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Jim Porter

I'd probably just gotten to sleep good when my official "roll-out-and-go-get-'em" alarm clock began its five a.m. concert. Lying awake the night before a fishing trip is all part of the love affair an angler has with his sport, and I'm no exception. Today was going to go smoothly, I'll decided last night. "Early to bed and early to rise, refreshed and ready to haul them old Hawgs in," was the final comment just prior to that last bourbon and branch water around one a.m. My head won't hurt. Not much. Shhh.

Reaching across to put the quietus on the clock, I accidentally knocked it over behind the nightstand. The vibration, now coupled with the ding-dong bells, succeeded in waking up the Wicked Witch of the West sleeping on my left and scaring the hell out of the dog (who has weak kidneys and sleeps on the foot of the bed).

Bounding in pursuit of that metal sentinel of wake-up, my bare foot came down on an area occupied by 10 per cent floor and 90 per cent gray tomcat named George. George doesn't have weak kidneys, but does possess an excellent set of claws, which undoubtedly had no intention whatever of severely lacerating my leg up to, and slightly including, the elastic of my Fruit of the Looms. Reacting, of course, my wildly thrashing appendage slung George right through the Venetian blind, which merely happened to be fronting for a very thin-glassed and closed window. Being respectful to the family, I left the lights off while I gathered my belongings and the iodine bottle and made haste for the kitchen.

It has long been my observation that kitchen cabinets are made to store exactly the plate you're looking for. However, all other utensils placed therein are out of place and are immediately destined to fall crashing to the floor whenever the door is opened. Especially at 5:15 a.m.

Two semi-raw eggs, a piece of burned toast and a little "hair of the dog" later, I stumbled out the door to meet my fishin' partner and the pink embryo of dawn in the Eastern heavens. No sooner did my Keds hit the driveway cobblestones (the driveway is concrete, of course, but "cobblestones" sounds classy and this article needs something) than George (who was now outside, if you recall) got in a parting shot at my one remaining good leg. Some cats can't take a joke, I guess. (Gonna take the hedge clipper and neuter that cat someday, I am.)

Buddy was waiting at the curb, his new zillion-dollar boat proudly in tow. The genuine European quartz fog and driving lamp he had rigged up on the back of the camper cover really made those 208 pounds of metal flake additives sparkle. It also did a great job of keeping tailgaters to a minimum. Getting my gear stowed resulted in minimum problems for once: only one rod tip broken; rain suit snagged on the gate post; my lunch winding up in what looked like a dry storage box but was actually a pre-filled live well; and, of course, one large, well-stuffed tackle box breaking its latches and arranging the contents in various configurations upon the curbside.

Soon we were barreling down I-95 towards Buggs Island Lake. Ah, the early morning anticipation of that 10 pounder-to-come is sweet and such moments are to be cherished.

Realizing I'd left my Day's Work triple-filter cigarillos back on the kitchen table (or possibly in the pocket of my one good white shirt which was presently soaking in Tide and Purex in the new washer), I mooched a weed from Buddy and continued picking one of my fishing plugs out of his soft-soled moccasin. (It's sorta dark along curbsides that time of the morning). Finally them old hooks gave up and the plug sprang free, ready to sally forth and do battle with the old Humongous Hawg again. How-some-ever, it 'spranged' a bit much and flew up to crack the face of Buddy's new Bill Dance "show-'em-where-they're-at" fully illuminated, stick-on compass on the dash board. (Buddy was so impressed that he had bought two of them things, one for the truck and the other for the boat. Each and every one came with an autographed picture of Billy Dance hisself smiling and sucking on a plastic lizard. Class equipment, you betcha. Buddy had the boat compass mounting right on top of the trolling motor pointer so he'd get to see it operate a lot.) I picked up the pieces of glass and pulled the plug out of the $l.98-a-yard shag carpeting on the truck floor, tossed the ravelings in the ash tray, and hit Buddy up for another cigarette.

Man, was I glad to see Eastland Creek landing! Not another boat in sight, too! We might have the lake all to ourselves, I figured. While we stood there and admired the glassy, mist-shrouded surface of that great hawgin' lake, our individual thoughts drifted back to other great fishin' trips and anticipated what the day might hold in store. As we went to rig the boat, I asked Buddy for another cigarette.

