by Randy Reynolds

It was the mid-1950's, the Chattahoochee River had been dammed at Buford, Georgia, and the valleys were filling up with water for hundreds of square miles, an event depicted twenty years later in the movie Deliverance. The shoreline was changing month by month
as water covered farms, forests, towns and roads. Uncle Strick often took Papa Bonnell and my little brother Ricky and me fishing where one of those highways disappeared under the water.

Ricky (age 5) and I (at 7) fished with small tree branches that Papa cut and trimmed with his Barlow knife and tied with kite string. Our excitement was unbearable as Papa opened the Mason jar he'd brought from home and dug out a worm. My adrenalin surged and I hopped with impatience as I watched the yellow worm blood dripping from my hook. Ricky wrinkled his nose and said, "Ooooghhhh" and crowded in as close to my baited hook as he could get.

Then Papa baited the other hook and Ricky again studied the process as carefully as any scientist ever peered into a microscope.

"Put it in the water over there," said Papa, indicating a brush pile under the water just at the shoreline.

"Won't the worm drownd?" asked Ricky.

"Naw, he likes it. Now put it in the water and if your bobber goes down, pull it up real quick and you'll have a fish."

I obeyed immediately, but Ricky thought about it a little while, squatting over his worm to stare at its yellow blood. Eventually, he tried to put his hook in the water, too, but got it hung up in a tree behind him. Papa got it loose and put the hook into the water for him, but Ricky jerked it right back out and hooked himself in the britches.

By the time Papa got the hook free, most of the worm was gone and Papa had to thread on another one. Papa said something stern involving the words "you little skeester" and Ricky puckered up like he was going to cry. He finally got his hook in the water and we sat still for about a third of a minute then raised our poles and moved further down the bank.


The biggest thing that set Strick apart from Papa was his fishing gear. Papa fished with a cane pole, but poor Strick used an expensive rod and reel and artificial lures. How he got any pleasure from tying on a lure as opposed to sticking a worm and watching him wriggle and bleed, was beyond me. Strick's lures snagged on the trees, rocks, fences and houses on the rugged lake bottom but he had a sense of humor about it, often hollering that he had hooked a big one. I remember vividly hearing Strick sing out, "Good Lordy, I had a monster but he swum through a tree and broke my line" or "Law, I got me a big'un, but he swum around a rock and broke my line." I never saw him catch anything--not even a little one.

Ricky and me, on the other hand, pulled out whole schools of bluegill and perch and an occasional catfish. Most of them were about the size of a little boy's hand, but catching one of the little buggers on a sweet-gum pole made it seem as if we had a ten-pounder on the hook.

Ricky and I are older now than Strick and Papa were back then when we all fished on the brand-new Lake Lanier. I doubt we've ever again been as carefree as we were then, pulling little fish out of the water one after the other, keeping Papa busy baiting our hooks while Strick yelled, "I got me a big 'un, boys" tugging his rod back and forth to dislodge his lure from the rocks.


TAKING THE HILLTOP:  Strick and Arthur in the South Pacific.