I called her Mary Plump

Published 2:36 pm Tuesday, March 17, 2009

We were friends right away. She was probably in her seventies, retired from the Eufaula School System as a principal. Lots of people retire and move to the lake, but this was a single lady who just happened to be black. Lots of folks like to fish, but I don’t believe I have ever known anyone that enjoyed it nearly as much; I mean, she was out there more than I was!

She bought a very nice boat when she retired and flat wore it out. One Sunday afternoon the boating traffic was “making their last lap,” or bringing their weekend to an end, and we “full-timers” tried to avoid all that mad rush, as safety was not on their mind, speed was. Somehow, Mary got in that group, and while trolling was her favorite, she was not a stranger to speed. She was coming into Cargile Creek, the sun was just right, she completely took out two of the long piers on her right and one gazebo and came to rest 100 feet onto a front lawn, up against a rock wall! Never left the seat. In fact, she was still in the seat when I got to her.The first thing she said was, “Will you have to make out a report on this?” I explained that she would have to “get right” with about four property owners, and the law required a written report where there was at least fifty dollars damage to the boat. “Look here, ain’t much damage…” she started. “Mary,” I stopped her.

A couple of weeks later, I met this awful looking contraption coming down the lake and went over to check it out. Mary’s pretty, sleek boat now looked like a floating bulldozer! I knew that she was going to tell me, “fifty dollars”, and I was ready with, “You didn’t wait for your change.” She was definitely out of the speed business.

Close to retirement, sitting by the fireplace with my new bride, I got an emergency call. The sheriff had received message, a lady was in distress on the lake. It was about 11 p.m.! As I was getting ready, my baby announced that she was going too. Within 10 minutes, we were at the scene. We couldn’t see her yet, but she was screaming her lungs out for help. I put my lights on her—it was Mary!

“Mary, what in the world is wrong?” She answered with that scream; I thought she said something about a net. As we came along side, I saw that she had a big fish on her trotline. What an emergency! I was thinking I should be back at that fireplace.

“Mary, I should take you in for no lights. Don’t you know you could get run over out here?” Lavada had already began to feel sorry for her and was holding the net for her, and all the time I’m saying, “We are not going to help you land a fish—no lights.” So now I had to escort her back in, not speaking to her and threatening to put Lavada in the boat with her if she spoke to her!

My friend didn’t last much longer, passed away in a nursing home in north Alabama. She sent me word that she wanted to see me, but I waited a few days too late. I tried to tell myself that she was going to “con” me again, but I sure wish I had gone.

Today, I laugh out loud at the first time. She did lots of work for young folks in her community, and once she gave me her best shot. “I can’t get any help from the adults in my community, could you help me out with my little boys baseball?” They were 5- and 6-year-olds, shouldn’t be any problem. She could just go into the sporting goods store and say, “What do you wanna give me for my boys?”One day she wanted to talk to me, “I want you to go to the store with me. I’ve been watching one of our boys…I think he needs one of those JOCK-STROPS.”