November  10 '07
Volume 597

Fridays Off Enjoying A Short Workweek

Joel And A PounderI would like to think that when I retire I'll have time to fish as often as I want, but retirees tell me I should expect to be busier than I am now. It's not that I don't believe they know what they're talking about, but I seriously doubt I'll be that busy. Anyway, I'm of the opinion that people do the things they want to do. If at some point in the not too distant future I'm too busy to fish, you can bet your sweet…whatever, I'm doing things somebody else chose for me to do.

The company for which I work grants me a fairly generous number of vacation days each year (I maxed out several years ago), but that generosity does not allow me to "bank" more than thirty days for use upon retirement, and no more than five unused vacation days in a given year can be carried over for use the next year. SUPERVALU's philosophy regarding vacation time is one of "use it or lose it." I choose to use mine.

Beginning the first week of October, this year, I began "burning" vacation days by taking off every Friday. It works out that I'm off three days during Thanksgiving week, the entire week of Christmas, and I work four days or less for all the weeks of October, November, and December.

Since the beginning of October, there have been six Fridays. One I spent on the Gulf Coast with Barbara; another one I used to attend a luncheon sponsored by a local club; two I spent getting my hair cut in Memphis, and the other two I spent strictly for personal enjoyment, fishing. Okay, make that one fishing and one waiting for better fishing weather the next day.

There aren't many lakes that I know of where a man is virtually assured of catching a fish, no matter the weather, water conditions, time of day, or day of year. The fish don't exactly jump into the boat on Joel Hale's lake, but if one is willing to spend a few hours fishing there, one is almost certain to catch at least one fish.

Of our last two outings, neither Joel nor I set any personal bests with respect to the catch, but we caught enough to have fed my family had I been inclined to keep any of the bass we caught. But, with plenty of fish in my freezer, I saw no need to bring any home with me. As for Joel, his enjoyment is derived from fishing. He claims he doesn't like eating fish, though I suspect it's cleaning the catch that he likes least.

On our first trip, a low water level contributed to a lot of surface vegetation, which hindered not only our choice of bait and where we fished but our navigation, as well. The electric trolling motor was of no use in the thick vegetation, and our propulsion was limited to the use of oars. As difficult as it was moving about the lake by sliding the boat over patch after patch of vegetation, getting the boat in and out of the water was even more formidable.

"You may want to bring your rubber boots," Joel had suggested a few days before our first outing. "We'll have to walk in mud to get the boat off the levee and into the water."

I shared that my only waterproof footwear was insulated boots for cold weather, which would be far too warm for the unseasonably warm October weather.

As aluminum boats go, my boat (Joel claims part ownership, since it's kept at his lake) is almost too heavy for two men to drag, even without our fishing gear. To get it far enough from the levee to float, Joel had to wade in muck almost to his knees with him pulling the back of the boat and me pushing from the front. And launching it proved easier than bringing it back ashore.

As we prepared to get the boat back onto the levee, I opted to jump from the bow to the levee.

"Don't do it," Joel warned as I stood on the bow. "That ground's soft. Give me a minute and I'll wade in and pull us closer."

"I can make it," I insisted, plunging the long oar into the mud with the intent of vaulting myself onto dry ground.

Joel was still admonishing me to stay in the boat when both my feet hit the soft ground and mired almost to my shoetops. I was a little disappointed in my jump, which on a scale from one to five would rate perhaps a 1.5 and definitely no more than a two. Apparently, an out-of-shape sixty-five year old can't jump as well as he might have ten years earlier. Nevertheless, only my shoes were muddied and I managed to pull the boat a couple of feet closer to the levee before needing assistance.

The two of us struggled to move the boat still closer to the levee and quickly paused to rest after our initial effort.

"I keep telling you, if you'll set the post, I'll buy a winch to ratchet that boat onto the bank." I shared in a winded voice.

It was an idea conceived a year or so ago that neither of us had seriously considered, as logistically the post would need to be on the back side of the levee and allow room for a pickup to travel unimpeded along the narrow levee.

