Falcon Lake Tackle
Fred The Frog Dog..
And a Country Boy in the Sixties..
I did not grow up on a farm.. But I spent a lot of time on a few.. My Grandpa's mostly and some uncles and great uncles.. And it was always a treat for me when I was at any one of those places, because I could leave the pellet gun at home, and break out the big gun.. The 22..
And I don't know how it was for you, but for me, growing up in LaCoste, Texas, it was about as good as I could imagine. My Daddy always made sure we had plenty of work to do.. Cause, like you have deduced, he was the son of a subsistence farmer. And subsistence farmers did not sit around much watching TV and scratching their heads.. There was work to be done.
And my Dad kept us out of trouble (for the most part) by keeping us busy helping him meticulously maintain our home and property in LaCoste.. From the mundane like burning the trash to mowing the grass.. To spraying our twenty one pecan trees with DDT.. Killin them damn case borers..
We did our edging along sidewalks and curbs with an antique twelve inch meat cleaver.. Not the most efficient but it did a damn tidy job.. And we had plenty of time..
Every day after school we had a "to do" list when we got home. And he better not find you playing baseball when he got home if the list was not checked off.. Or there was going to be some more swinging done..
In any case, (I am trying to get to the point here) part of my job was protecting our tomato plants and fruit trees.. And I mean plural. We had two gardens..
He couldn't get enough stuff planted in the quarter acre one in the back yard.. So we had another in the side yard.. I think one year he actually affected the commodities market.. But I am not sure..
But back to protecting the fruit and tomatoes..
There were few things that would piss my Dad off more that finding the perfect peach, plum, or tomato that was pecked up by mockingbirds.. If he heard one squawking outside he'd get that look in his eye like Clint Eastwood does before he busted a cap into some low life.. He hated em..
And for me that was a good thing.. Because he instigated a twenty five cent bounty on em.. And before long I was buying rounds of Hippo's at the local grocery store for all my friends. Cause I was a mockinbird killin son of a gun..
I had a Benjamin 22 cal pellet gun, and if you could see it you could kill it.. Well almost..
Ten pumps would go thru a stop sign.. In any case, that was my killin' stuff basic training.. Of course I had been weaned from a Red Ryder years before.. And had been promoted to heavy artillery.. And this story is about shootin..
In any case I started out to tell you the story of Fred the Frog Dog.. But even the Constitution has a Preamble.. Maybe this is a pre-ramble.. I dunno. But if you're still readin'..
My Dad's uncle Fred, who was a brother to my Grandma, was a share cropper down a little south of Floresville, in Wilson County. He farmed a half section and generally grew milo and hay grazer and ran a few cows. He was the epitome of cowboy, rancher, an farmer all rolled into one..
He loved them trail rides and cold beer.. He had throat cancer at some time in his life and he had his voice box removed.. And he used one of those hand held vibrating devices that he had to hold to his throat to talk.. It was a little scary for some younguns to hear him talk.. And to see him smoke a roll-yer-own by holding it to the hole in his throat..
But when Star Wars came out I was not afraid of Darth Vader..
He was a great guy and I loved him.. And he spoiled me.. I got a hunnert stories about being there on his place.. Like when I was ten and begged him to let me drive his 1951 five window Chevy down to the tank.. Good thing he turned the key off.. I think we was going 40 in reverse once I got the clutch out without out choking it..
And the time he took me to Fox's bar and let me drink a few beers. And then we went to Three Oaks in Pleasanton and I got a big ice cream.. And threw up all over the side of that Chevy on the way home..
I learned early on.. Shit Happens when you're partying..
Anyway we used to go there all the time when dove season opened.. And we practically lived there on weekends when quail season opened.. It was phenomenal quail hunting..
The stuff you used to hear about.. We'd kill a A-Tub full before lunch..
I don't know if you remember Fred Maly, who used to be an outdoor writer for the Express News in San Antonio, but he used to come hunting out there some times. He told me the first time I met him that I was too young to be carrying a shotgun.. And then I killed four doves in four shots and he retracted his statement..
