There’s not a whole lot new to rant about this issue. The lawsuit seeking to overturn SB 391 is still bottled up in the courts. And, unfortunately, our predatory state legislators continue to flail away at local control pertaining to regulating CAFOS with new proposed legislation. SB 699 and HB 1583 would obstruct county commissioners and local health boards from even investigating complaints against CAFOs for violating local health ordinances. Guess this is their fall-back if they lose in court. Please tell yours to back off!
Of course, the ever-present COVID-19 pandemic hangs over us all. Beyond the obvious sadness and tragedy, it continues to provide cover for the Trump administration’s efforts to gut national environmental policy and protections.
Amidst all of the chaotic political and judicial battling, I find myself in need of a good laugh. I didn’t have to remember too far back to find one. Escapist? You bet. Why not?
Where better to return on a beautiful spring day than a Buffalo River float trip from years gone by?
I tried this once before in my River Rant, back on December 30, 2018, with a recounting of a past float trip affectionately dubbed the LAST MAN STANDING FLOAT, and it was well received.
So here we go again; back in time to May 2006. From the best of my memory, and prior writings, let me introduce you to a colorful character on the river named Lonnie.
Hopefully you will smile, laugh, or at least roll your eyes a time or two. Mind you, stop here if you blush easily.
LAST MAN STANDING, 2
“Things can get real weird in a hurry on the river.” Greg, May 20, 2006
And, just when you think you have seen it all.
Ever go on the river with guys named Walking Eagle or Mountain Man? Ever go out froggin’ with a cook named Lonnie after supper and scotch, and have him back out of the brush as fast as his motor would gun because he smelled a cottonmouth? Ever catch two 20 inch Smallmouth on successive casts? Ever get caught in the middle of a fist fight between two guides whose services you were paying $200 per day for? Ever wonder which one was going to pull a gun to settle things up? We did one memorable May weekend in 2006.
It all started with Brian’s Margueritas. These are not your normal, sticky sweet, lime juice varieties. These curl your lip and feature more tequila of varying brands than filler. They mess with memory and mechanical functions, like walking or talking. They are best sipped slowly in late morning and early afternoon, between frequent dips in cold creek water or naps. They make grown men weep and calm men fight.
My guide for the day was Glenn. He was a nice enough guy, but got into the Margs early. The luncheon gravel bar was non-descript but for an amazing six-foot-deep hole in the gravel immediately off the bank. It was as if a front loader had scooped out this perfect bathtub, coated it with only the tiniest gravel bits, and filled it with cool blue water. It was a great antidote for the morning Margs. Guide Glenn and I lingered there after lunch was served and camp broken, luxuriating in the calm and clean. We gradually reclaimed our senses and loaded up to follow the rest downstream, fishing lazily along the way. Problem was – Glenn got back into Brian’s batch, while I sipped on a Bud. When we arrived to set up camp, Glenn was in no shape to be of much help. Mountain Man, respected elder and trip leader, urged Glenn to unload the john boat. Glenn muttered something that Mountain Man took offense with. Mountain Man smacked Glenn in the face, opening a gash beneath his eye.
“I’m bleeding, man,” screamed Glenn as he threw Mountain Man, at least twenty years his senior, into the canoe and began to pummel him with blows. We all sat and watched in stunned silence. One of the guides headed straight to his tent, while Lonnie kept cooking. Finally Sheriff Arch waded in, pulled Glenn off of his aging victim, and stared him down.
“I need stitches,” whined Glenn. “Ask Mountain Man, he’s an R.N.” advised Joe.
This comic relief was short-lived. Arch gathered us together and said, “We are the customers and need to act like it.” “I hope Glenn’s not packing,” added Todd with trepidation.
Arch gathered the guides and warned them to sort it out. Mountain Man was still hot, “the SOB was not doing his job,” but caught Sheriff Arch’s drift. These guys live off tips, and their source of livelihood was clearly at risk. “Never seen anything like it,” added Walkin’ Eagle who had fled for the cover of his tent. Lonnie just kept on cooking.
With order restored we resumed our pre-dinner meanderings. The fight was never mentioned again. Mountain Man was this year’s “last man standing.” Glenn never floated with us again.
Lonnie took Greg and Todd froggin’ and trotline setting after dinner. He had this big hand-held spot light that showed every moving thing underwater and stopped frogs dead in their little webbed feet. It was nice being the customer again. We saw turtles, fish, snakes, and even a big beaver swimming in the spot light’s glare, as well as raccoon and deer staring back from the cover of bank. There were also a million tiny bugs swirling around our heads if we intruded into light from the shadows. I got one snoot full of the little buggers that left me snorting and sneezing.
Frogs were scarce, maybe owing to the aforementioned cottonmouth that Lonnie said he smelled. “Smells like sulfur,” he warned. Greg and I held our noses from fear of noxious odors and the panic a waft of sulfur might induce. Lonnie did scoop a catfish with his dip net, which when joined with trotline bounty, produced a memorable shore lunch next day.
Apart from the fisticuffs and big fish, tall tales linger in my memory from this three day outing. I tried to take mental notes, but it was all flying around too fast as Lonnie squatted at breakfast with constant cigarette dangling from his lips, cooking bacon, eggs, and pancakes, and serving up story after story. I even sought to write it all down on the car ride back home, but didn’t get back to the notes until two years later. Some made sense, at least in a non-sensical sort of way. Some fragments were simply too random to piece together. Taken as a body of work they bring …well, I’m not sure what they bring. Knowledge? Truth? The American Way? Some of it has got to be true – couldn’t make it up.
Back to Lonnie. There was something about Lonnie that was a little different. Maybe it was his six grandkids aged 6,5,4,3,2, and 1. Talk about planned parenthood? Maybe it was the big frogs he would take home to plant in his above-ground swimming pool until he got a craving for their legs. Wonder what kind of water he ran through that filter? Maybe it was his proud claim to have caught a ride in an Air Evac helicopter. Said his wife shot him. What did he do? “Nothing.” Said she shot him through the back seat of his truck. Can’t imagine what might have been going on in that front seat? Said they took him all the way to Little Rock. He was allergic to morphine so his wife brought him a hand rolled joint every morning. Maybe it was his pet raccoon that a neighbor boy shot. Lonnie fed him one egg and a half can of corn every day to speed his recovery. The raccoon got mean when Lonnie gave him alcohol, but downright cuddly on weed. See what I mean about making this stuff up?
Mountain Man knew all there was to know about tick bites. Seems like he had a particularly nasty one to which he applied expensive medicine. Nothing worked as it just got uglier and uglier. Then his dog licked it. Next morning it fell off and the wound was totally healed. Now he takes any tick or tick bite to his dog for extraction or cure.
Glenn told about fishing for muskies with a baby duck on a treble hook, and how he liked to let minnows nibble on his nipples in deep swimming holes. All this before he was banished to the hinterlands.
Walking Eagle, who was termed so full of s—t he couldn’t fly, predicted the New Madrid fault was going to split the US into two nations.
All this knowledge obtained over breakfast. Who needs the Wall Street Journal?
The point, if any, is this: There is a unique crust to the culture I was raised in as a young lad in the Ozarks. It’s underlaid with a different sense of humor and funny, grounded in history, rooted in community.
Back to the real world next month and perhaps results of lawsuits and legislation, hopefully to protect the waters that have spawned the world I have just shared.
And yes, maybe a photo or two: We’re Headed to Swan Creek tomorrow with perfect gage height and weather!