I must have opted to unload some of the tackle, as when I walked to the back of Joel's pickup, I spied a log chain in the bed of the truck.

"It's too bad we can't use this," I stated, thinking how nice it might be to use the pickup to do our work.

"Maybe, we can," Joel responded. "I can back up and drive into that clear section after we chain her up."

Joel stated he had a smaller chain than the one I had spotted and that he'd forgotten he had either of the chains in his truck. Sometimes, two heads are better than one. This time, one envisioned a solution and the other found a practical means to effect it. Our first attempt proved unsuccessful when the anchor rope broke that we had tied to the chain.

Joel figured the bow of the boat was digging into the levee and asked me to lift the front of the boat on our second attempt. It could be that I didn't position myself correctly as I lifted the front of the boat, and it could just as well be that my arm strength was too much for my lower back muscles, but either way, I felt something on my left side that told me immediately I had done something wrong. It would be only minutes later that my back muscles showed signs of stiffening and limiting my normal bending and twisting for, in the present moment, my joy in seeing the boat slip quietly from the mire and onto the levee overcame any physical discomfort I had self-induced.

It took almost exactly seven days for my back to feel good again and by that time I was ready to fish again. Our second trip was much cooler than the first and it’s likely the fish had not adjusted to the new temperatures or to the increased water level.

Rains earlier in the week had added about two feet of water to the lake, and the vegetation was submerged allowing us to use our trolling motor. The fish weren't biting much better than the previous week, but that didn't matter to either of us.

Anyway, in the words of this sage, "Disappointment will often follow the man who finds his reward only in the catch, but the man who finds pleasure in all aspects of fishing and of being with nature is rewarded beyond measure."

I've a few vacation Fridays left this year, and while I haven't planned a fishing trip for any of them, Joel assures me he's ready to go the next fair-weather Friday or Saturday, and all I need to do is call.

Fall Events Community And Neighborhood

Fall is upon us, here in Northeast Mississippi, but it took more than the date on the calendar for it to become fall for those of us who remember crisp October mornings and frost on the pumpkins. Our fall foliage is a bit lackluster this year, and while there is a lot of color in the hills of this fair land, it is muted, dull even, compared to the vibrant hues that awed even the complacent nature lover last year. Our first frost came Tuesday night. I was in Atlanta and unable to enjoy it as fully as would have been possible had I been in Pontotoc. However, after a scorching summer, the short-lived, below-freezing temperatures were most invigorating.

Last weekend Barbara and I attended two separate and distinct events celebrating the fall season. On Friday, we attended a fundraiser luncheon/ bazaar hosted by Pontotoc's Fine Arts Club at the Community House. On Saturday, we stepped back in time to the era of neighborliness and block parties and joined other residents of Dogwood Circle and Ridgewood Drive for a fall celebration in grand style.

Leoda Morrow phoned us a couple of weeks before the luncheon asking how many tickets we needed and stopped by a few days later to deliver them. I was in the computer room when she arrived. Barbara had a touch of vertigo that day and was confined to the bedroom, so I paid for the tickets.

To prepare me for a change in the menu, Leoda warned, "We're not having dressing this year, it's something different."

Of the six occasions I've attended the Fall Harvest Luncheon, the food was not always to my liking, but that’s because I'm hard to please. As a long-time subscriber to RRN, Leoda knows this and obviously felt she needed to inform me not to expect the usual fare.

"I'm sure it will be good," I replied.

The ladies of the Fine Arts Club do a good job organizationally with their luncheon, and from time to time a new chief organizer is appointed. Whenever this happens, the new person has ideas on how to improve things, as was the case this year. Other than the main course, notable changes included having guests select their beverage of choice before finding a table of their own choosing. While the concept worked rather well, it detracted from the "fine dining" experience of prior occasions. Personally, when it comes to dining, I prefer service as opposed to self-service.

Fun And FoodThe other obvious change was in the choice of desserts. Historically, club members made various desserts, and a server showcased a large variety of them on a serving platter from which guests made a selection. This year, the club member assigned to a particular table merely informed guests of their choices, which were pecan pie or chocolate fudge pie. I chose a slice of pecan pie and enjoyed every morsel of it.

