One evening, a group of us
Decided to set out a trout line without any fuss
In a lake not far you see,
From the Capitol dome in Tallahassee.
We'd cook a meal over an open fire
While sampling liberally of Bacchus ware,
From canned goods, a choice selection
Obtained at the close-by filling station
(Gas station to those not of the area
Who might want to know or maybe don't care) .
I must add as an aside
That I never could figure out why
If states, counties, cities and so forth
Were so opposed to drinking and driving of course
Why they ever permitted sale
Of intoxicating liquids, both dark and pale.
At any rate, we got the line set in due time
The number 10 hooks were baited with chicken livers all in a line.
To plastic jugs the line was tied about ever ten hooks or so,
And lead weights added in between to let gravity keep them down below.
All this was accomplished by use of Wayne's plywood pram,
Which we all had a hand in making, such was the plan.
And now time was nigh for reaping the benefits.
In a merry time of evening fishing events.
The little boat was all of four feet across and eight feet long,
And reinforced by oak strips that made it quite strong.
The dimensions were dictated by the sheet size
Of marine grade plywood used for the bottom and side.
The size was ideal as any larger craft
Would have been impossible for two people to lift
And secure on the top of Wayne's Renault
(But that's another story which you must await.)
Now sitting on the south side of the lake
With a gentle breeze wafting across our wake
To keep the mosquitoes to a minimum,
One can smell the 'freshening' according to some
Of the lake when the temperature changes.
The 'evening sweat' as the water rearranges.
It seems that shortly after the sun sets,
The lake gives up its last warmth as evening awaits.
A more uniform temperature away from the sun's flame.
This is the time when old fishermen claim
That the really big lunkers come out to feed,
Especially where a full moon is there, it is indeed.
So there we sat, with lots to say,
Discussing the events of the day,
Wondering if the labs were deserving of our talents,
And who was doing what to whom, in our absence.
Finally after frequent trips to the tub of beer,
And less frequent trips near
To the protective shadows of the live oaks and pine
We decided it was time to run the line.
Wayne in front, Dave in the middle, and I in the back,
(Wisely the other three remained on shore guarding the beer and rest of the tack.)
The boat had only about three inches of freeboard
Separating us from the fishes and their watery abode.
This arrangement was set to the letter
For Wayne was the spotter,
Picking out the jugs in the beam of the flashlight
As he directed us to the line more by memory than sight.
Dave was assigned the task of pulling in the line
Being careful that none would be entwined
As Wayne removed the fish and put them away
Away from the line, hooks and jugs for another day.
While I provided the most important task of all
As the counter balance (and as I recall)
The motive force for the boat as I sculled across the lake
In search of our watery take.
Wayne declared we must have something on the line
As it had moved considerably since last time.
It was not where we had placed it
(Or else he'd just forgotten where it'd been set?)
Ah, there it was, as before,
Maybe just a bit closer to shore
I gave the oar a final tug
And we drifted along side the first jug.
Wayne caught the jug, and passed it to Dave and then,
Dave began to slowly pull the boat as line came in.
Up came the first couple of hooks,
With the bait missing, stolen by those feeding crooks.
Which lead us to concluded that either livers
Were a poor choice for bait for these fishy feeders
Or we were in for a good night,
As the fish were hungry for our bloody delight.
Next aboard came a good sized catfish
Probably weighing three pounds at least
And so we knew that cleaning fish by someone
Meant for the others there was work to be done.
Then came more hooks that were bare
And we were past the second float in the lights glare.
Wayne spooled around the first jug the line and hooks
So they didn't catch the unintended in their crooks.
Now we were in for some real landings,
The next two hooks also bore fruit for our findings.
Although not as large as the first.
They'd be ample to go with our beer quenched thirst.
Just past the lead weight was a good sized crappie,
Which made Wayne happy.
A crappie feeding on chicken liver was not very wise,
And at this time of night, lead to its demise.
Then, Dave said, 'The line must be hung on something'.
He'd pull and the pram would move, on the line a bumping.
But there was little slack to gather up
And it wouldn't come onboard our floating tea cup.
With hooks in the water and something astir
One can't be too careful with the line stretched there
For getting caught up on one in the dark of night
Is not anyone's idea of fun and hard to make right.
So Dave carefully pulled on the line
And finally we were just about straight over our watery find.
Whatever it was on which we were hooked was sure to be
Maybe the granddaddy of all the little fishes.
Now, the line seemed to move a little, giving some play
And Dave appeared to be making headway
In getting a few more feet of the line aboard
While the pram moved not a bit more.
He slid his left hand down the line,
Then a gentle but firm pull was fine
In bringing a few more feet
Up from the watery deep.
Each time before he'd give a pull
He'd lean over the side, then grow quite still
Catching up the slack in the line below
Before putting his arm in the water up to his elbow.
Several empty hooks and a weight latter,
He said, 'Whatever was there is gone from our dinner.'
For the line now was moving freely.
He continued to pull most gently.
Then just as he raised the line with a tug,
Just inches from his hand, was Nature's ugliest mug.
The barbed hook on the nose of the largest head
Of the meanest alligator snapping turtle I'd learned to dread.
We all just looked; no words, no motion.
Did we continue to breath? I'm not certain.
Finally, Wayne with the filet knife, made one carefully directed cut at the line
And separated Dave from our turtle in time.
Still, not a word from this jug fishing crew
As Wayne did what he had to do
Taking each of our previous catch,
Returned them to the water with quiet dispatch.
Back at the campsite, we were asked;
'Where're the fish? ' To which Dave replied,
'They weren't bittin'
The wrong bait, we must've been using'.
Without a doubt, the snapping turtle
Is one of the most prehistoric
Appearing of all creatures that
Crawl or swim on this earth.
It is also a survivor that exist
In some of the most hostile environments.
The plains of the Midwest, swamps of Georgia
Or rivers and lakes of most everywhere else.
I don't know if the rest of the World
Has an equivalent, but if they do I am sure
It has the same nasty disposition,
And ugly appearance that not even a mother could love.
The snapping turtle goes by a variety of names
Dependent on the area it inhabits
And the observations of the natives.
In Florida and throughout the South,
He (or she, if you can tell the difference)
The name, 'alligator' is applied.
An old 'wive's' tale
Is that if the Snapper gets you,
It wont let go until it thunders!
If you separate the turtle's head
From the body,
It will continue to 'snap.'
And will latch onto anything
Thrust into it's sight
For hours afterward.