Degrees of Death

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Degrees of Death

Postby BlackwaterBill » Wed Feb 18, 2009 7:47 am

Degrees of Death

Once about 7 of us went into the Coosawhatchee Swamp to Highhill Pond to camp & fish. There was Spring lake also which was a finger off Highhill Pond then the Coosawhatchee went on down towards Hilton Head from there. We had 5 boats I think. Daddy and I were up near the mouth early on the second day when we heard a motor coming down the run and shut down about a 1/2 mile maybe up up the run. I looked at Daddy with a knowing eye. I was thinking Game Warden and so was he. It would be unusual for them to see that many pick ups at the put in and not be curious about what was going on down in that swamp.

We had caught a limit on about everything the first day and put them in a big hoop of wire stuck in the bottom right by our camp. Looked like a big tomato cage wrapped with chicken wire. Everybody coming in to camp would dump their fish into that hoop. We were fishing legal in every aspect. There were a couple of marines from Parris Island in there when we got to Highhill Pond and a couple of swamp rats that nobody knew. We were from about 50 miles upstate and one of our members was the Justice of the Peace in Talatha District, a Mr. Johnny Mixon. He kept sardines and viennas on the manifold of his Chevrolet C-10 truck so whenever he got hungry he could have a hot lunch.

Daddy and I had fished from the mouth down the east side of Highhill all the way to Spring Lake then fished a round in Spring Lake and came out about dark right at the camp. So on the second day, we went to the mouth and started down the west side and hadn't gone far when we heard that motor shut down. I eased back upstream fishing and catching jackfish and wanting to be near the mouth when that boat drifted out. We weren't violating any laws and didn't want to be harassed way down in that swamp. Sure enough, after a bit a boat drifted out the mouth and in it sat two game wardens. I stood up on the seat in my boat and yelled loud enough to be heard from one end of Highhill Pond to the other, Game Warden!!! GAME WARDEN!!!
GAME!!!!! WARRRDEN!!!!!! then I sat down and waited on them cause they were now motoring straight at us. As they pulled up they asked why I made the announcement of their presence like I did. I told them we were law abiding sportsmen but there were some down the river we didn't know much about so I wanted to give them a heads up. I asked them why they felt it necessary to sneak into a place like they did. They didn't answer but began to check us out thoroughly includng asking me for a hunting license because I had a pistol on my hip. I told them I wasn't hunting and they asked me again. Again I told them I wasn't hunting. Then they told me that Highhill Pond was in a WMA and you had to have a hunting license to bring a firearm in there, besides they said, you probaly have a sportsmans license that covers everthing. So I said you got that right and showed it to them. They gave us a good going over and finally left without wishing us well and we didn't have pleasantries for them either. They worked all morning finally coming up to the camp just about lunch time.

We had predetermined to have a fish fry that day at 1 PM and Johnny Mixon who was a lawman himself was getting it together. The game wardens came around and dipped fish out of our hoop for 15-20 minutes checking them for hook holes and never found one that was not caught with a hook, Then they got a long stick and poked under the bank from our camp for 2 or 300 yards in both directions. Meanwhile Johnny Mixon got a huge pot hot on the fire and started frying hush puppies while some of us got the fish cleaned and ready to meal. We were enjoying watching the game wardens because we knew we were legal all the way but those two didn't trust us at all and didn't want to go up that run late in the evening ith a ticket book still full of unwritten citations. The two swamp rats had made a run for it when I stood up and yelled. The game wardens were hanging around thinking they might ease back out from the drain and get them selves caught. Just when we were about to eat they came up on our camp and checked the whole area out. While walking the distance form the camp back out to the end of Spring Lake one of them got on a moccasin and had to high tail it in the mud, slid down and got his uniform muddy about the knees.

Now Johnny Mixon could cook and he was a man of few words but the ones he spoke were wise. The game wardens asked him some questions about who he was and where we were from and so forth hinting around thay they might like a fish plate. Everytime they would ask Johnny if he knew someone they knew he would say yes, and I think he is a SOB only he said the words naddidn't sound sweet. On about the fourth one they figured out he was not warming up to them so they asked whose truck had the law tag on it at the put in. Nobody replied till Johnny said it's mine and I have a badge with more authority than yours. I try the people that you catch. I am the judge in Talatha District appointed by the Governor. Now we would like some privacy to finish our meal, and they left without further comment. They went down the drain drifting hoping to bag a couple of swamp rats. Finally about two hours before dark they came up out of the drain with the motor running and ran all the way up into the mouth and on out of hearing. I told Daddy we would be lucky if any of tires had air in them when we got back to the hill.

Late that night we were back in from running bush hooks and heard another motor coming down the run, hitting a stump every now & then and sometimes reving up to sling grass off the prop. I asked if that would be the game wardens coming back. Johnny said no, thats Uncle Kenny he's coming in to camp with us for a night or two. Now Johnny was about 50 so I would say that Kenny was about 70 and he ran all the way into that camp without ever shutting his motor down with nothing but a 2 D cell flashlight for guidance. His prop was down to a nub and when he jumped out in ankle deep water he lifted up the motor to show it to us. He installed a new one right there by the firelight and he & Johnny went back up the run to check the bush hooks. They woke us up coming back into camp and putting monstrous big catfish in the hoop. I asked Kenny where he had caught a particularly big one and he said, right where Leonidas shot the deer in the face, as if I knew where that was. I ddn't ask for more location details but I did ask if Leonidas killed the deer. Kenny paused for a moment and looked me in the eye and said sternly, graveyard dead. I had never considered degrees of death before but after that lesson Kenny gave me with his stare and sterness, I have to believe that graveyard dead is as dead as something gets.

After about 5 or 6 nights we loaded all those fish into our then 6 boats and could barely haul them all out. When we got to the hill everything was ok. Johnny said when people saw the trucks and looked them over they weren't sure who they would be messing with if they tampered with anything so they left them alone. We divvied up the fish and headed home. I have recorded this as close to how it happened as I can remember. It was 40 years ago this spring. Written February 16, 2009.

"I am by practice and predilection a top-water man. How I love to hear a rampaging bass wallop a capering surface plug!" Havilah Babcock from Monafilment Hates People
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Postby Clay Walters » Wed Feb 18, 2009 2:04 pm

My in-laws are from south Louisiana. "Graveyard Dead" is an expression I learned from them.

Clay Walters
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Postby TygerRiverWalker » Wed Feb 18, 2009 3:20 pm

Blackwater I'm not at all sure that we aren't related in some way. That could be a tale straight out of MY child hood as well, just substitute mountain for swamp. Good story!
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Postby derekp » Wed Feb 18, 2009 6:09 pm

I enjoyed that. Thanks BwB.
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