MASTERSON ONLINE: Back to Bull Shoals
The rhythm of Bull Shoals Lake lapping against the houseboat at Coffman Cove was enough to make me drowsy, as four of us from the Harrison High School Class of 1965 gathered for our 24th Spring to celebrate the memory of our late friend, Dr William. B. Hudson.
In addition to dozing unexpectedly from time to time, there were peaches, glares of good humor, and a lot of memories shared between us in our seventies who, 56 years ago, wore blue and gold goblin uniforms. , were dating and often smelled too much English. Leather, Old Spice or Aqua Velva.
For Ken Reeves, Don Walker, Dr. CW “Bill” Dill and I, the chance to spend nearly four days together on Reeves’ cozy houseboat again was overdue and a blessing.
It was obvious, after covid-19 forced us to skip last year’s rally, that none of us were getting any younger, despite our attitudes and the flashes of our carefree years.
What started in 1996 as a long weekend focused on sailing large numbers of bass, this year was more about sharing memories, which included how many of our class left.
This list is accelerating every year. And we considered ourselves lucky at 74 to still be together for this reunion. Life, as we all know, does catch up eventually, as it did years ago with close friends like Sheridan Garrison and Bob Barker, who also had houseboats in this sheltered cove and joined us on them. years gone by.
We fished enough to satisfy the urge for intermittent mild rain that made the lake go up. And Bill has always been very close to Ken for the most bass boats over three days. I suspected Ken had allowed Bill to claim the crown (whatever that title means at this point). It’s no wonder they still fight for bragging rights, as both were raised on Bull Shoals fishing with their now deceased fathers.
I think I could take them if we came back to wade Crooked Creek where my dad often took me.
Perhaps most importantly, we had a feast like royalty by toasting these three days. The menu, you ask? Dinners included veal piccata, king crab legs and amazing spaghetti made with great affection by Ken’s wife, Debbie, as well as Caesar salad and garlic bread. Desserts were Debbie’s custard pie and the sugarless peach I brought.
The breakfasts, all prepared by Ken, were equally opulent with his personalized Egg Benedict Bull Shoals, cookies, crispy hash browns and gravy, bacon and ham. (A little mouth watering, isn’t it?)
Ken also featured high school annals from 1963-65 to reinforce our friends memories of the years when hormones were raging and sweaters and letter rings adorned the shoulders and necks of steady girlfriends. So stable, in fact, that all three of them married their high school sweetheart decades ago.
As with most years, it was inevitable that I would find a way to make the weekend light. I have come to accept the teasing that comes with these days together. Truth be told, I seem to be working hard to unintentionally trigger belly laughs at my expense.
For example, this year, while I was fishing with Ken in his new red bass boat (signed, incidentally by the late Forrest Wood), I had put my rescue rod and reel to my left, facing the outboard motor. , while I was fishing with The Other. What could go wrong?
I never saw the branch that reached and hooked the attached surface lure and slowly, still so quietly, started pulling the whole kit and caboodle towards the stern.
When I turned around, the rod and reel were about to disappear onto my back. I got up just in time to watch him go into the lake and bathe in the brush.
The only good news when Ken reversed his trolling motor was being able to retrieve the lure, which allowed me to follow the line to the top half of the split rod. I looked at the salvaged stick and deduced that it was worthless without its bottom and that previously unused spinning reel. So in the depths he went too.
Then, shortly after, when I pulled hard to loosen a decoy caught in the brush, it only let go to sail over my head, somehow wrapping both me and the boat console in a true monofilament cocoon.
In the front seat, Ken swiveled and watched in disbelief before saying something to this effect (with his wry air): “You know, Mikey, I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like this in all of my years. years of fishing. “
After the darkness subsided that night and I endured the ribs assault on allegedly being a high maintenance fishing partner, I responded by continually harassing Bill’s side. he wanted to bring me back that night in search of my rod and reel.
Don later suggested speaking to me at upcoming meetings as a “finesse fisher”. Ken was not so sympathetic to this particular description. I mentioned the possibility of launching a GoFundMe account to replace my equipment. Don offered a quarter. It was more than what Bill was willing to provide. Ken had already lent me his Bass Pro rain gear. I assumed that counted as his gift.
The four of us sat in a circle over the creek more than once to laugh and discuss the past, including our first jobs as teenagers at Harrison. Ken and I had both worked with a grizzled Ozarks native named Slivie Burnett, where we both got stuck under houses alongside spiders and centipedes to install and insulate the Daniels Sheet Metal ducts. Company. No wonder he became a lawyer.
Overall, this weekend – like others in recent years – centered around discussions of our families, children, grandchildren, old friends, who have married who and where our individual paths have led after working. for 200 years in such varied years. careers.
After retiring from his thriving dental practice in Fayetteville, Bill now heads dental services for Boston Mountain Rural Health Centers after completing his final year appointment as member, and then chair, of the State Dental Examining Board.
After retiring from his successful poultry development and marketing business, Don, of Springdale, decided to get his real estate license and is now closing sales with Weichert Realty in Springdale.
Ken completed his tenure on the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission after serving as its chairman, and has since been appointed to the Arkansas State Police Commission.
Me? Well, I apparently got a permanent appointment to the Coffman Cove Fishery Fine and Humor Board. And luckily, you still read what I’ve been doing for 20 years in this space after a 50-year long career in journalism.
We remembered double date frozen drinks and popular parking spots around Harrison that have long spawned subdivisions. We recalled that in the early ’60s, we would tie a wire to the car window to pick up WLS radio and popular Chicago DJ Dick Biondi while engaging in ailments that teens tend to share in. once secluded places around Harrison. .
On a chilly afternoon by the glassy lake, we watched bass chase shad schools while singing along to timeless classics like Sarah Brightman and Andrea Bocelli, incredibly poignant and so relevant “Time to Say Goodbye”. There were also classics by Roy Orbison, Sam Cooke, Whitney Houston, and Alan Jackson’s “Remember When” (in other words, authentic music with beautiful melodies and lyrics).
For the first decade of those weekends, we stayed up until midnight. This year our heads found the pillows at 9. And when we got up once before dawn to be on the water early, this year it was closer to 7. Even then we still took the time for coffee and sightseeing before heading to places long familiar. to Ken and Bill, with names like Moon Cove and Little Elbow.
With the lake level so high, we fished relatively close to the barge to plunder the shallows teeming with the same types of brush that claimed my rod and reel. Ken once assured me that when the lake returns to its normal level, an angler will be surprised to see it shine on the shore like a golden Easter egg.
Overall the fishing was good and Ken graciously cleaned a dozen bass while I worked on perfecting my finesse. And while we had all anticipated this year’s reunion after missing out on 2020, we eagerly left for next spring’s rally after Don took the annual photo showing how we’ve aged for 25 years.
Oh, by the way, next year I’m planning to bring a candy cane, red worms, and a bobber to save some money while hopefully eliminating the risk of losing my status as a single group finesse fisherman. Suppose it is even possible for a seasoned fisherman to strike back at a bamboo pole?
Mike Masterson is a longtime journalist from Arkansas, was editor of three Arkansas dailies, and led the Masters of Journalism program at Ohio State University. Email him at [email protected]line.com.