January 21, 2010
If you’ve committed a crime and the cops are chasing you through Zapata, Texas and you see the pictured Valero station with the bright yellow “Laredo Taco Company” insignia outside, it would behoove you to pull over. You’ll probably be able to down at least one taco before they get you. Two if you eat fast. It’s a perfect last meal as a free man and by the time you hit the bridge a short distance south the tire spikes would likely have rendered your vehicle useless anyway. If you’re gonna get caught, go out with a full belly.
Similarly, if your soon-to-be-ex-wife has your Escalade within reach of her nine iron as you head down Highway 83, pull over and grab some grub. The gustatory pleasure is worth the pain. A shot to the gonads might be overkill, but a few broken ribs or a cracked skull would be a fair trade.
I got on the Valero breakfast taco kick last year when Kurt Dove and I were down at Falcon. We’d stop in to gas up (the vehicle, the boat and ourselves) each morning and grab three tacos apiece – some days bacon, egg and cheese; other days chorizo, egg and cheese; we may have even gone a little wacko once or twice and gone with ham, egg and cheese. Those three tacos and a few drinks would last us through the day of fishing: one in the truck on the way to the ramp, one late morning and one in the early afternoon. They’re good hot, but in my opinion they’re even better cold, as the cheese congeals and binds everything up into a perfect edible morsel of sunshine.
This year, I had three the first day of fishing, four the second and two on the third (thereby averaging my standard three), but on the fourth day I wimped out and declined the folded goodness. I got fruit instead. Now that I’m back home, I’m regretting that decision. All I can figure is that I had Mexican food for dinner every night while I was there and I was completely tacoed out. If only I had gone with a chicken fried steak one night, I would not have made that mistake. Regardless, now that I’m back, I’m convinced that I need to make a power play for one of the tortilla ladies. It’s a gas station, but they have employees who do nothing but make tortillas all day – for the locals, the anglers and the oil field workers who line up ten deep to get them. We don’t get tortillas like that anywhere around here, at least as far as I’m aware. Accordingly, I’m sure that we could arrange some sort of cultural exchange program. Maybe we’ll send them a congressman and they’ll send us one of the taco ladies. I’m willing to pay for her plane ticket and give her HBO in her room here at Hacienda Robbins.
January 21, 2010
The one on the right spent six years throwing passes for a living to receivers like Michael Irvin and the Miami Marks (Duper and Clayton), but it's the one on the left in the Favre jersey who you have to watch out for -- sneaky little SOB like that would probably be a terror running either the option or the wildcat. No matter who's calling the signals, however, those are four Falcon Lake footballs.
The Old Ninety Sixer
January 20, 2010
There’s a popular restaurant in Zapata called “El Paraiso.” I say it’s popular because I’ve been there at least once all three times I’ve been to Falcon and it always seems reasonably crowded, but I have no empirical evidence about their profitability or the number of customers they serve as compared to the competition, so please forgive my choice of words.
My rudimentary and rapidly dwindling Spanish language abilities tell me that the name should be pronounced “EL PAHR-AH-EE-SO,” but all of the locals say it like “EL PUHR-EE-ZEE-OHS” – and when close to Roma (Texas), I do as the locals do, especially since these locals carry guns and control my access to Mexican food, which, along with Thai food, is at the top of my list of favorites (the common thread, it seems, would be hot peppers). But along with their Mexican specialties, this little restaurant also produces an artery-clogging piece of artistry in the form of a massive chicken fried steak (CFS) doused in cheesy gravy. You can also get chili on top if you want to hurry up the need for a quadruple bypass. Apparently it’s famous among Texans (and to Yankees who like to fish and understand that CFS does not involve poultry (much like a pineapple is neither pine nor apple).
While I’ve seen people order El Paraiso’s CFS before, they’re typically assured by the waitress that the small is more than most people can handle. For my good friend Alan Clemons, however, that was the type of challenge that forced him into action. He ordered the large CFS, a hubcap of beef doused in the cheesy gravy (“on the side is for wimps,” he opined) and ate every last morsel. He may have even licked the remaining gravy off the plate for good measure. If “finger lickin’ good” hadn’t already been trademarked, AC could have been the restaurant’s Colonel Sanders.
He is a man among men and he walked out under his own power, no breathing tube necessary.
