More Jackson County Opinions...

NOVEMBER 24, 2004


By: Virgil Adams
The Jackson Herald
November 24, 2004

Gang is changing, becoming civil
Last week I called them spoiled brats. They aren’t spoiled brats; they are too old for that foolishness. But when you’ve camped, fished and roughed it with some of these guys for 36 years, you have to say something offensive or derogatory to get their attention. Otherwise, you don’t get no respect.
Now, in an effort to get your attention, Dear Readers, I am going to do what I promised to do five weeks ago. That is, tell you about the other half of the fun-after we got down there.
Down there is Elijah Clark State Park, and on October 20 I told you how we happened to choose that luxurious resort for our 2004 fall outing. And that’s what led me to say my old fishing buddies have gone soft, wimpy and limp.
When we organized this prestigious fishing society in 1969, our campsite at the confluence of the Savannah River and Fishing Creek had an outdoor privy (which we seldom used), but no water and no electricity. We hauled in the bare necessities and cooked by the light of a Coleman lantern. We slept in leaky tents, on the ground, on the picnic table, and in the cabs of pickup trucks. We loved it.
Some years later, when the U.S. Corps of Engineers bulldozed our privy and built a bathhouse — for men AND women — we were incensed. Furthermore, they ran water and electric lines to each campsite, and before long Hester’s Ferry was lit up like a Halloween pumpkin and a cheap, outdoor Christmas tree. Highfalutin rich folks with their fancy RVs and travel trailers were taking over. The Clark’s Hill Gang’s outrage made this year’s political campaigns seem like Sunday school picnics. A disgusted McQuiston wailed that it was just a matter of time until they did away with their pioneer campsites and built a McDonald’s and a Holiday Inn.
Over the years, however, as we grew old and feeble (I speak for myself), we came to appreciate the modern amenities, and we stayed put — until this year. Although some of us longed for the good ol’ days (especially me), we all agreed it was nice sleeping in real beds. And thanks to television, we were able to watch the last presidential debate. Oh, joy!
We also had refrigerators, electric stoves, microwaves, kitchen sinks, comfortable sofas and chairs, coffee tables, clean linens and towels, and lots of toilet paper in the bathrooms. I hate to admit this (It’s a sign that I’ve gone soft too), but we loved our upgraded quarters.
But we were not down there to live in luxury or high on the hog. We were down there to fish, and fish we did. And our luck was better than it’s been in years. However, it was not all luck. Our skills, boats, tackle, familiarity with the lake, and general knowledge of the art of angling are much improved, as they should be after 36 years of intensive research, study and practice.
Nevertheless, we didn’t set any records this year. The McQuiston brothers, Mike and Rick, each caught nine-pound bass several years ago. My best is a nearly seven-pounder that I enticed to hit a floating Rapala in Adams Cove. That lunker led the Gang to name that spot for me. It don’t get no better than that.
There are scores of other hot spots, most of them south of the bridge over Fishing Creek, in an area lovingly called the Honey Hole.
This year the lake level hovered around 331 feet above sea level, a foot higher than normal pool. So it was possible to reach the far reaches of the Honey Hole, even the point where Fishing Creek leaves the lake and becomes...well, just a creek. We call it Chuck’s Channel. (Sometimes I’ll cue you in on the legendary Chuck).
Every year, no matter how low the lake is, we try to get back there. Oftentimes we don’t make it. We run around. Raising the big mother and the trolling motor doesn’t help. And it’s hard paddling a heavy bass boat in six inches of water. One year, Rick abandoned ship, grabbed the bow line, and dragged our boat through the muck and mire like a pair of mules drags a turning plow through Georgia red clay.
But this year conditions were just right, and one of the happiest moments was when we realized we could get from Elijah Clark State Park to the Honey Hole (a distance of 15 miles) in 15 to 20 minutes, by boat, in the dark of the night, yet. Big Johnson and Mercury outboards, on boats equipped with GPS (what they call Global Positioning Systems) are something else! NASA ain’t got nothing on us.
Except one morning the fog was so thick that even the GPS couldn’t see from one Savannah River buoy to the next. Believe me, four powerful boats wandering around out there in the dark, out of the channel, in tree, stump, log and debris infested waters, is pretty scary. In case the U.S. Coast Guard is listening, Safety First is the Gang’s motto.
Once we got there, we had a ball. Nobody matched our big fish record, but when it came to numbers, this fall was fantastic. We caught a lot of bass, and most of them were keepers. But we didn’t keep ‘em. We admired them, measured them, weighed some (to see who won the daily big fish contest), and released them to be caught again another day by another fisherman.
Incidentally, my nephew, Tommy Adams, caught the big fish of the trip (almost six pounds), and my great nephew, Tom Adams, caught the most fish. They deserved it, seeing as how they drove all night (nearly 700 miles) from St. Louis to get in on the Honey Hole action.
Tom and his South Carolina friend, Kevin, found a new spot just off the Wooded Cove, on the west side of the Honey Hole, and caught bass like catching bream off a bream bed. They called it the Beaver Pond. They went back the next day and let a little ol’ water snake scare them off. They said it was a six-foot water moccasin, and it may have been for all I know, but if these younguns are to be full fledged members of the Clark’s Hill Gang, they’ve got to stand up to the snakes.
They’ve got to be like charter member McQuiston. I motored into Hopper’s Cove one morning, and there was my ol’ fishing buddy flailing the daylights out of the water with his fly rod. I shut down Big Johnson and trolled a little closer, and saw that he was flailing the daylights out of five or six snakes that were trying to get in his boat. McQuiston wasn’t about to surrender his hot spot to a few slimy reptiles.
That year Rick was fishing out of ol’ Stump Jumper, a 12-foot Johnboat held together with duct tape. He later moved up to a bigger, better boat, named Proud Mary. Now he pulls the seaworthy Fleet Key West to Clark’s Hill from his Santa Rose Beach home on the Gulf coast. The packaging machinery business has been good to him.
And so it goes. Peckham and Hopper bought Mike’s Sled Rocket after Mike purchased his sleeker, faster Eagle, and Gomez bought Peckham and Hopper’s Brown Bomber,
Incidentally, Gomez and the Bomber were first to arrive at the Honey Hole and the first to catch fish: two 4-pounders off the Grassy Point. We knew it was going to be a good week.
Kitchens showed up later in his yet unnamed fish and ski combo. After being out of the boat business for several years, I am now the proud, part owner (with my son Miles) of the Wings of Time. I had to get a boat because nobody was inviting me to fish with them anymore.
Before I close this rather lengthy fish tale (which is true), I want to pay tribute to Peckham and Hopper. Much as they love the Honey Hole, they were determined to explore new territory. Although they didn’t stray far from our Elijah Clark headquarters, they discovered Little River, Wells Creek and Hawe Creek. And they caught several fish, including one that weighed nearly five pounds. They found what they described as a little Honey Hole. It was at the end of Hawe Creek. So they named it the Hawe Hole. How appropriate!
Hopper, who earlier came up with ten reasons why we’d never be happy anywhere other than Hester’s Ferry, had this to say: “As for the spring outing, I vote cottages all the way. We found the Hawe Hole and we can find another one or two. Three mini-holes equal one Honey Hole. Life in the cottages is good.”
At long last, members of the Clark’s Hill Gang are changing, growing up — even becoming civil in their old age.
Hark, Hopper! What’s that voice I hear? It’s, it’s ...yes, it’s the Call of the Wild! It’s Chuck, calling from his Channel, at the far end of the real Honey Hole. He’s not willing to give us up. Hey, Tommy, better reserve campsites 1 and 2 for our 37th annual spring outing.
Virgil Adams is a former owner and editor of The Jackson Herald.

