Big Canoe Writers

Words and Wit for the Ages

College Days Part Two: Hospital 101

March 11
by Bill Booth


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. Read the rest of this entry »

The Old Cabin

January 29
by Bill Booth

Late afternoon. Walking home through dry broom grass and fresh, soft snow. Shotgun feels like a bar of lead. Everything as far as I can see looks like a black and white photograph, 95 percent white.  Bare, black trees stand like sentinels against a pale blue sky. Feet started hurting three hours ago. Now feel like blocks of wood. Will be painful when they thaw. Hope I don’t lose any toes. I am tired.

Old cabin’s dark outline is a welcome sight when it appears just before the sun reaches the western horizon. Home at last!
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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 »

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Mrs. O’Malley

August 15
by Bill Booth

Although traces of snow lay on the ground outside, most people would have thought the room far too warm. Flames flickered in a space heater and cast strange shadows on the wall beside the recliner where Mrs. O’Malley relaxed, twirling a lock of gray hair about one finger.

“It’s true, Marge,” she said into the telephone. “Me own daughter Angie told me about it. And Lucy herself said it’s the God’s truth.”

“Well! I would never have dreamed such a thing about Jim Sullivan.” Read the rest of this entry »

Adventures With Mike

August 4
by Bill Booth

In the early 1950’s, most children in the deep south attended public schools and shared a spirit of adventure that carried over from the recent World War. I was no exception. Much of my youth was spent in quest of exploits like those described in books by Mark Twain, Jack London, Zane Grey, Jules Verne, and similar writers. These were tales boys thrived upon … stories of outdoorsmen, heroism, soldiers, and cowboys. They were about the kind of Americans we emulated.
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Down on Caddo

April 3
by Bill Booth

Sunlight reflected off the blue metal, and its smooth, stained wood felt like silk under my fingers. I closed my eyes and sighed with pleasure as the clean smell of gun oil floated to my nose. It was a thing of beauty. The single thing I wanted most when I was ten years old was finally mine: a classic Red Ryder BB gun.
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The San Pedro Bonefish

February 4
by Bill Booth

Dialect, as most of you know, can be difficult both to read and to write. While I cannot claim to be a native Cajun, I HAVE spent most of my life in southern Louisiana, the heart of Cajun Country. Cajuns have a distinct, musical way of expressing themselves. They may use a colloquialism in one sentence, then pronounce the correct English equivalent in the next (‘dem and them, der and there, e.g.). They speak most colorfully when trying to relate a story. “Cher”, French for “friend” is pronounced “sha”, as in shack. It is one of the most commonly used words in Cajun French.
I hope you will enjoy my attempt to relate an event in the manner of a Louisiana Cajun.
The setting is the small town of San Pedro, on Ambergris Caye in northern Belize.

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Blood Of A Stranger

January 20
by Bill Booth

Dr. Brent Dalton’s professional and private lives spiral downward when he tests positive for HIV following an accident in the operating room. In rapid sequence, Dalton is sued by a former patient who alleges he infected her with the virus, his hospital privileges are taken away, patient referrals disappear, and he is compelled to close his office and surgical practice.

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Read about Bill Booth on the Writer’s Bios Page