Possumhaw: All along the river



Shannon Bardwell



"If folks concentrated on the really important things in life, there'd be a shortage of fishing poles." 


Doug Larson, Wisconsin columnist (1926-2017) 




The day started cool, with a gusty wind, and gradually warmed as the sun shone overhead. Sam suggested a drive, which meant heading to the Tombigbee River spillway on the west bank. I was eager to see the area since the last time the river raged and the grassy hill beside the spillway was covered deep in floodwater. 


But not that day. Six fishermen were scattered along the banks and in the pool. The hill was again covered by green grass. One fisherman sat on a campstool, one on the bank, one stood on the rocks, while the three others waded in knee-high rubber boots. "Those three are fishing for crappie," Sam pointed.  


"How do you know?" I asked. 


"They have a jig and a cork, and they are casting. The two sitting on the bank are fishing for catfish. They're holding their poles still." The sixth man on the rocks behind us, it was hard to tell.  


"So, if they were bass fishing, they'd be casting and reeling; then some fishermen would be fishing for just anything." 


"And those fishermen wouldn't be catching anything," Sam said. 


The crappie fishermen were catching fish, but mostly tossing them back into the waters. We continued on down to Charles Younger Landing. One boat trailer sat in the parking lot. A man and a boy were fishing beside the river. Fishing's a good thing to do with a boy. 


Sam noticed two garbage cans had blown away from the parking lot, so we gathered them up. While we were at it, we picked up garbage. At the boat launch detritus had washed up by the floodwater. Picking up a couple of plastic bottles and a Pabst Blue Ribbon bottle, I leaned over to get a sticker out of my boot and the contents of the Pabst bottle streamed into my boot. I poured most of it out and looked at Sam. "Maybe it was just river water; it didn't smell." 


Sam said, "Probably was. Most folks don't throw out bottles with beer left in them." 


At the end of the road by the lock and dam were two cars, but no people in sight. Perhaps they were hiking trails. It was a beautiful day -- warm sun, blue skies, green grass, trees all leafed-out with baby leaves. 


We drove to take a look-see at what Sam calls "Leroy's Landing." It was a different story. The whole parking lot was covered in dirt, sand and mud. The concrete pavilion floor was silted over; the dock was under water. The launch had been graded, but dried dirt left it looking like a parched wasteland. On the river, trees piled in log jams and balanced on newly-created sandbars. 


Before the Waterway re-channeled the river, waters flooded, often creating sandbars and beaches along its banks. Sam remembers "White Sands."  


"The beach ran up the banks about 25 feet below Friendship Cemetery." Sam looked thoughtful and sounded a little wistful. The river always changes.  



Shannon Rule Bardwell is a Southern writer living quietly in the Prairie.


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