Make It Rain
January 13, 2010
We’re just over 24 hours from our arrival in Zapata Rock City and Clemons has informed me that we’re about to take a ride in the spin cycle of the washing machine. Specifically, the weather report says we’re gonna have nasty thunderstorms and two to four inches of rain on Friday.
If that wasn’t plaintive enough: Why? Why me? Why us?
Last week’s heavy winds produced waves that destroyed a lot of equipment on the first day of the [Insert Name Here, formerly Stren] event on Falcon. The dudes fishing the Southern Open this week at Okeechobee have practiced through an extended period of bitter cold. Some jerk will always catch them well, but the Florida strains don’t like it one bit. Why is it that when a bass tournament rolls into town, or whenever there’s a big event planned, the weather turns to dog-crap of the we’ve-never-seen-this-here-before variety?
If the PETA folks really wanted to hit home, they’d show up at our tournaments with signs that say “Mother Nature Hates Bass Fishermen.” While I don’t like them, the burden of proof would be shifted our way – and the evidence seems to favor their case.
Not So Friendly Skies
January 11, 2010
In response to a complaint that recounted the horrors of our December 12 flight to Mazatlan, which resulted in a delay of over half a day, lost luggage, great angst, exhaustion on our first day of fishing and some incidental costs -- and which was only saved because I sat in three hours of lines and pleaded with three gate agents (two of whom made no effort to help) -- Continental has given each member of our five person group a voucher for $125 towards another trip on Continental.
Half of our journey was ruined, and I know that Hanna and I spent $537 apiece on our flights. $125 seems like a paltry sum to me, a half-assed offer. It also presumes that I want to fly Continental at some point in the future, which I'm not at all convinced that I do. I suppose mechanical problems could happen to any airline, but the rudeness and apathy that greeted the cancellation of our flight borders on unforgivable....or are all of the airlines that bad these days?
Am I being unreasonable to expect slightly greater compensation, even if it's just a voucher -- or is trusting your travel happiness to the airlines like letting Michael Vick watch your dogs and R. Kelly babysit your preteen daughter?
The Pride of Alabama
January 10, 2010
In 2004, I thought I saw the best that Alabama had to offer. My friend Bill Roberts and I were just a short drive north of Waterfront Tackle, right beside famed Lake Guntersville, when we passed by a small cinderblock house flanked by a satellite dish twice its size. There was a mangy dog taking a crap in the yard.
With that sort of intro, it should be no surprise that Bill and I ventured back the next year, dragging friends Bryant Copley and Mike Semenec with us. It should furthermore not confuse anyone when I say that I was alert as a drove that same road, heading back from a ramp in Seibold Creek to our rental house. I expected to see more of the same, and indeed I did. It was as if Norman “Bubba” Rockwell had gotten out the tracing paper and made one small mistake – the house was the same, the dish was there again, but this time it was a flea-bitten llama rather than a dog that was defecating as the Suburban made its way up the road.
While the house/dish/llama combo might’ve won something on “America’s Funniest and Most Disturbing Home Videos,” it wasn’t the oddest sight of the February 2005 journey. That would been when Bill and Bryant drove through the town of Guntersville and passed by “Bubba’s Fine Men’s Attire” (they swear on their best flipping sticks that such a place existed and I’m inclined to believe them, if nothing else because it makes for such a funny concept).
What do they sell at Bubba’s? T-shirt tuxedos? Both work and formal coveralls? Mossy Oak cummerbunds (don’t laugh – Google “Mossy Oak tuxedo” or “Mossy Oak wedding” and you’ll get a bunch of hits). It doesn’t matter. It’s the highbrow/lowbrow juxtaposition that intrigues me so much.
And that was before I met Alan “The Situation” Clemons.
AC, you see, is one of the deans of the fraternity of fishing writers. We’ve spent some time together in recent years, at the Classic and Kentucky Lake, and I pester him nonstop most weeks with emails and calls about all of the fishing gossip.
If I thought Bubba’s was the height of high/low Alabama culture, I was wrong. I learned that shortly after I became friends with AC. Something just ain’t right with him. While bass fishing is our most frequent topic, other subjects of interest include the New York Times food section (food, like fishing, is a bond). I can talk with him about the legislative process and learn something along the way, even though I depend on the gub’mint for my livelihood. But every time I start to think that Auburn’s finest is living and thinking in the stratosphere, he sends me pictures from some sort of bowfishing slaughter or rapturously describes the taste of a can of Vienna Sausages that’d been behind his couch for a decade or two.
