Friday, February 02, 2007

Cool, Cool Water ...

Memories of Village Creek have been floating around in my mind for several weeks. I believe this is because Village Creek was always one of my favorite places to go.
Fishing in the creek was good. Swimming was good if you were extremely careful. There were strong currents and deep holes you had to avoid. But you could really wake up when you dipped down into that ice-cold water.

Our family enjoyed fishing and swimming out at Willard’s Lake. This lake was sort of a wide place in the creek that made for good fishing and camping. There was a nice sandbar that extended for quite a ways. There was a clubhouse where you could buy hamburgers and soda pop.

One day when I was an older teenager I went out to Willard’s Lake. I liked to rent a row boat and paddle around out in the lake. On this particular day I watched an older gentleman fishing in one of the deep holes just off the creek bank. He was using a cane pole and a little perch hook. Suddenly his line tightened up and his pole bowed to almost a 90-degree angle. The old angler held on for a good fifteen minutes. Finally, he was able to work his catch into shallow water. I waded out with a net and help him catch the fish. It was an eighteen-pound catfish. Caught with a perch hook. I still marvel when I think of that.

Fast-forward to the late 1980s. I was one of the ministers on staff with the Ridgewood church of Christ. One of our other ministers was a Cherokee Indian named Famous Whitewater Byers. One day Famous took our Adult Singles Group from the church on a canoe trip down Village Creek. He invited Tom McLeod, who was another minister on staff and me to go along.

We rented eleven canoes. Tom was my partner. In a two-person canoe one sits in the middle and paddles while the second person sits in the rear and steers the craft. The paddle serves as a rudder. I had never been in a canoe before. But I had a Private Flying License so at least I understood the rudder concepts. Soon I realized that Tom did not grasp the rudder concepts. I was paddling from the middle. Tom was steering. We went back and forth across the creek banging into the banks and trees and logs. Finally, we traded spots. I began to steer and did OK. However, we had nine miles to go. So Tom and I traded out several times. The one steering could rest while the other paddled.

Anyway, I thought it was pretty neat to have a Cherokee Indian lead our way. Famous and his wife, Carol, were in the lead canoe. It was an exciting trip. We were trying to have the canoes in a single file. But most were having trouble steering so we were all over the place.

One of the most interesting parts of that excursion was when our Indian capsized his canoe. He got dumped out into that ice-cold water. Of course he and Carol had on life jackets but the water was still just as cold. They “whooped” and “hollered.” Famous and Carol capsized three times during the course of those nine miles. No one else capsized. We teased Famous about that for a long while. That was more than fifteen years ago. I called Famous to see if he would object to my sharing this story. Famous just laughed and said, “Ugh … write it.”

If you’ve never been canoeing on Village Creek, give it a try. Just be sure to paddle your own canoe.

Winston Hamby
The Beaumont Enterprise
February 3, 2007


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