Every disaster is caused by something, the Titanic had ice, the Hindenberg had hydrogen and we had Buckhorn Beer. Five bucks a case, a fraction over a pair of dimes per can, it was cold, it was wet, it was beer, we were teenagers, appreciation of flavor would come later in life. Catfishing along the shores of Lake Belton was prime Buckhorn time, along with bad jokes, exaggerated stories and really bad ideas.
Now we’d all heard the stories about the giant catfish that lived deep down at the bottom of the dam, and we’d done our damndest to catch one but we’d always come up empty, and I can’t recall any of those times that went well. Well, they were normally funny but they didn’t proceed to any given plan. We’d lost a few poles, one tore right off of a boat with the holder, so we were convinced that there was something big down there, and somebody was always catching a record-breaking catfish, so why couldn’t there be some big bad boys lurking down below the inside of the dam? There were always the stories of divers seeing them when they did inspections, even a story of one swallowed to the waist and spit back out. Mind you, we never actually spoke to any of the divers, but after the third beer those details always seemed pretty pointless.
We came back to the same aspect of the story that was the theme to them all, somebody was in the water and saw it. So, who was going to be the bait? I was out; I was meeting up with a girl that worked at an all-night diner at 6 the next morning. Buck was out, he was the only one of us that passed for old enough to buy beer and we didn’t want his looks to draw questions if we needed more beer. Scooter was out, he couldn’t swim and wasn’t in the mood to learn at night. That left the kid we called LaDouche. He didn’t earn his nickname because he was in modern terms, a douche, nobody called anyone a douche in those days, he got that nickname because he asked his girlfriend to go fetch him something cold to drink and when she didn’t like his tone he said it again with a few bells and whistles.
Actually, he was a douche, we may have been a little ahead of our time.
Anyway, she went and made him a cold drink, Cragmont (very very cheap Kool-aid knock-off) drink powder poured in a glass of Summer’s Eve, without sugar. He got three gulps down and the muscles in his throat went into reverse and he blew most of it back out through his nose, presumably leaving his sinuses as fresh as a summer breeze. They didn’t last another 3 minutes as a couple, and now that you mention it, she was the one I was going to see after she finished work in the morning, but we digress.
So, we rifled around the back of a couple of pickups and came up with everything that we needed: rope, inner tube, fishing line a bunch of hooks, weights and a couple of glow sticks. Then all we had to do was convince LaDouche to be the bait, and you’d think that since LaDouche didn’t drink that would be a problem. By the way, it wasn’t that he didn’t like beer but he was staying with his granny for the summer and if he came home smelling like beer she’d sit him down and read him every passage from the bible about the sin of drinking and then drag him off to a revival meeting to get baptized, again.
The trick with LaDouche was to simply look at him and say, “I knew you were all talk and no balls,” and that little phrase would get him to do some of the stupidest stuff imaginable. Anything from eating stink bait to standing up his girlfriend to hang out with us. Come to think of it we weren’t very good friends but his granny was a sweet woman that asked us every summer to let him tag along with us, and she made amazing pecan pie, so we took him out and tortured him when the fun meter started getting low.
So, those nine words had him out in the lake, in the dark, sunk in an inner tube to his armpits with fishing lines hanging off of it, some ending with baited hooks a couple with glow sticks. It was nice and quiet as we watched him bobbing around out there, he drifted for a while to our left but them he stopped so we didn’t worry much about it, we just figured that he’d found a calm spot in the water. Meanwhile, under the water, a bunch of crappie happened by and suddenly they found something interesting, light drew them in and curious they went for the bait, and LaDouche’s bare toes. He felt something nibble his toes and let out a shriek that would have done Newt, the little girl in Aliens, proud. The, to our amazement he came up out of the water and ran across it almost making it to shore before the rope went taut and snatched him off of his feet.
“What the f…” Scooter said before I cut him off with a heartfelt “Holy sh…” and Buck jumped up “I think he caught something, and ran around the bank, we were soon in hot pursuit. He had indeed caught something, a couple of nice-sized crappie were hooked on a few of the lines and were just as stunned as LaDouche and probably perplexed to no end as to what happened. Turns out that the lake was really high and there was a temporary dock that the Corps of Engineers had towed over for some work they were going to do, they’d anchored it when the water was lower so it was about 3” under water, and invisible to us where we sat. He’d drifted over to the dock and held onto it so he wouldn’t drift all over. When the crappie ‘attacked’ he’d just rolled onto the dock and up onto his feet and took off.
We gathered up LaDouche and headed back to our poles, but instead of four, there were only three. We had been careful, we drove a stake in for each pole and had a length of cord from the stakes to the poles, but one pole, stake, rope and all had been dragged into the lake. Well crap! We missed our chance! Nobody was going back out in the water so we were talking about frying up the crappie when we heard a long, gawdawful wail from the other side of the dam.
“Oh hell,” Scooter said quietly. “It’s the Goatman!”
Now none of us really believed in the Goatman, but we were low on bait and out of beer, so there wasn’t any reason to stick around now was there?
© 2009, Tim Boothby. All rights reserved.