• 64°

Perfect Pucker’s rise, demise

A new lady was on the scene—something like we had never seen on Lake Mitchell. She had class; she looked like, well, she was about 36 feet and had three decks. Before she left, some were sad, and some rejoiced.

Yep, “Perfect Pucker.” Funny sounding name, but it was the slogan for the Whitfield Pickle Company and this, my friends, was the super toy of Frank Whitfield. It was the most popular thing on Lake Mitchell at the time. You either loved her or hated her, depending on whether you were riding or dodging the huge wake that she created. She had a flat bottom, which caused her to make such wake, but I must say that Frank was a knowledgeable skipper who realized her faults and kept her away from shore whenever possible. Frank was a fun person who liked for folks to have fun but left no doubt that he was the skipper, and it was safety first.

She was indeed a fine boat, and those Whitfield boys really knew how to entertain their guests. They had a motor home and a few extra tickets, and we did go to a few football games (if you wondered where I was that Saturday). Anyway, back to the lake and an example of the person my friend was. One Friday night, he was entertaining some buyers and brokers of grocery chains and invited me down. I might say that we had a perfect understanding of my job, and he always respected that. He introduced me to the group and cautioned them about “having too much fun!”Sure enough, here they came the next day: a boat loaded with happy people. Look out, here comes a wild one! It was another one of the Whitfield boats, and he was one of the top executives and guests, and he was headed for the Pucker and had proceeded to run in circles around the big boat while she was underway. I tried to get him to stop, but he didn’t even look up. I knew I had a problem! I finally got him stopped, charged him with BWI and took him to “Chilton Hilton.” I reluctantly accepted an invitation the next evening, but they treated me like a hero—even a “hot-shot.”

The Pucker was such a hit on Lake Mitchell that Mr. Millard Reynolds persuaded Frank to bring her down to Selma for a voyage on the river. It was a great weekend, I heard, except there was a slight mix-up with a trailer for the tired old gal. Millard improvised with a lowboy trailer and built a cradle to hold her. As they were pulling her out, something terrible went wrong! She tumbled over right there at City Landing and as someone said, “smashed her like a watermelon!”

She was never quite her jovial self again, even after spending a year being rebuilt. There were a lot of electronic and wiring problems, etc. One day while tied to the dock, she caught fire! Some fishermen came by and towed her away from the dock, saving the dock, but the wind blew her back into shore.The extreme heat of the fire burned an impression of her into the shore, and she sank right there, her final resting place! What if she ever comes back to tell her story!