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My Part of the Ocmulgee

written by: Drew Fuller

My wife got everything in the divorce. When I left city life I had nothing but my pickup truck and my tools. At least I had no payments.

My Uncle Jimmy built a cabin on the bank of the Ocmulgee River. He had moved out years before he died, but the family had always used it for a hunting and fishing cabin. I had nowhere else to go, so there I went.

The cabin is really on what’s left of a hill. It’s been eaten away by a creek on one side and the river on the other. The tall bank is why the cabin overlooks the river. The flood plain in this part of the state is rather large and the river is out of it’s banks nearly every hard rain. The fishing really isn’t good when the water’s up.

I’ve been able to make some money when I have to because my cousin has a lawn maintenance company. I also was an electrician in Atlanta and word gets around, but I don’t look for jobs. Everything I need is here, for the most part.

Wild pigs roam the banks of the river. These are feral animals and they really dig up the ground looking for different truffles and such. They have a great sense of smell, but not such great eyesight. I usually hear them before I see them. Got to keep it small, though. Over a hundred pounds or so and it takes a lot of work to get the gamely taste out. I could also hunt deer, but that’s what everybody hunts. Turkeys are great. Also quite the challenge.

Mostly the diet is fish. Changing the tackle changes the fish caught. Some I release, but I’ve even gotten good at cooking eels. Even the Garfish can be cleaned with a saw. Ok, I’m a little lazy. But a bad day fishing on the river is better than the best day I ever had working.

One thing I do a couple of times a year is go after big catfish. That’s so I can stock the freezer for when the river floods for too long. It takes very large hooks and pretty much rope. I tie it to trees lying in the river or on the bank. I also some times run a trotline from bank to bank. The bait can be a lot of things. I’ve even had good luck with a chunk of Ivory soap.

The process then becomes going up and down the river, pulling in fish and baiting hooks. Every once and a while there will be a hook straightened out. I usually blame alligators. There is one about ten feet long that likes to sunbath on a sandbank just upstream from the cabin, but there are not as many as you’ll find just a few miles downstream. There they line the banks.

It was Saturday afternoon and the fishing had not been that good. The river had just dropped a few days before and it was time to bring the lines in and start cleaning. I had maybe a hundred pounds of fish with the night and morning invested in time.

I was pulling in the last trotline when I caught it. When the river floods, it moves sand around with the current. The line was in a bend of the river and there was a lot of sand leading to the main chanel against the bank. When the last hook snagged I knew the water wasn’t more than three feet deep, but I was surprised there was anything but sand.

I followed the line and reached down expecting to find some wood or something. Instead I found a foot. A human foot with only the ankle and foot sticking out of the sand. There was more buried under the sand, but even with my gloves on I could tell the skin was not exactly fresh. The river is almost always muddy and I couldn’t see the bottom then. I did feel the hook stuck in the ankle and walked back to my boat on the bank.

One phone number that everybody on the river has is Rich the Game Warden. You just want to be able to get some help with armed trespassers. Sometimes it a hunting club member wandering off the club’s property, sometimes somebody looking to feed his family. My family and his went to the same church and he’s actually known me my entire life.

I called and explained what I had found. He said there was a man in a canoe that left Abbyville and never made it to Jacksonville. They had been searching and were hoping for better results now that the water had dropped. He would be there as fast as he could if I would wait.

I hadn’t gotten half the fish scaled or skinned before I heard his jet boat coming upstream. When he got there he confirmed my findings and said he had already called divers out of Macon. I hadn’t seen him much since I married that city girl so we spent some time getting caught up until he went to pick up the divers.

When they returned the divers got in the water and came up with a plan. They removed my hook and tied a rope to the ankle. Rich then moved his boat upstream and they tied the rope to his boat. Rich kept the line tight, but not so much as to damage the appendage. The divers went down and started to paddle their hands at the leg. This stirred up the sand and there was a plume of even muddier water tracing downstream.

I put up the last of the tackle and went back to cleaning my fish. The divers would poke their head out and shout progress reports to Rich, but it was a slow process. I was skinning a catfish when I heard a splash.

I looked up to see a body clear the water rising in the air. A body that looked like a marshmallow man, bloated beyond anything that could be mistaken as fat. The body was rising with the rope still pulled tight when Rich cut power. The body reached as high as the rope would allow, then started back down. It landed in the back of Rich’s boat.

The divers came up and it took a second for them to figure out what had happened. Rich was being very vocal, but not much help explaining. The divers were laughing as I decided I had seen enough. I started my boat and went back to the cabin to finish cleaning the fish. I had a smile thinking they all had to ride the boat back to the ramp.

I haven’t seen Rich since then. I have to ask him who cleaned his boat.

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