NEWS FROM THE WOODS
By Bob Ketchum
Originally Published May 13, 2014
After two solid months of working 7 days a week, my wife decided she'd had enough and came home early yesterday and announced that she wanted to take a cruise on the lake. I was so excited at the prospect! The planets were aligned as I held my breath while turning the ignition key. It started on the first turnover!
Our little pontoon only has a 40HP outboard, so flying down lake with the wind in our hair is not an option anymore. Those days are over. These days, we settle for a leisurely cruise at trolling speed right along the shore line searching for lost lures. You'd be surprised at how many we find, and once you settle in to it, the slow cruise is very relaxing and allows plenty of time to take in Mother Nature in her splendor.
In a couple of hours we had navigated the entire shoreline of Bennett's Bayou, almost all the way to Fouts Boat Dock. The first thing that happened was that we discovered a recently placed head stone in a secluded cove, just above the high waterline. It looked so out of place that we couldn't miss it. Curiosity got the better of us. I pulled the boat up to the shore and Jane climbed halfway up the bank when she realized it was a sleek black granite stone marker with a name and dates on it. It was nestled at the top of a pile of native rocks, and actually looked like an actual grave and marker. This was a puzzling discovery. I'd sure like to know more about this recent addition to our "fishin' cove".
The next thing to happen was on the way back to our dock - on the opposite shoreline - a gorgeous and huge bald eagle soared right over us and landed about 50 yards ahead on a dead tree right at the shoreline. I grabbed my camera as we slowly cruised up toward his direction. He watched us the entire time. As we came up even with his tree, I placed the motor into neutral and we just sat there, both of us snapping pictures (Jane had her cell phone out). I could just see his wary eyes with a constant gaze, fixed on us... looking down from his lofty perch on the highest limb in the dead tree. We must have sat there for at least five minutes. I was shooting video... waiting for the inevitable moment when he would choose to fly off... but he never did! We didn't want to spook him or make annoying sounds just to cause him to fly. I asked Jane if she had a flash on her phone. Even the flash didn't cause him any alarm. Actually, he seemed quite comfortable staring down at us, occasionally averting his gaze from us to inspect a buzzard soaring close by. Jane began talking to him! I wasn't sure how he would react to a female voice calling out "You're such a beautiful boy! What a GOOD boy you are!" Etc., etc. - He watched with keen interest but not once did he make a move to fly off.
As it was getting darker by the moment (about 7:30 PM) and a bad storm was approaching from the SW, we had to press on. I called out a "thanks" to him for showing off for us, placed the motor (still running) into gear and we idled off in our original direction, Jane talking to him the entire time we pulled away. When we got about 100 feet away he DID take off flying but I had already put the camera down. To our amazement he headed directly in our direction and soared with wings spread wide no less that 20 feet right over out heads. He was showing off! He soared 20 yards up the shore and attempted to land in the top of another dead tree, but his weight caused the entire top of the tree to fall. Without the slightest hesitation, he spread out his magnificent wings and regained altitude as the huge tree limb crashed to the ground. But instead of flying off as you might expect, he merely selected another dead tree directly ahead about 50 yards and settled in... waiting for us to motor up the shoreline. I believe he was as curious about us as we were about him. Once again, as we got under the tree I stopped and we continued our "conversation" with the eagle. He never made a sound. He just watched us with keen interest. Jane was yakking away at him like he was a pet kitty. This was sort of incredible for me as I have lived on this lake my entire life and have never seen this type of reaction from an eagle. I was wondering if this was the same eagle that glides the thermals below the bluffs that our house sits above. That eagle is so used to me that I can run out with a camcorder and he won't even alter his flight path.
All good things must come to an end, and by this time darkness was rapidly being helped along by the impending thunderstorm which was now gathering steam over 101 boat dock - directly across the lake from our private dock. We said goodbye again and forged ahead. This time he stayed in his lofty perch and watched us go around the point toward our dock.
As the storm was now making its way across the lake, looking very ominous, I ramped the motor up to full power and we skedaddled to our dock. By the time we were in the stall, lightning and thunder began its song and dance. Hurriedly, Jane exited the boat with her hands full of stuff, but caught her foot on the side of the pontoon boat, and I watched in horror as she started to go down. She managed to get her arms up to break the fall onto the wooden boards of the dock, but her cigarettes, lighter, cell phone & drink went flying. I saw and heard a "plink" and my heart sank... along with her cell phone. We could see it on the bottom, taunting us from a depth of about 10 feet. She screamed and jumped into the lake, only to come up sputtering and exclaiming "I can't get it!". I asked if she could even see it down there and her reply was "I don't know, I can't open my eyes underwater!" Incredible! How can one find anything underwater if they don't open their eyes! I was about to say something to that effect when I got "the look". Now, I've been married to my wife for 16 years so I am well acquainted with "the look". Suffice to say - now is not the time to enter a discussion on hind sight.
I knew what I had to do. I wasn't looking forward to it, but sometimes you just have to man up and do what's right. I emptied my pockets and took of my shirt quickly, as by now lightning bolts were being hurled around the atmosphere to the tune of almost constant thunder……… NOT the best time to go swimming but she wanted that phone and in the fastest possible time frame. I figured it was ruined by now but chose wisely to keep my big mouth shut and do my duty. As I walked from the shore down into the water my brain was reeling. It was COLD! By this time she was out of the water and back up on the dock, cheering (well, sort of) me on. All I remember saying was "Jane….. YOU OWE ME!" as I made my way to the point of no longer being able to stand on the bottom. I could not see it from my position (plus it was getting VERY dark with clouds). I asked her to point the way. She walked further out on the dock and pointed straight down…. To a point that appeared to be about 12 feet of water, judging by my distance from it. Oh, great! It really didn't look this deep from the surface! I finally gave in and started swimming to the spot, but still could not locate it from on top, so I took a few deep breaths and when the lighting flashed right over our heads I dove down. COLD. COLD. COLD. As I was not wearing my glasses (losing ONE important item a day is enough) everything down there was dark and blurry. I fished around for 10 or 15 seconds but could not locate it. I was coming back up for another gulp of air when at the last possible second I spotted something metallic looking. I dove back down, reached out my hand, and retrieved it! THE HERO!
Gasping for air and moving out of the water as fast as I could with the storm crashing down around us, I exited the lake and stood there panting with my hand on the dock cable to steady me. We hastily grabbed up our gear, threw it all into the SUV, and headed straight up to the house. As we arrived to the garage, the storm hit our side of the lake with full intensity. I ran inside, took the phone apart, grabbed her hair dryer, and began to dry out the phone. This was an old trick I had learned years before when a water leak caused a ceiling tile to drop down in the old studio, depositing about a quart of rainwater directly into an electronic keyboard sitting beneath it. While I was blow-drying the cell phone, Jane called someone that advised her to leave it overnight in a container of rice. As we didn't have any handy - I had to make a quickie trip to the Dollar General for a bag of rice. The storm was in full swing now and as I was returning across the 62 bridge, some poor retiree that was scared out of his wits was driving across the bridge at 15 MPH. Now, I did NOT care to be completely blown off the bridge by high winds or struck by the lightning strikes that were coming down all around me, and I didn't want to spook him so I drove right behind him until he exited the bridge and pulled over, allowing me to continue my trip. I made it home safely, placed the phone in the rice, and we turned in for the night.
Now THAT was an exciting afternoon! And BTW, this morning we put the battery in her cell phone and she called the house….. And the damn thing worked! Who woulda' thunk it?