I was using Uncle Fred's single 16 with the forestock attached to the barrel with some rusty old bailing wire.. Probably been that way for years.. I loved that gun. Uncle Fred said I could have it but Daddy said the shells were too damn expensive and if I could shoot a sixteen I was ready for a 12.. That son of a gun kicked like a mule..
I got more stories about that single sixteen and road huntin quail but dammit I wrote this story to tell you about Fred the Frog Dog..
There were three ponds on Uncle Fred's place. Two had catfish, one had nothin..
Except these bullfrogs.. Bigguns.. I mean really bigguns..
Big enough to make love to a house cat standing flat footed..
Anyway Uncle Fred had this dog that went where you went.. Specially if you was carrying a gun.. He was a mutt for the most part, bout the size and shape of a border collie but no relation..
And I don't know why they named him Fred other that the fact that Aunt Annie could always get somebody to turn an ear if she yelled "Fred!"
One Saturday we were dove hunting round this tank and the frogs were everywhere.. But no birds. I was sitting on my bucket and hadn't fired a shot. Looking at all those frogs.
The men decided they would change water holes and I asked Daddy and Uncle Fred if I could go get the 22 and shoot some of them frogs. It took some convincing but finally they decided if I was the only one there I couldn't shoot nobody.. So back to the frog tank I went.. With Fred the Frog Dog in lockstep.
I knew them frogs would jump back in the water as soon as I got close, so I snuck up on the tank like Daniel Boone and hid in a tree line. And there them big ol' long hoppers were, sitting all around the tank. Sunnin' themselves.. I figured I might get a couple if I started on my side of the tank, and I was using shorts so they weren't too noisy..
I had it all figured out.
I sat on my bucket and leaned on a tree, clicked the safety off and bam! One big dead frog floppin' around on the bank. But I weren't ready for what happened next.
Ol Fred lit out for the frog barkin and raising hell. And all of the other frogs hightailed it for the water.. And here came Fred, frog in mouth, and he dropped it at my feet..
I was really pissed that Fred had scared all the other frogs into the water. Now I'd have to wait forever for them to crawl back out..
After about a minute I started seeing frogs popping up in the middle of the tank everywhere.. But they would not come back to the banks.. They were keeping an eye on me for sure.. And the longer I waited the madder I got and after a bit it got the best of me.
There was a monster about twenty yards out in the middle of the pond.. And he was looking right at me.. Had about three inches between his eyes.. Coulda worn a pair of Foster Grants if he had ears..
Anyway, I drew a bead on him and let him have it.. Just outta meanness.. To my surprise Fred bolted to the water and did a long jump into the pond, swam out to where the frog was, and brought him back..
Well after the commotion settled, the frogs came back up and I shot another one out in the water.. And this one sunk like a rock..
Fred swam out there, dove down, was under water for about ten seconds, and came up with the frog.. My hand to God..
Well I wasn't believing this was happening.. I was laughing my tail off. So I shot another one. And another one.. Till I had a five gallon bucket full.. And Fred fetched every one.. Sometimes he would make three or four dives but he never came back without a frog..
And you might think I am full of bull but this is a true story. Swear to God..
Well I walked back to the house and the menfolk were there drinking beer and cleaning doves. And my uncle Lewis said, "Well we heard you shootin.. Where the hell is all them frogs?"
I told em the bucket was too heavy and I needed them to drive down there to pick it up.. Of course they all started laughing and went back to cleaning doves.. And when they got through I told my Dad, "Hey.. We need to go get them frogs."
He looked at me and said, "You're serious?" Well the guys got in the truck and we drove down to the tank and there I pointed out my bucket full of giant bullfrogs..
I told them the story bout Fred diving for em' and fetchin em' back.. But they weren't buying it.. I had to shoot one more just to prove it happened..
We headed back to the house, with three men in a truck scratching their heads, a bucket full of frogs, and a young boy and a dog on the tailgate of the truck.... Both with a shit eatin' grin on their face..
Livin in paradise..
I really miss Ol' Fred.. Both of em'...
Copyright: James Bendele 2012