some of the most tense, relaxation-devoid, and snafu-filled experiences an outdoorsman can have is to try to jamb pack a meaningful hunting or fishing trip into a long weekend. For starters, every guy and his brother have the same idea. The fields and streams can be crowded. The highways get traffic jams. The destinations can be miss-booked or overbooked. Having a meaningful, positive experience is a challenge.
The Memorial Day weekend of 1979 was like that. A small group of us: Freddie and Sandy Norris, my sister Arlain and her fiancé, Robbie Robertson and this author decided to make a dash for Lake George in east central Florida. The idea was to catch the bluegills bedding atop the large mussel shell beds out in the lake upon the weekend full moon. We made reservations with Blair's Jungle Den at Astor. The manager assured us that unit, B2 would be open and awaiting our intended late arrival around midnight.
Multiple compelling emergencies delayed our intended 3:00 PM departure from Evans. After considerable debate, we decided to go for it anyway, leaving around 6:30 Friday evening. We were extremely tired after a long day of working and packing. Passengers slept in order to take their turn at the wheel. The trip down was pure torture.
Around 1:30 AM we pulled into the Jungle Den parking lot. Mobile home unit B2 was very clearly occupied, but A3, an old 2 bedroom Jim Walter shanty with an improvised attached bedroom to the rear, was empty. This discussion ensued:
Sandy: “I AM NOT staying in that place!”
Me: “Why not?”
Sandy: “I am scared to death of bugs and that place looks like it is roach infested, with maybe fleas, too!”
Me: “There might be some dead crickets from the case that Uncle John insisted upon opening in there last year. We got serenaded and leapt-upon the whole week, but other than the bugs we brought everything was OK”
Sandy: “Well, if I see a bug, we are going to the Holiday Inn back in Orange Park.”
Unloading luggage commenced in earnest. Freddie, Sandy and Arlain got the main bedrooms and were settling in when I started into the rear bedroom, which turned out to have 2 single beds. One was opposite the door and the other was perpendicular to it at the end of the room. Robbie was just behind me, when I turned on the light switch. The sight of an enormous hairy spider on the wall greeted me. A quick decision was thus prompted.
I exclaimed: “Look what a HUGE spider that’s perched over YOUR bed!”
Robbie laughed as he pulled off one of his sandals. WHAM! The wall shuddered as the heel of that sandal squashed the spider, leaving a smear on the wall, as the spider fell limply alongside the bed to the floor.
Sandy yelled: “What was that?”
Me: “Nothing. Robbie is so tired that he crashed into the bed.” (Not a lie – he had!)
Sandy: “I was afraid you were killing insects.”
Me: “We have not seen any insects” (A spider is an arachnid, not an insect.) “Good Night!”
The wind was blowing the next day too briskly to fish on the big lake. The bluegills did not cooperate on the river channels, either. Being constantly buzzed and pushed around by the weekend boat traffic from Astor headed out into the lake might have had something to do with that. Robbie had brought his blue Glasstream boat, which was so fast it was spooky, but he left the river respecting that the big boats of the commercial fishermen were deceptively fast. We caught some bluegills in some of the backwater sloughs but the total catch disappointed.
Monday morning and departure time came quickly. We were loading the last luggage, when Sandy stopped at the threshold and looked back into Number A3. “Well,” she said, “I was worried about bugs, but y’all were right - this cabin was bug free.
We broke into uncontrollable laughter. “Sa……Sa……Sandy…… the reason there weren’t any bugs was because the giant wolf spider we killed the first night had eaten them all!”
What prompted thoughts of disastrous weekend jaunts was opening the junk drawer in the kitchen this week and seeing a pitiful collection of metal parts that had rested there for a decade. Seeing it again brought a belly laugh. It was a souvenir from the Great Yazoo National Wildlife Refuge hunt of 2002.
The Yazoo hunt began innocently enough. As a brother-in-law, Robbie is as good as gold, but when it comes to impromptu hunting trips, he can be a little dangerous.
Robbie: “Don’t you want to go with us to Yazoo this year?”
Me: “Yazoo makes lawn mowers, right?”
Robbie: “No, Doofus, Yazoo as in Yazoo National Wildlife Refuge in Mississippi, down below Greenville. The refuge is on a huge oxbow of the Yazoo River. Last year was the first year they opened it up for hunting – bowhunting only – and there are huge bucks down there. Steve killed a big 8 point last year on our trip there and there weren’t that many hunters.”
