By: Virgil Adams
The Jackson Herald
June 23, 2004
Just another fish story? No way!
It was not a dark and stormy night. It was a bright and beautiful morning.
We were singing hymns at the Confluence. The angel came down. The big fish hit. Man, it dont get no better than that!
Thus ended the 36th annual spring outing of the Clarks Hill Gang. Since 1968 we have gathered where Fishing Creek intersects with the Savannah River.
But that is not the confluence where we were singing and the angel came down and the big fish hit. That happened where the broad Broad River and the wide, wide Savannah merge at the historic, inundated town of Petersburg. When the lake is real low and the water clear, you can see the brick walls and sidewalks where the little town used to be. It gives you an eerie feeling, dragging a fishing lure through Petersburg.
But that doesnt begin to match the feeling we experienced there on the morning of May 20, 2004.
Who are we? We are a manufacturers representative for packaging machinery, an automobile salesman, a carpenter, vice president of a ladies wear corporation, general manager of five auto paint stores, a computer whiz at the University of Georgia, a retired soil conservation worker, a high school band director, and a retired Navy and commercial airlines pilot. And a retired editor. That would be me.
Oh, I almost forgot our resident psychiatrist, who shows up occasionally but is needed full-time.
I came to this years outing as a marginal believer in things spiritual, in visions, in revelations, in prophecies, in miracles. I left a true believer, and I believe the others did, too. Our lives were changed, and I am humbled and honored to have played a small part in the transformation.
The transformation began five years ago. It took a second appearance of the angel to complete it.
Rick McQuiston, charter member of the Gang and a close friend and fishing buddy for four decades, took me back to that fateful spring outing in 1999. His recent e-mail began:
I rummaged through my not-so-organized Clarks Hill files and found your 5-5-99 article, Miracles of the Hill. And I quote:
Suddenly, out of the blue, a kingfisher swooped down, grasped the Rapala in its beak, flew up and away from the stump, and dropped my lure and line in open water.
Rick and I were fishing the Honey Hole, one of more than 20 hot spots worthy of being named by the Gang. The Honey Hole is a large area where Fishing Creek quits being a creek and becomes a part of the lake. It is 15 miles from the confluence of the Broad and the Savannah. But the kingfisher was at both places when this old man needed him.
First, I need to describe the Rapala for you non-fishermen. It is a floating lure, six inches long, with three treble hooks, nine sharp hooks in all. The Rapala is known for its ability to hook fish. And if you get too close to a stump, it will hook that, too.
I cast the lure at a stump where I just knew a large largemouth bass was hanging out. I aimed 12 inches to the right, but hit the stump dead center. It was a classic hang-up.
Before motorman McQuiston could turn the boat to retrieve the lure, the kingfisher did the honors.
The next paragraph in my 1999 column: McQuiston crossed himself as I calmly reeled the lure to the boat. That is the truth. It is also a miracle. Not a miracle from on high, mind you, but just a simple fish story. And I dont know but what that kingfisher was an angel flying around the Honey Hole that day.
Five years later, at the 2004 outing, my perspective changed. It was a miracle from on high. It definitely is more than a simple fish story. That kingfisher not only was flying around the Honey Hole that day; it was following me around.
Now an old man, and not as spry as I was 36 years ago, I believe that kingfisher is my guardian angel.
We were singing Shall We Gather at the River when the angel came down again. This time I was fishing the famous Devils Horse lure. Like the Rapala, it is a floater with three sharp treble hooks and is noted for its fish (and stump) catching prowess.
I hit the stump again. Again a classic hang-up.
McQuiston didnt have time to turn the boat. Out of the blue, the kingfisher came down, lifted my lure from the stump, and dropped it in open water.
Remember that this was 15 miles from where the first miracle happened five years earlier. I dont know for sure, but Im telling everybody it was the same kingfisher; excuse me, angel. It certainly looked liked him.