While we’ve become good friends, AC and I have not yet fished together. That’s going to change this week, because we’re two-fifths of a group of goobers headed to south Texas this Thursday to fish Falcon and possibly Sugar Lake for a few days. I’ve been to Falcon twice and all I’ve chased are bass. Fortunately, that’s also all I’ve caught. But AC got wind that there are some monster catfish down there, along with gar that’ll fill the bed of a full-sized pickup and that got him even more revved up than the little (or hopefully not-so-little) green fish I aim to catch. He’s convinced we’re gonna sit on the bank one night, drinking beer and trying to catch finny prehistoric monsters – rattlesnakes and scorpions be damned.
But if I thought he was excited about the roughfishapalooza, he was just about bursting when he started talking about the high-end binoculars he’s packing to do a little bird-watching. What’s with this guy? Is he going to wear tobacco-stained overalls and a jaunty tweed chapeau? Maybe a shooting jacket with a trucker’s hat that reads “Red Man.”
The purpose of the trip is to get some fodder for the various magazines and websites. Somehow I have a feeling I’m going to come home with some stories that no magazine will believe. When he starts spewing out the Latin names of the flora and fauna, I’ll just shake my head.
When he yells “Hold my beer and watch this,” I’ll know to be very far away.
Understatement of the Day
January 8, 2010
"You never want to go to jail."
- University of Texas defensive end Sergio Kindle, in the New York Times
Texas vs. Alabama
January 7, 2010
It’s down to two candidates for the nation’s number one. Number one fishing state, that is.
I don’t mean any disrespect to California. They’re the Boise State in this mess – pretty damn good but without a meaningful opportunity to prove they’re number one. After all, this is about chicken-fried bassing in water brewed of sweet tea. It’s about big old spinnerbaits and nasty gator-filled swamps, not twelve-inch swimbaits and three-inch reapers.
It’s gotta be Texas and Alabama. Some Georgians and Floridians will surely squawk. These days, even the Japanese have something of a leg to stand on. But c’mon, it’s all about these two, and their proponents would no doubt fight to the death on their states’ behalf. It’s like barbecue . . . everyone thinks their local stuff is the best.
So which one’s the national champ?
I’ve fished in both states – at Rayburn, Toledo Bend and Falcon in Texas, and at Guntersville, Wheeler and Logan Martin in Alabama. I have my opinions, but I’m still not sure where I’d come down.
Texas gave us the aptly-named Texas rig, and you’re no sort of bass fisherman if you haven’t used one.
Alabama is the original home of BASS and the Bass Boss, Ray Scott.
So that’s a draw, I suppose.
Texas produces bigger largemouths, but Alabama has more great smallmouth and spotted bass fisheries. Which is more important?
After that, it gets even murkier.
Which state has more diversity in water types and cover?
Which state has more great fisheries per square mile?
Which state suffers from greater fishing pressure?
Which state has produced the greatest pro anglers?
Which fight harder, Falcon largemouths or Coosa River spotted bass?
If you could only fish one state for the rest of your life, which one would it be?
Which one produces better barbecue? Which do you prefer, breakfast tacos or grits? (Remember, it always comes back to food)
Maybe they’ll settle this on the field tonight . . . in Pasadena. Damn Californians.
Scenes From a Shopping Mall
January 6, 2010
Sorry for the crappy quality of this picture and the one in the recent dog blog. They were both taken with my phone, and while the little Crackberry probably has better technical capabilities than the pinhole cameras that Clemons successfully used at the start of his lengthy career as a newspaperman, I’m a veritable Luddite when it comes to technology.
It’s the words that matter here anyway, and you get the point. If you want to proceed past this sign to purchase a bubblegum pink prom dress (with or without strategic cutouts) or a pair of booty-hugging shorts, you’re gonna have to leave the corn dog and the Orange Julius at the door.
I understand the vendor’s point, but what’s with the pitiful use of punctuation? I’ve railed against misused apostrophes in the past, but I’ve neglected to call out excessive exclamation points (!!!). My basic take on them is that if your words don’t make your point, adding these vestigial pieces of punctuation won’t magically transform them – and the only thing worse than one exclamation point is multiples. This goober hits the big time. Not only does he use multiple EPs (as we in the biz call them), but he has them in the wrong place. They’re supposed to be after “drink” and “food,” not “no” and “no.” [Does all of this speculation and opinion make me a grammar nerd like my editor (sorry Heidi), or is there a particular place in hell reserved for punctuation nerds? If only I had strong feelings about punctuation other than apostrophes and exclamation points (and could use them all properly), I would aspire to be one, but as it is I’m some sort of useless savant.]