Me: “Count me in. Shooting does around the lake isn’t getting tedious, mind you, but a change in scenery might be good. That’s old Jerry Clower’s stomping grounds.”
The appointed day for the trip came. As it turned out, this scribe had a bout of stomach virus, so we made more stops than Steve would have liked, as he was gung-ho to get there to scout. Along the way, we were dreaming aloud about bagging a 12 point, 195-class Pope and Young buck out of that ‘pristine’ swamp in the middle of the Yazoo Refuge. Each one of us already had one on the wall.
Jerry Clower put that scenario to words well with “Want to Buy A Possum?” That one could have been a prophesy for our trip.
As we approached Greenville, I asked a stupid question.
Me: “Where we gonna stay? Hampton Inn?“
Steve, exchanging amused glances with Robbie: “More like Ho-ville Inn”
Robbie: “We got the motel covered. We gotta have room to bring Steve’s canoe inside.”
Me: “Why can’t we leave it in the truck locked to the bed.”
Steve: “Bad part of town. People are walking the highway all hours. Robbie about got a girlfriend forced on him last year. Lots of crack dealing. Everything has to be in the room after dark.”
Me: “Ugh. I think I am getting sick again.” “What’s this about the ho’s?“
Robbie: “There was a knock on the door late last year. I made the mistake of opening it. This woman walked in and she wouldn’t take ‘No’ for an answer. We had to pull our pistols on her to make her leave!”
Me: “You might have to pick me up at the Hampton, but I will give it a try”
Steve wheeled into a dilapidated old motel, pulling into a space at the end room. I went to pay the Indian woman managing the place cash in advance through Monday. Upon returning to the room I saw a problem. The door to the room looked like it was nailed back together and the dead bolt was missing.
Me: “When we go out to eat supper and get groceries, let’s run by Lowe’s.
Me: “There is a hole where the dead bolt used to be. No way I stay in that room with that door being unsecure, never minding the fact that it looks pieced and glued together.”
Steve: “Now, I’ve heard of everything. Here we are about to buy our own dead bolt for a motel room!”
We walked out the door and smack into a pimp with a couple of ho’s. He and they weren’t insistent, probably because 3 guys in camo don’t generally look like men to be trifled with. There was drug dealing all over the place.
Upon our return, I took in the bathroom and shower. I have never seen a shower stall with such a menagerie of scum and mildew. Going in there was a grand mistake. Yeah, my gas perm contacts needed to come out, but my two hunting companions got a strategic jump on me.
Steve and Robbie were asleep and they were snoring.
It was Loud.
Before this story continues, your scribe has a confession to make. I have a habit of molesting my fellow hunters in their sleep – with my snoring. It is legendary. The racket gets so loud that no one who goes on our dove hunting trips will subject themselves to it. They all want another roomie.
This time, Yazoo Steve and Robbie were so loud, my efforts just blended in. We joked later that when our gang went hunting, we didn’t go a whoring, we went to snoring.
That sparsely attended hunt we were anticipating didn’t happen. On a trip around the loop road around the Yazoo refuge there were 85 pickups parked. There were so many hunters we had to get to the stands we found an hour before daylight and then blink our flashlights in warning to hunters approaching from the main parking areas. Our stands were almost on the water’s edge, which required that we take a short-cut down an old dike, across a beaver dam, through a pine thicket and alongside the swamp. The huge crowd of hunters pushed the deer out onto the humps and islands out in the swamp, so we saw a lot of deer. My stand was in a 14 inch black locust tree that was dropping its pods at the swamp edge. A very nice 8 point buck came in and started munching locust bean pods at 8 yards. He gave me the perfect shot.
I didn’t shoot. Thinking of the ordeal of getting that buck out of that swamp, across the oak stand, through the pine woods, up the canal, across the beaver dam, down the dike, and across the field to the truck, all via dragging or carting, overcame the urge to shoot. That buck was doubly lucky, for he sashayed up to Robbie after he left me. He got a double bye-pass.
Back at the motel, the dingy carpet was getting muddy from our boots, the canoe was nestled against the wall, Steve’s boot dryers hummed, and the mold in the shower was getting abused by scent-proof shampoo. The seedy beds and the walls, were they to talk, were getting a new experience from three Georgia bowhunters. All of this went on behind our dead-bolt lock.
With all that snoring at night and maniacal laughter during the day, no pimps, whores, or dealers were coming anywhere near that end room. It sounded like there were grizzly bears in there.
I have to be the only person I know who bought his own motel door dead bolt lock. That’s my story and I am sticking to it.