Jackson County Opinion Index


By: Susan Harper
The Commerce News
November 24, 2004

Regarding The New Incivility
My sophomore year in high school was presided over, to a great extent, by an English teacher named Charlotte Palmer – a tiny, bony, birdlike woman with a powerful determination to teach our sophomoric group not just our native tongue but also her idea of the best way for us to get along in the world.
I regret to say that we were sometimes less than angelic in her class. Her reproof was consistent: “Remember,” she would say, “manners make the world go ‘round.” And as you see, I have remembered. Perhaps it slips my mind now and then for a few seconds, but it’s still in there, and I can see Mrs. Palmer saying it as clearly as if she stood before me.
I can also clearly see that not everyone has a Mrs. Palmer in his or her past. Bill O’Reilly, for example, of television’s “The O’Reilly Factor,” was obviously Palmer-deprived. No one who had had Mrs. Palmer would invite guests to appear on television, then interrupt and berate them, and finally shout, “Shut up! Shut up!” at them. Heavens! The very words “shut up” were so strictly forbidden in Mrs. Palmer’s class (and in our home) that I thought of them as Biblically forbidden, like calling someone a fool.
Alas, the O’Reilly approach seems to be spreading like mold. Polite exchanges of varying views – coin of the realm in our country for several centuries – are being replaced by the verbal version of road rage. So we see, for example, the wife of a presidential candidate telling a member of the press to “shove it” – a printable and repeatable request, it’s true, but certainly not up to Mrs. Palmer’s standards.
Then there’s our vice president, who addressed Senator Patrick Leahy on the Senate floor with a request so impolite that I can’t print it here – and then later, instead of apologizing, said that it had made him feel better. Senator Leahy, when he was asked about the episode, said mildly, “I think he was just having a bad day,” which redeemed the situation, I thought, by putting the band-aid of manners (and maybe compassion) over it.
We saw the First Lady accomplish something similar when Teresa Heinz-Kerry suggested that Mrs. Bush had never had a real job (and then apologized profusely). “She didn’t have to apologize,” Mrs. Bush said. “I know how tough it is. Actually, I know those trick questions.” Graceful and gracious. Mrs. Palmer was proud, I feel sure.
And if we want this old world to keep spinning ‘round, we probably need a lot more of the Laura Bush approach to grease the wheels, and a lot less of the O’Reilly factor to gum up the works. But of course, I’m preaching to the choir here. Commerce is a place where strangers greet each other like old friends, people open doors for each other, and even children know the etiquette of introductions. As my West Coast visitors said, “an amazing place.” May it be ever thus.
Susan Harper is director of the Commerce Public Library.
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