Finally all the rods, reels, old faithful tackle boxes, Ritz crackers and rain suits (ripped or not) were loaded into the Hawgin' Blaster. While Buddy backed the rig down the ramp, I figgered to pop a Big Orange and get refreshed. Never did like the taste of that menthol in them cigarettes, anyway. Just short of the water my partner stopped, kicked the 'sometimes works' emergency brake down and swung out to loosen the winch rope. About that time the old Ford scrape-iron specimen of a truck decided to launch that boat all by itself. Buddy hollered and tried to hold against the tailgate, but it didn't do no good. I'd have jumped in the cab and hit the brake, but Buddy don't like me foolin' with his truck for some reason. So, I did all I could and wedged my Big Orange bottle right behind the front wheel. It stopped everything for a few seconds. I finally done good, I thought!

And, then, things started happenin' again. That darn old truck slipped back another notch, the Big Orange bottle sorta went to pieces and Buddy's new Wide-Track, Raised Letter, Front Wheel Draggin' Slick, went flat with a sick ripping and wheezing sound. Then, the emergency brake grabbed a hold and it all stopped. Buddy started sobbing and whimpering a bit, and I cussed his old truck. That Big Orange was half full.

Well, we launched the boat without further problems and even remembered to put the drain plug in first. I had to shuck down and swim out to get the boat 'cause Buddy didn't say a word about holding no rope. At least, I didn't hear him. The water was warm and my wife had been telling me all week that I needed a bath, so it was OK. My good old partner changed the tire up in the parking lot while I sat on the ramp and had another Big Orange. I hollered up for him to bring a spare pack of cigarettes and he suggested I swim out and get the boat again. I never could tie a decent knot to a pier.

Would you believe the boat gas tanks were empty? By now you'd probably believe anything. However, they weren't and we had plenty of gas. It was the battery that was down. Buddy must have gotten four good rope burns on his neck and right ear from yankin' on that pull-rope. Them old 150 horsepower outboards always are awful hard to crank when they're cold.

Buddy gave a final, go-fer-broke heave and the motor roared to life. Meanwhile, I was getting rid of the old beer cans, Tootsie Roll wrappers and a piece of cord cluttering up the boat floor when the big outboard suddenly stopped. Buddy looked around, sobbed again , grabbed the cord out of my hand and put it back on the ignition kill switch. I started to ask what the problem was but he was getting a mighty wild look in his right eye. (His left eye don't look in the same direction as his right one, so I wouldn't see 'em both. Actually, it is a real advantage for my pal, he can read his Hornersville Star Gazette and keep a watch on the Truck Stop waitress's finer attributes at the same time).

After easing out past the "No Wake" sign, Buddy stood the big rig up on its tail, dropped it on its pads and roared for the back of the creek. I tapped him on the shoulder and hollered that my new hat had blown off. Muttering under his breath, my good pal throttled down, turned the boat 180 degrees and went back towards my bobbing red, white and blue head-piece. I thought Buddy knew how to handle that rig by now, but you know he ran right over that hat. Cut it up somethin' fierce, too. The scoundrel was so embarrassed that all he could do was grin. Buddy always was a good old boy.

Buddy caught a couple of fish on a blue and silver crank bait, but I didn't have one. I always wanted the manufacturer to make me a genuine weekend semi-pro field tester so I wouldn't have to buy lures, but apparently the fact that I finished 23rd in our bassin' club last year and read fishin' magazines from cover to cover didn't impress them enough. Buddy let me use his other brand new blue and silver lure, but it only lasted three casts before I wrapped it up good in the top of a small willow bush. Darn wind completely loused up my good cast. I started shaking and yanking on the line and the top of that tree commenced to do a dance. Boy, it was hung good.

I started pulling harder and zing! - here it comes! Duck!

Them crankin' plug lures are hollow, you know And it sure made a funny "thunk" sound as it ricocheted off the side of Buddy's head. But, one treble took that old seed wart right off his ear, too. Saved him having to have Doc Edwards burn it off. Darn old lures are tough, too. After Buddy's' hard head and one mature seed wart, that old plug cut the other Bill Dance compass (the one on the trolling motor pointer) right smack in two. Of course, that new lure broke in half then.

That wild look came into my friend's right eye again and he yanked up the trolling motor, fired up that 150 with one arm-snapping heave and blasted back towards the launch ramp at full bore.

Mumbling and flaming at the mouth, Buddy loaded the Hawgin' Blaster catty-cornered on the trailer, throwed the strap on it, tossed me a rod (the one with the tip broke) and went hauling out of the parking lot in a swirl of dust and flying gravel with me standin' there watchin'.

I swear that I never did see a guy get so upset over a broken plug, but I'm sure he'll be able to find another one and get on back here soon. Maybe he'll get them batteries charged while he's in town, too. And, I hope he buys some more cigarettes.

You know, it sure is dark next to this water without any moon.


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