Recreation and Relaxation in Arkansas: The Camp
The Old Carlton Place Trail
My husband, Joe, and I arrived here at our little cabin on Wednesday, the day before the Fourth of July. Since then, we've fished, taken four-wheel rides, cleaned out an old storeroom and found a gas can in pristine condition and made in 1954, and piddled in general. We take frequent rides in the federal wildlife reserve, looking for deer or anything else of interest. We pass Willie's Little Oasis every time we leave the cabin and see the latest beer special on their sign. I just got back from a four-wheel ride to the "Carlton place." I have often wondered about the Carltons. No one who lives around here has a clue who they were or who they were related to. However, the old homestead spot, with jonquils that bloom every spring and nothing but part of a chimney left, has always been the "Carlton place." I haven't ridden my four-wheeler in months. As my arthritis gets worse, I find the bike harder to control but more tempting to ride just to prove I can do it! I drove through three spider webs on my way there and back, so it's not a well-traveled road. The trees have grown together over the top of the trail in many places, and it's like a very cool tunnel where no sun reaches. I ride with my legs up, remembering the time a rattler struck my husband's four-wheeler when he was driving through a mud hole. Of course, it's dry here now and the mud holes are long gone.
Back from my Ride
It's hard not to think of old times when we come here. There is a wall in the big camp with photos of all the members of the hunting camp who have died. Joe and I joke that we hope it's a very long time before I have to choose one for him! As I look at all the pictures and see the lone African-American, I recognize Luther's father. We were talking to Luther yesterday and he looked at me once and said: "You know, back in the '60s and '70s and part way into the '80s, Joe was the only one who would come out to the skinning rack and help me clean my deer." There were things about the ol' days that weren't all that good.
There is a picture of my father-in-law playing dominoes on that wall. He was a character bigger than life. Everyone who knew Joe's dad remembered at least one of his stories. I remember one cold day he was hunting next to a tree. Joe and I began to see smoke wafting through the air in the direction he was hunting. When we rode over to check, we saw he had set the tree on fire. When Joe asked him why he did it, he said, "I was cold!"
Lapile Creek Bridge Tree Tunnel
Lapile Creek has always been a part of our visits to the camp. We have fished from the creek as it runs through the woods, from the banks, and also from the bridge. At dusk, the martins gather to eat the mosquitoes, and they are a sight to see, turning the sky dark at times. A large part of casual conversation here is whether the creek is high or low, although no one ever says what difference it makes. Almost every day there are several people in lawn chairs along the creek's banks fishing with cane poles and visiting with each other. Before we bought our boat, Joe and I borrowed a small boat from a friend and fished, floating along the creek with a trolling motor. As we were coming in to the launch, he lost his balance and fell in the water, disappearing from view completely for a few seconds. I have never decided whether I was more concerned or more tickled as he shook off like a wet dog.
Strange Sun Photo
Fishing in the Sunshine
Fishing in Shallow Lake, Jones Lake, and tomorrow Pete Wilson, has been fun and we've caught a few bream. Tomorrow will be our best trip because Luther told us where to go and how to fish. He also gave us a tip on keeping the crickets alive, telling us to cut up a potato and put it in the container with them, that they would get both food and water from it. And they are now munching away. We caught a few government bream today. They have a red spot that identifies them, just as the redfish at home in Louisiana have a black one. The bream are frustrating because they don't "take it and go" like some fish, but nibble more like a tiny fish would. They are great fun to catch, though. By noon it is 90 degrees and we usually head in, but today they were biting like crazy and we stayed out until 2:00. I got a bee sting and am blistered despite my sunscreen but all in all, it was a very good day!
Time of Year for Lily Pads
Snakes and Lily Pads
Of course, the water is clogged with lily pads this time of year. Although they are really gorgeous, they are mega-annoying when you're trying to fish and your hook keeps snagging them. It's a Catch 22 when it gets hot around 11:00. The shade of the trees seems inviting, but two times, we have seen huge snake skins lying in the trees, left behind by moccasins. The last thing I want is to be in the boat with a snake.
I love seeing the turtles lined up in rows on the logs and the water cranes and egrets swooping low to catch fish. The water was so clear today that we were able to see a large bass as it swam slowly past the boat, looking for food. Fishing in fresh water is so different than what we're accustomed to in New Orleans where you might just as easily catch a crab as a fish and where a 6- or 7-pound red fish is not that rare. At home, we fish close to Lafitte in "The Pen," which is a lake that used to be agricultural land and was flooded during one of the many hurricanes in that area and became a prime fishing spot. It's a mixture of fresh and salt water and we catch bass on one end and sheephead and red fish on the other.
End of the Day
Dusk is my favorite time of day here at the camp. The night birds have started to call to each other, including an owl that lives deep in the bottoms. It is tremendous, a huge bird. I cannot even describe how large it is. The first time I saw it, I thought it was a joke of some kind that Joe had played, a stuffed animal of some sort. It was sitting calmly on a limb watching us fly by on our four-wheelers. There are whip-poor-whills, which are strange-looking little birds. They have a lonely cry. And of course, there are the frogs, constantly calling for more rain, more rain.
We are halfway through our trip. I am beginning to miss home a bit, my grandchildren, my friends, my washing machine and dryer. We have a TV here but haven't turned it on in years and I don't miss TV. I still work, but with a computer and a wireless connection, I am set to work all I want. It's just good to be away for a while. The days here drift by and seem so full of pretty things to see and fun things to do. We bought tomatoes from the lady down the road who sells them 3 pounds for $1. As she eyed her fresh tomatoes, she said: "They're just about to give out for the year". Although I lived in the country as a child, I would not want to live in the country all the time again, but it is like coming home to be here for a while.
This is sort of a postscript as I'm writing it the day after I wrote the article above. Today we went to Pete Wilson. We caught ten very nice large bream. We ran up on a stump and Joe almost turned the boat over, revving the motor to get it off the stump. We did get off eventually. It was very hot today. Joe bought me a floppy straw hat at Wal-Mart yesterday and I wore it today. It made me smile. I remember when I was 25 or 30, seeing the old ladies with their floppy hats and thinking how frumpy they were. Well, now I am one of them! We were followed about the lake by a round cloud which seemed almost alive as it trailed us and was made of a different type of cloud material than any others. I am adding a picture of it below and that is the end of my postscript.