Now back to your regularly scheduled fishing column, which those of you still reading may have noticed is becoming less and less about fishing, but all of this back story and anger is at least tangentially related to fishing. The reason that the redhead and I were at the mall in the first place was to visit Bass Pro Shops…at least that was my reason.
After spending a substantial part of January 1st sorting my plastics, I realized the deficiencies in my arsenal (slim to none) and resolved to keep the wheels of commerce spinning. When January 2nd dawned with 20 degree temperatures and howling winds, I was nevertheless determined to leave the house for the first time in 36 hours, come frostbite, discomfort or shrinkage.
True outdoor worlds were out of the question, but Outdoor World itself was not. Fortunately, it’s attached to a larger mall from the “Mills” chain with all sorts of outlets for underused credit cards and that sold the wife on the 40 mile journey. After making my BPS purchases and running them out to the vehicle, we had lunch and then endeavored to make a lap of the mall. A few observations and queries, in no particular order:
I think I’d pay a premium of 5% on all purchases to go to a stroller-free mall
People who bring double strollers to the mall should be charged a 5% premium (10% if the seats are side-by-side instead of one in front of the other)
I really want to go to Medieval Times at some point before I die, if nothing else so I can yell “Wench, bring me a turkey leg!” and not get slapped
Who walks through the mall and suddenly decides they can’t live without that pen and ink drawing of Tupac or Tony Montana?
As one of the silent minority who would benefit from a left-handed store (like that unsuccessfully launched by Ned Flanders), why have I never seen one?
Even when the wife drags me in there, I still feel a little bit dirty every time I enter Victoria’s Secret
Who would win a fight, Tommy Hilfiger or Eddie Bauer? My money’s on Eddie, although judging from their storefronts the financials might say otherwise; and
This one from the redhead herself: “Dippin’ Dots has been the ice cream of the future for as long as I can remember. When will it become the ice cream of the present?”
New Year, No New Dog
January 1, 2010
Two o'clock in the afternoon on New Year's Day and I'm out in the garage sorting plastics (isn't that what everyone does on January 1st?), packing for a trip to Falcon in two weeks and contemplating a complete overhaul of my pegboard system, when in walks the fine-looking dog in the attached picture. I caught him out of the corner of my eye and assumed it was Riley, our Australian Shepherd, but then when I turned to greet her it turned out that he looked nothing like her.
At first I was taken aback -- while I love dogs and have two of them, I'm always a bit wary of a strange animal -- but this guy was a tail-wagging fool. He followed me out of the garage and towards the house. I went for the door but if I opened it up he was going to waltz right in and meet up with our canine welcoming committee, which was a bad idea for a number of reasons. So I headed back to the fridge in the garage, opened it up and found a lot of beer and one pack of peanut butter crackers, which I used to keep him occupied while I ran into the house to get a leash and a wife.
We returned outside and he was still there, peanut butter crackers uneaten. What kind of a dog has higher food standards than a bass fisherman? He wasn't going anywhere, a true velcro hound like our two goofballs. Hanna called animal control, they said they were on their way, so we dug in for a wait of about half an hour. At one point she gave me the look that said "No, we're not keeping him." I reached that same conclusion when he decided to "mark" and left a small squirt on my tackle bag. Still, we bonded with him quickly, just a good friendly dog. Hopefully, he's an escapee rather than a neglectee.
Animal control arrived and the officer (after assuring us it's a no-kill shelter) took the leash and led our new friend toward the back of his van. As they neared the cage, the dog dug in his heels (all four of them) and refused to budge. "He's been in here before," the officer said. Eventually, with a little coaxing and a little force, we got him in.
It's not my place to go all Bob Barker on you and implore you to spay or neuter your pets, nor do I need to remind anyone that dogs can and will get out if given the slightest opportunity. But we live on a busy street and in 6 years here this is the second time this has happened (the first time was a similarly friendly 10 month old black lab). Our dogs are old (12 and 9) and I'm going to be crushed when they go, but it would crush me even more if their demise was somehow my fault.
I think we did a good thing today, but I can't help but feel that the incremental burden of a third dog, as well as the joy that another one could provide us, would be worth it to prevent today's new friend from having to see the back of the van again.