Civic luncheons, such as provided by the Fine Arts Club, are more than a time to eat good foods, they also provide a pleasing atmosphere to dine with others and to "visit," and for the time-starved, carryout is available. While there are many dining opportunities afforded we Pontotocians throughout the year, few rival the Fall Harvest Luncheon, and I recommend it to all area friends of RRN.

The neighborhood party we attended on Saturday evening was equally enjoyable. Last year Tommy and Anita Wood along with Dr. Steve Montgomery and his wife Tammy organized a pre-Halloween Fall Festival for our neighborhood. It was a huge success, and it was decided earlier this year to make the event an annual one.

The Montgomerys hosted a planning meeting on Tuesday evening before the party, attended by representatives of as many as ten families. We divided up various responsibilities such as selecting persons to lead the children in fun activities and games. We discussed the menu and decided who needed to bring what in the way of food and supplies. We also discussed the need for a neighborhood association and agreed that heads of households would consider organizing one at our Saturday evening gathering. Our younger grandchildren were on hand for last year's party, and we were asked to invite them again this year. An estimated fifty persons were anticipated to participate, based on the responses to the mailbox stuffers distributed throughout the neighborhood.

Neighbors began setting up equipment mid-morning on Saturday, though the events were not to begin until late afternoon. Meanwhile, Barbara and I picked up Merilese and Katherine in Tupelo, shortly before noon and soon discovered they were facing starvation, or so they thought, but they managed to survive until we got back to Pontotoc to feed them.

For the adults at the party, the two fire-pits and one chimenea provided some much-appreciated warmth as the temperature dropped after sundown, though I doubt the children needed the warmth. They were too busy with activities and games to notice.

After a meal that included hamburgers, hotdogs, chili, and more, we men encircled the chimenea, much like our ancestors may have gathered around a campfire following a celebration. When Bob Peeples sent his wife back to her seat with, "This is a men’s meeting," he was elected by acclamation as chairman of the soon to be formed neighborhood association. As soon as the legal documents are ready a second meeting will be scheduled.

If my granddaughters are representative of the children present at the second annual Fall Festival in the neighborhood, then a good time was had by all. Speaking for the adults, we had a good time, too.

Bodock Beau Load Off His Mind

Young Willie was trying hard to right a tipped wagon filled with corn.

"Forget your troubles for a spell and have dinner with us," said the neighboring farmer.

"That’s mighty nice of you, but Pa wouldn’t like it," said Willie.

"We can worry about that wagon after we get something to eat," said the farmer.

Willie agreed to eat and enjoyed a nice supper. As they headed back out to the wagon, the farmer said,

"Now, isn’t that better?"

"Yes, but I know my Pa will be upset," he replied.

"Nonsense," said the farmer. "Where is your Pa, anyway?"

"Under the wagon," said Willie.

To Be Six Again

A man was sitting on the edge of the bed, observing his wife, looking at herself in the mirror. Since

her birthday was not far off he asked what she'd like to have for her Birthday. 

"I'd like to be six again", she replied, still looking in the mirror.

On the morning of her Birthday, he arose early, made her a nice big bowl of Lucky Charms, and then took her to Six Flags theme park. What a day! He put her on every ride in the park; the Death Slide, the Wall of Fear, and the Screaming Monster Roller Coaster. She rode on everything there was.

Five hours later they staggered out of the theme park. Her head was reeling and her stomach felt upside down. He then took her to a McDonald's where he ordered her a Happy Meal with extra fries and a chocolate shake.

Then it was off to a movie, popcorn, a soda pop, and her favorite candy, M&M's. What a fabulous adventure! Finally she wobbled home with her husband and collapsed into bed exhausted.

He leaned over his wife with a big smile and lovingly asked, "Well Honey, what was it like being six again?" 

Her eyes slowly opened and her expression suddenly changed. "I meant my dress size, you dummy." 

The moral of the story: Even when a man is listening, he is gonna get it wrong.

Contributed by Vickey Murphree

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