Big Canoe Writers Words and Wit for the Ages
Browsing all posts in: Memoirs

When the River Ran Backwards

January 8
by Jim Smith

Abner had about 10,000 acres of the best timber land in the County and was obliged to sell some to pay his taxes. He was tighter than a bull’s ass in fly season. On this Indian Summer day I dreaded trying to deal with him but did give him enough to pay his taxes, all while he complained that I was taking unfair advantage of him. After we struck a deal and signed the timber lease, I stopped at the Last Chance Café in Springfield, Georgia for lunch. The menu never varied from a choice between two meats and a plateful of three vegetables and as much ice tea as you could drink – all topped off with the customary banana pudding.

Pete Clifton hailed me from across the dining room and invited me to join him. He had seen me with Abner and asked if I had been fishing in Abner’s pond. I said, “Hell no!” Pete was the affable County Agent for Effingham County. His motto was “Fish more, work less.” He fulfilled that ambition admirably. In fact, the coat rack in his office had a sign on it – “If my hat’s not here, I’ve gone fishing.” Read the rest of this entry »

College Days Part Two: Hospital 101

March 11
by Bill Booth

anatomy_lesson

In the spring of 1960, getting out of bed at 4 AM became routine and somehow didn’t even feel unusual.  The clatter of a Big Ben by my bedside startled me daily from deep sleep, and I learned not to use the snooze control. I had a job as an assistant laboratory technician at the newly opened CharityHospital in Lake Charles, Louisiana. Starting my second-semester as a Pre-Vet major at McNeese State College, my early morning responsibility was to collect blood samples for lab tests on all the wards in the Hospital..

Entering the multi-bed wards before daylight, I routinely announced at the doors, “Hello, your morning sunshine is here,” to arouse the patients before I checked names on their arm bracelets. “Time to rise and shine.” Read the rest of this entry »

Don’t Mess With Uncle Otis

April 4
by Bill Booth

A low, throaty growl awakens me in the darkness of night. My dog Pat is standing, facing the landing below our campsite. Against the gray, moonless sky, all I can see are Pat and silhouettes of enormous cypress trees against a dark background with a million stars. A sudden breeze fans embers of my dying campfire, sparks glowing, drifting downwind.

“What’s wrong, Pat?”

Then I hear the soft “thunk – thunk — thunk” of a paddle bumping the side of a wooden boat. It moves closer to the landing with every stroke.

I roll over and fumble with Pat’s tether. Read the rest of this entry »

Epiphany, Almost

February 17
by Bill Booth

Epiphany: a revealing moment

A sudden gust of wind shook the sides of the small tent, waking me in early morning light. I rolled onto my back and looked through the open front of the canvas relic that served as my shelter. Dark clouds, darker even than the old boat down by the lake, covered the sky and rolled south. It was a Wednesday morning in early August, the third day of what I hoped would be a week-long fishing trip in northern Arkansas. It appeared the weather might not cooperate.

The year was 1958, and I had hitch-hiked alone nearly four hundred miles from Marshall, Texas to Newport, Arkansas where I intended to fish the White River for its famous smallmouth bass. Since I had only recently turned seventeen, this trip required a little subterfuge.

My friend Mike Baker had picked me up at home the previous Sunday under the pretext of a week-long camping trip on the near-by Sabine River. My parents were accustomed to our taking extended camping trips together, so this trip didn’t really raise any eyebrows. Mike unfortunately had other obligations and couldn’t join me, so he dropped me with my backpack and fishing tackle at an intersection on the outskirts of town. And because he lived on the opposite side of town from us, the likelihood of Mike being seen by my parents was small. I stuck out my thumb and arrived after dark many hours later in Newport, where I spent the night in a small, downtown hotel. Read the rest of this entry »

Carolina Wren

February 7
by Ken Reynolds

Some people have really interesting hobbies. Jim Tanner, a good friend and neighbor, shoots photos of the scenery and animal life in our North Georgia community. Jim says he has “been hearing and seeing this little Carolina Wren off and on for a few weeks.” Even now he is not satisfied. I think Jim’s assessment is modest. Read the rest of this entry »

McNeese Days

December 26
by Bill Booth

part 1 -To Be a Cowboy

The inhabitants of my home in Lake Charles, Louisiana in fall of 1959 referred to it as “the roach palace”. It was one of four converted, two-story wooden Army barracks that occupied a low stretch of ground adjacent to the McNeese State College rodeo arena. Bobby Mustin, a slightly obese animal husbandry major from Big Mamou, shared a room with me on the second floor. I was a pre-vet major.

