I can’t say it was all natural along the Tombigbee as the scent of pulp paper mills, coal power plants and steel mills swirled on the ever changing winds. At night I could often pinpoint the change in direction based on various scents.
Most of the time however, the river was natural with sand bars, mud shoals and plenty of riverbank to hammock in at night. Most of this land is private but folks don’t really get down on the banks late at night or early morning in rural areas. Smoke from my Twig stove drifted on the wind to mix with the fog as a new day dawned.
It wasn’t completely lonely as the frequent yachts passing and fisher folk offered opportunity for conversation or affirmation that I wasn’t the only living person left. Often times I’d ask how people prefer to cook their fish and unanimously in this region they’d say “Yella-meal and spices “. That’s yellow corn meal and a local blend of their spices mixed in to batter and then deep fry the fish.
The bank in some places had been sharply cut away by the strong flow of the river. I was most disgusted by this forgotten method of bank stabilization, reminiscent of when they used entire crushed vehicles to shore up banks in NC.
I had heard of this restaurant on the river in Lavaca called Eazelles and boy did it hit the spot. After pulling in my boat at the crumbling ramp, I entered the dimly lit 100+ year old establishment and was given a menu by a waitress who looked right out of a turn of the century novel. Sweat glinted off her forehead not contained by the head wrap above. Outside the field of white cotton shimmered in the mid day heat against the hard blue sky.
111lb Blue Catfish
The fried catfish whole came with a serious bowl of coleslaw, my first green veggie in a few days. Nice and cool, it set the stage for the perfectly cooked catfish. A crispy crunchy batter encrusted the tender white morsels of fish splashed with vinegar. I saved some hush puppies for later in my pocket which soon became hopelessly greasy. They were a treat while floating downstream.
Oh earlier I mentioned vehicles in the river…well name this model year schoolbus!?
Halloween was a day like any other until I got the dumb idea to cover 30 miles, nearly double a normal day’s distance. As it grew late, I realized I’d have to cover 4 miles in the dark and really wised my Headlamp was working. It grew dark and I soon paddled up to a house on stilts below which a few folks were mingling and offered me a steak. Having not eaten yet., I accepted and was soon before a cold beer, filet mignon and toast. Ronnie Norton and his kind wife also offered me a shower which I happily accepted and sent me off with a Halloween bag of candy, apple and water! How sweet trick or treating is in a kayak.