McQuistons recent e-mail concluded: Im here to tell you Ive only seen a kingfisher go after a lure twice. And each time, it was your hung lure. Makes you wonder, doesnt it?
Not anymore. Like I said, I am now a true believer.
Within minutes after the angel came down, the big fish hit the freed Devils Horse. It weighed almost four pounds and was the biggest fish of the week. It gave me a big thrill and bragging rights until the 37th outing in 2005. We returned the fish to the water, to be caught again another day.
Want further evidence that the kingfisher is my angel?
A month after this years spring outing, my son Miles and I were fishing at the Hill out of our new boat. At every spot we fished, there was a kingfisher, just hanging around, observing what was going on.
Miles cast his Rapala at a tree that had fallen into the lake. He missed the water and hit a limb. There was no way the limb would let go of the lure. We could not navigate the structure to reach the Rapala by boat. So Miles removed his shoes and socks and waded to the lure.
Nearby, a kingfisher watched the proceedings. If that had been my lure, I believe my angel would have come to the old mans aid.
Just another fish story? No way!
Virgil Adams is a former owner and editor of The Jackson Herald.
By: Oscar Weinmeister
The Commerce News
June 23, 2004
Advice From A Departing Writer
This will be my last column for the Commerce News, at least for the foreseeable future anyway. My family and I are moving away to live at the beach in South Carolina. Ill be working for a great non-profit hospital system there, so its a good career move, and of course if youre leaving Commerce you might as well move to the beach.
We will take many good friendships with us, and we expect to visit and to be visited by the friends weve made here, but well also take some memories, and some good stories, too. For the purposes of this column, though, I thought that Id note some of the rules for living in Commerce for other out-of-county in-migrants to follow, seeing as how there are plenty of people moving here who could use a little help getting over the non-native hurdle.
Rule number 1: No matter what time of day or what day of the week it is, youd better look at least halfway decent when you go to the grocery store, because you ARE going to run into someone you know, and that person is going to take note of what youre wearing, whether that person means to or not.
Rule number 2: Everyone in town will know what you wore to the grocery store yesterday if it wasnt halfway decent.
Rule number 3: If you havent picked out a church, you had better pick out a church. There are plenty of churches to choose from in Commerce, but in the first month or so we were here, until we settled on Commerce Presbyterian, we got queried and invited no fewer than seven times a day.
Corollary 3A: If you are disregarding rule number 1 by going to the grocery story wearing house clothes, go on Sunday at 11 A.M., since every non-heathen is in a pew somewhere.
Rule number 4: You had better mow your lawn. See rule number 2. Also, please wear a shirt while you are mowing your lawn.
Rule number 5: Everybody whos been here even a few years has at least one really good and slightly odd story about Mac Barber.
Rule number 6: Shop local. You will make friends in unexpected places, and you will find people who can help you with any problem you can imagine.
Rule number 7: Pay your bills. See rule 2.
Rule number 8: Dont talk bad about anybody; someone you are talking to is without exception related to the person you were about to discuss.
Rule number 9: The editorial in the paper across the river varies little.
Rule number 10: If you are not a fan of football, you will be. And if you dont make it to the games on Friday nights, at least listen to Rob and Gerald on WJJC.
Rule number 11: Speaking of WJJC, learn how to say, Community Bank & Trust Trading Post correctly.
Rule number 12: Commerce has an uncommonly good library and an exceptional newspaper. If you dont believe me, pick up a local newspaper while youre browsing shelves at a library in some other small town anywhere. You will see what I mean.
Rule number 13: Final rule. Commerce has a great little hospital and nursing home called BJC Medical Center. You may not believe me, but if you dont, Ill wager you wouldnt know the difference anyway.
Thats about it. Were really going to miss everybody. Well, most everybody, but I wont name any names because youre probably related.
Oscar Weinmeister is the soon-to-be former assistant administrator of BJC Medical Center. He is moving to Pawleys Island, SC.