Bobby and I both aspired to become real “Cowboys” as many of the other guys who lived in the barracks were known, either because they rodeoed or played football. The title came naturally to those who rodeoed, but the football players were “Cowboys” because that was the name of the McNeese team. Cattle ranching and agriculture were big businesses in south Louisiana.

One warm evening, Bobby and I lounged in our twelve by fourteen foot un-air-conditioned dorm room trying to study.  A floor fan hummed and pulled air in through the open, screened window against which flies regularly buzzed and bumped. The familiar sweet smell of hay and cow manure was not unpleasant, and the olfactory ambience was alternated on occasion with heavy, salt air that drifted in from nearby Calcasieu Lake.  Bobby, as usual, lay on his bottom bunk in his underwear, and I sat at a small desk against the wall. We listened to The Platters sing “Twilight Time” on Bobby’s little radio.

“Why don’t we enter the rodeo next month?” Bobby asked out of nowhere. Read the rest of this entry »

The Day I Got Dressed Up to Get Dressed Down for Being Undressed

November 30
by Harris Green

It was a warm Friday afternoon in San Diego, California at the Naval Recruit Training Depot (”boot camp”). We seaman recruits, now ”short timers” in our seventh week, were cleaning our barracks for the weekly Friday afternoon captain’s inspection.

In keeping with routine, we were washing the decks (floors) and bulkheads (walls) with soap and water (when the Navy says clean they mean clean). It being a warm June day, we being ”seasoned” recruits, and (most importantly) we being 18 years old, we found ourselves in a water fight. Before long there wasn’t a member of Company 159 that wasn’t drenched in soapy water.
Read the rest of this entry »

Pocketknives and Slingshots

August 22
by Travis H. McDaniel

It’s easy to see why I loved pocketknives when I was a boy.  They were solid, had a nice heft to them, and the bone handle felt good and smooth when I turned the knife over and over in my right front pocket.  Other pockets might hold things like an “aggie toy” that helped win marble games, a lucky creek rock to rub whenever I made a wish, my favorite arrowhead, and other invaluable stuff like that.  And another thing about a pocketknife, it’s just the right size to take to bed with you every night.  Little boys like to sleep with at least one of their valued possessions.  But of course, you already know all these things if you were born before World War II and lived in the country, or a small town like I did.

Read the rest of this entry »

Grandmom Thoughts

July 11
by Betty Smith

One morning at five o clock my husband, Leland, woke me with tears in his eyes and a smile on his face. “We have a grandson. His name is Adam” he said.

“But he’s not due until next month. Is he ok? Is Beth ok?”
“They’re both fine. The phone rang about four with their news.” Read the rest of this entry »

Ruby, My Dear

March 8
by Fred Shaw

1989
An excerpt from “Two Dogs on a Couch”.
A memoir by Fred Shaw

I’m driving my little maroon Honda Civic out of the Oxford Valley Mall in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. My five year old granddaughter, Kelly, is in the passenger’s seat—there are no airbags. My dog, Ruby, who has been with me for less than a month, is in the back seat. I come to a stop sign and look up and down the street and then at my granddaughter. Trance-like she gazes through the windshield; she can only see the sky. It’s the same ethereal look she had on the Flemington to Ringoes steam-train ride earlier this year. Read the rest of this entry »

Take a Sentimental Journey

September 12
by Maria Boling

There is no such thing as a normal life. If you have ever daydreamed by an open window, skimmed a pebble across a still lake, or stood in the silent world of snow, then you have a story to tell.

Writing life story memories can be a lot of fun, especially if you try to remember the moments not the years. Even age, whether a teenager or an adult, does not matter when you are ready for this incredible journey. Today will be tomorrow’s remembrance and once these current events have past they will only be in your memory unless you write them down. Some of your seasoned thoughts and musings have long been stuffed back and stored in the crevices of your mind. They can be activated with five simple steps: Read the rest of this entry »

The Dining In

May 5
by Max Beardslee

The United States Air Force has a policy of offering a formal dining engagement for all of its officers on a periodic basis. Not alone here, all branches of the service have a similar policy. The Navy also calls theirs Dining In, the Army refers to the occasion as Regimental Dinner, the Marines and Coast Guard, Mess Night.
Read the rest of this entry »