Bullet Proof!

I'm a good deal past 60 now and I hear myself grunting and groaning more these days. Strapping on my hip-waders can take a good 20 minutes to accomplish and definitely gets me to huffing and puffing. Following a pack of Beagles through the brush after rabbits for half a day will give me leg cramps at bedtime. "Jumping" into my pickup bed to tie down my canoe no longer happens, it's now better defined as "crawling". I pretty much ache-all-over after a couple of days of float fishing these days.............what happened!? I certainly well remember a day when I was young! Float fishing for bass for a 12 hour day and running trotlines most of the night was standard fare. To go frog hunting or Sucker gigging until 3:00 AM and to be back at the office ready for work at 6:30 was no problem! There was a time when I could take off without a moment's worth of planning and find myself stranded at dark in the middle of nowhere on some remote stream without a drop of water, no food and all the matches were wet! Wait a minute..........I seem to recall that trip as not all that much fun! In fact, "DUMB" comes to mind. Youth did have it's drawbacks, now that I think about it. There was that duck float on the Petit Jean River in mid-Arkansas. The "plan" was to float hunt from the Pontoon access down to the brow of Petit Jean Mountain on the Arkansas River. I remember all three of us agreeing, "we should be down at the take out just before dark". Dark actually found us on the Arkansas River in a 14 foot wooden John Boat, three hours from our take out and wondering if we might have to dodge a 300 foot barge coming up the river. Naturally, we were without flashlights and life jackets. Our only smart decision that day was to pull in and walk to the truck. That trip reminds me of another duck hunting trip back in the 70's. This one on the Saline river, south of Little Rock. Three of us in the same John Boat again. Me and John, the guy in the front of the boat, disagreed on which way to go around a log in the river so we wound up going into it..........broadside! I'd give good money today for a picture of the three of us standing on that log holding shotguns, cameras and boat paddles without a boat in sight. We did manage to get off the log, retrieve the boat and to get back to the hunt. Dumb keeps cropping up in my mind, too! Perhaps the all-timer though was a late summer trip on the Mulberry river in mid-Arkansas. Four of us in two aluminum canoes were going to tackle a 10 mile trip from the "Turner Bend" access down to "Milton Ford". Well, technically speaking , it turns out that it was actually going to be more of a "drag trip". We had certainly planned it pretty well this time because we all had our lunches, and some water to drink. Turns out, one of the guys had even brought matches. We were having a blast, each of us were catching fish left and right and not least the "honey-do" list that our wives had were on hold for a full day. Sure, we were working hard and sweating like linebackers dragging the canoes down through the shoals. But hey, we were catching fish, what else really matters? On the upside, too, we were spotting all the Cottonmouths long before we got too close for comfort. Along about 5:00 that afternoon one of the guys asked, "I wonder how much further it is down to Milton Ford?" "Awe, we ought to be getting close" was the general consensus. Right at dark we got to within about six feet of a Cottonmouth before we seen him. Again, there was consensus, "we might ought to just pull over, build a fire and spend the night sleeping on the rocks under our canoes as it looks like rain is coming.......anyone got any matches?" Now one thing we hadn't planned on is the imagination of four wives when all communications are lost with their husbands! We each learned later, while tackling our respective honey-do lists, that there were times during the wee hours of the night when all four were huddled together bawling their eyes out! While huddled under our canoes on slab rock we had all agreed that the wives would likely have some concern; but, we agreed that they knew we were all grizzled outdoorsmen with lots of experience. There was certainly no need for any concern they might have about our welfare. Surprisingly, they had disagreed, had called the State Police and had been assured that an "all points bulletin" would be issued and that a search for our bodies was underway. Next morning about 9:00 we finally pulled our canoes into Milton Ford and there standing on the gravel bar was a good friend, John Green. There was no reason for John to be there! In fact, he had no idea that we were even float fishing and lived half a state away. We just hadn't figured on our wives. I'm pretty sure that every human we knew within the state had been called and EVERYONE was looking for us. Our curiosity got the best of us, "John what in the world are you doing down here?" John had the better question, "What in the world are you all doing down here?" He did have a point.........and, our wives had a few, too.