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Job couldn’t have been more appropriate

“Bill, for goodness sake son—if you don’t stay out of that creek, you’re gonna grow fins and have scales on your body.”

Pretty tough for an 8- to 10-year-old whose overalls were always soaked to the waste, after all I did roll up the pants leg, not to mention I was proudly displaying my catch of the day on my forked stick.

I knew that I was gonna have to take my fish outside, and they would always mysteriously disappear. My mother had a great sense of humor. Sometimes, I still catch myself carefully looking for any sign of scales or fins—not sure about these toenails.

I was born of the greatest parents of the ‘Greatest Generation’, hard working, honest people who grew up during the depression but would never even talk about how tough it was.

In the cotton mill village where I was born, my playground was Buck Creek. When I was not wading or swimming in it, I was following the grown-ups, always learning about fishing. I knew all the secrets that the other kids missed out on, like the bottomless Blue Hole and the millpond below the dam and behind the mill.

My dad worked hard and saved a little money in the post office each pay day, smiling and saying something like, “someday.” One Saturday, we walked up the railroad to Alabaster, and he proudly showed me the lots he had bought.

He was so happy to move his family out of the village. The location was perfect for me; it was close to Buck Creek and my newfound playground, John Allen Branch, such a beautiful place.

I truly spent all day, almost every day, and the best thing was that I thought it was mine. I would wade the three miles, cleaning out the debris and brush, fishing and catching little critters. My favorite thing was watching the blue darters as they schooled over the sand bars.

My dad was never too tired to check it out. Mother had all the made-up monsters that were going to get me, even the scary old man that cared for horses nearby that carried a big sack.

I don’t ever remember not wanting to fish—in the abandoned quarries, ponds, sand pits, creeks and even “mud holes.” My dad would take me to places like the river as I grew older. He was so patient and would listen to my thoughts and ideas.

He wasn’t too surprised when I shared with him that I would be joining the Navy when school was out; the Korean War was on, and it was the thing to do. So, I spent four years aboard an aircraft carrier—in some deep water.

After being discharged, I got a good job at a chemical plant, not to mention they had two abandoned rock quarries on the property full of fish. Sometimes, I would come to work early or stay late, just to fish.

I soon met this man who agreed to teach me to be a taxidermist, another thing that I truly loved, and I got to meet lots of hunters and fishermen. Occasionally, one who loved the water almost as much as I did.

After 8 years, I decided to leave my job, take my savings and my taxidermist business and go into sporting goods retail business (first mistake), and move back to Alabaster (second mistake) just as Wal-Mart was going into business!

Knocked on lots of doors to get a job with the state. When I first started, I spent every hour possible in that boat. I loved it—day, night, early morning, it didn’t matter—I loved it.

So, I have spent more time wading in it, swimming in it, boating on it and over it (I’ve done some crazy things on the water). So, all together, I might have spent more time in or on the water than most folks have lived on land—and enjoyed it a lot more.