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Never Fry Bacon Naked: And other life lessons!

May 5, 2023

"Wise people think before they act; fools don't--and even brag about their foolishness." 

Every prudent man dealeth with knowledge: but a fool layeth open his folly. --Proverbs 13:16



I love fishing.  I would fish in a puddle if it looked promising.  I’ve tried to fish everywhere I have been longer than a day.  The odd thing is I don’t eat that much fish.  I almost always give it away.  That is part of the fun for me too.  To give.  

I got a chance once to fish in the Amazon River. It was on an overnight camping trip with a couple of guys from the Embassy.  I lived in Brazil for two years and loved almost every minute up it.  It would have been the entire time if I knew how much a blessing time is.  I appreciate it now more that I am older.  Way older. I am so old I dialed a rotary phone, while listening to an 8 track play music from a recently released music from Al Green, next to a black and white television that only had 5 channels.  And the fifth channel was fuzzy as it was in Baltimore and didn’t come in that clear.

Anyway, I rode a couple of hours in a car with two older guys to a secluded area that I am sure nobody that looked like us had ever been.  We set up camp, pulled the Jon boat off the top of the vehicle and prepared to fish.  Looking around, it looked like any other place.  There was a good sized stream that led to the mighty river somewhere.  The ground was red clay for the most part with trees and native shrubbery everywhere.  There were small mountains of ant hills not too far from our tent that looked like stalagmites 2-4 feet high.  

I had never fished in this part of the world and was wondering what kind of bait we were going to use. Charlie the counselor officer that later married one of the telephone operators in the Embassy showed me a fishing net, and some spoon lures we were going to spin cast.  The net was a bust.  I tried it and tried it and tried to cast it out like Charlie had.  I even waded in the water knee deep to hurl it out to no success.  Charlie and Lou caught some peacock bass with just the spoon lures and got excited.  I got my rig together and moved down the bank and casted where they were having success.  Like magic and feisty Peacock bass hit the lure that I guess looked like a silver fish and took off.  It put up a good fight before giving up and coming on shore as I reeled it in.  We caught enough for a great dinner.  You could hear the strange sounds of monkeys and Brazilian birds as we laughed and fished into the evening.  We stopped and prepared for dinner.  At the campsite we cooked the fish and talked about the entertainment for the evening.  Charlie said he wanted me to get my first alligator.  I was excited.  I wanted to get a alligator skin to put on my wall like I saw on the living room décor of one of the secretaries at the embassy. And maybe I could get cowboy boots made out of them.  I wondered where the alligator were and who hard it was to kill one.  I soon found out.

It got dark fast after we got on the three person aluminum boat that was basically a fat canoe.  It had a small trolling motor that moved us effortlessly down the stream and around a bend that opened to a jungle scene right out of a Tarzan movie.  We could have been in the everglades or the Zambezi river for all I knew.  The jungle on either side of the stream was dense and dark but loud with sounds.  Charlie tied a two pronged fork to a pole he had.  The gaff was made for pulling fish into a boat I believed.  When he finished that he connected a spotlight to a small brick sized battery he brought onboard. I sat in the middle and felt like I was on a ride in a theme park.  The boat putted along.  Charlie took the light and aimed it at the areas under the trees, unseen things jumped out of the way.  Once when he had it pointed at the water I saw a manatee only a few feet from the boat.  It looked like a cow complete with a big spot on its side gliding away from us.  I didn’t see how something so doughy looking could float.  It looked like a four foot clay hippo a child had made. Not the prettiest thing I have ever seen but it still was amazing.  Then we saw a bunch of eyes on the horizon.  There they are Lou whispered.  Gators.  We are going  to cozy up to one for you Bubba and then you can take this gaff and get one.  Charlie handed me the staff with the metal tines on it.  As I sat there mesmerized.  

There was no safety net, no fence, no barrier between us and everything around us.  It was an amazing experience.  Looking at the makeshift spear, it dawned on me that I was the one that was going to battle with an alligator in the amazon.  I had questions.  HEY. How is this supposed to work, I asked the guys.  Well he said, we are going to sneak up on one, and you are going to stand up and hit him right in the neck.  The motor paused and the light spotlighted a couple of reptiles watching us watch them.  The boat moved closer and I said –we really going to do this.  My voice rang out in the silence of the night.  Everything got quite and the alligator submerged themselves and took off.  

C’mon man, you gotta be quieter if we are going to catch one.  OH I SAID not shouting.  It would be a shame if we couldn’t get close to one, HUH?  All of the alligators took off at my loud responses, except one.  It just turned away from the light that was shining in its eyes and floated there.  The Jon boat turned and the guys cut the motor.  We drifted right alongside the 5-6 foot alligator.  As soon as we almost touched it with the boat, Charlie yells NOW BUBBA NOW.  My Marine reflexes and immediate obedience to orders took over my common sense.  I stood, raised the spear and plunged it into an area right between what I thought was the head but before the front legs.  The gaff found its place and the battle began.  

The alligator thrashed its tail from left to right, it tried to roll but I kept the pressure on to prevent it. The guys dropped everything to hold on to the sides of the boat. The light flashed from the floor, like a strobe light sometimes shining on my back and into the trees and a few times it made it into the water where I saw the alligator.  We took in a little water.  I held on.  I think I was screaming but I couldn’t hear it.  After a few minutes, the gator freed himself and went deep underwater and escaped.  That is when I knew I was screaming because Charlie had found the light and was shining it where the alligator was.  I was just standing there, balancing myself, still holding the spear, perpendicular to the river.

Then I heard the laughter.  You almost got that one Bubba.  I said yeah and sat down.  They laughed and then I laughed all the way back to camp.  As we pulled the boat out of the water, and started the fire, it was Miller Time.  I didn’t drink back then but enjoyed the company just the same.  I apologized for not getting the alligator.  Oh no man, you did great.  How’d you get yours? I asked.  Oh I shot mine.  

  I felt as dumb as a rock.

I climbed in the tent and fell asleep like a man that had just wrestled an alligator.  I remember the beauty of the night, the stars above and the sounds of the jungle all around.

Later after I published my first book, black man with a gun, people fear what they don’t understand, I bought a set of alligator tail cowboy boots.  Every time I looked down at my feet, I thought about my foolishness, my fishing trip in the Amazon and how blessed I was that the alligator got away.