by Vernon Garrison
Uncle Pet’s Creek started from a spring across the 4-H Club Road from Uncle Pet’s house on the hill. The spring was under the hill in a boggy place with a little path leading to it. Someone had kinda boxed it in, dug it out some, and hung a tin can dipper by a wire handle there by it in case of someone’s thirst.
I don’t know who first cleaned it up and used it, but it is said that from time-to-time someone had to carry water from this spring to the house, but I don’t remember that. I do remember that the water was so good and cold and was really a treat on a hot day for a thirsty country boy.
The creek ran from the spring down behind Cousin Jessie’s camp. Now we must have been poor as church mice because we never did have as good a set of toys as those that Cousin Jessie’s kids kept at the camp. There was Jessie, Jr. (Sonny), Grover (Beau), and Margaret Anne, but not in that order. They lived in Big Baton Rouge and came to the camp when they could.
We Levi Garrison boys would wander off up there, get a drink of cold water, hang our feet in the spring for awhile, and if Uncle Pet hadn’t caught us by then, sneak over to the camp and play with all those toys. There were trucks and swings and stilts and all sorts of stuff around, but the real killer was a Red Radio four-wheel wagon. Now there was nothing special about this wagon. It had all four wheels, a steering handle and a sound body, but the clincher was the cleared runway down the hill beside the camp. They had cleared a trail down into that bottomland and that wagon would just sail down that hill after a push. A boy would get in that wagon, grab the steering handle, get set, and holler “go.” Someone would give the thing a big push and off down the alley he’d go. What a thrill!
Of course, after awhile that would get tiresome, especially after two or three fights to see who would ride or who would push next…also if we saw Uncle Pet coming. Then we’d high-tail it down into the woods and wade down the creek toward the 4-H Club. If we had time, we’d grab another dipper of water.
We’d wade that creek because we had to. The brush and briars were so thick next to that water that there just was no walking. It cleared out some after getting on Grandpa’s place because he ran cows in there and they pretty well kept everything down. We’d catch crawfish that we saw of shoot at fish and birds if we had our slingshots along. If we could find a suitable container in those woods we could save those crawfish and sell them to old Mr. Jim Pirie for 25 cents a container. It was rumored that he actually ate them things. Ugh!
Anyway, the next stop on the creek was Uncle Robert’s alligator pen. He’d gotten his hands on a whole bunch of alligator eggs (that’s a whole ‘nother story) and brought them up to the 4-H. He got several pieces of old sheet metal roofing and built a circular pen around a little-bitty island in the creek. He laid all them eggs out there and covered them up with leaves and trash and mulch just as the mother gator would do. I think he hatched out thirty-two of them thirty-six eggs and had little ole squeaking alligators running all over the place. They just fascinated us. We’d poke ‘em with sticks, and they’d squeal and jump in the creek and try to hide. We’d grab one and get bit for our trouble. Oh, we had ‘em stirred up and mean. When Uncle Robert was around he’d usually run us off. Sometimes though he’d let us feed ‘em ground meat.
Further on down the creek, there was this kinda deep hole where the water had to back up to get over a hump. Now even though we could all swim like a fish, our mothers had laid down the law… “You can play in the creek but don’t go near the river.” So we decided to clean out this whole so we could swim. We’d previously drug out the logs, sticks, snakes and any roots we could pull up and just generally sanitized it. Now, there wasn’t anything we could do about the muddy bottom but “grin and bear it.” When we got to this hole the water was clear and cold…just right on a hot summer day…so we’d shuck off and dive in.
Now when I say dive in, you gotta understand, this ole hole wern’t near deep enough for any fancy show-off high dive or anything. Why even a shallow dive like a belly-flop would scrape a coupla pounds of mud off the bottom with your nose, your lower lip, your left eyelid (or even your right eyelid), and both ears. It’s funny how muddy a creek-size swimming hole can turn so muddy so quick after four ole country boys have shucked off and piled in. Why, once we were all in the thing there was hardly enough room left to call it a swimming hole.
Once we had all the mud we could stand, we’d put our clothes back on over it and head on down the creek. From this point on the creek was sorta deep and had some quiet pools with pretty big fish in them. So it was near there that we hid our fish poles. We’d dig out a worm or two, or grab a few grasshoppers, fish. We’d have to hurry along and get ahead of all of the mud water we had stirred up, and sometimes this was a problem. If we swam too long we might not get to fish unless we wanted to fish in muddy water.
We’ve caught some pretty impressive strings outa that ole Uncle Pet Creek. We made the mistake of taking a string or two home, and that led to trouble. From then on when one of our fathers needed trot-line bait, guess who had to catch it. Even them darn older brothers got in the act...bless their lazy hides!
But what really led to a heap of trouble was the day we went too far. We had been told and told...fish the creek but stay out of the river. Well, the creek empties into the river so, we reasoned, we could fish up to where the creek actually touched the river. So we did. How was we to know that this big ole catfish had decided that day to tour up the creek just a little piece? That sucker fell prey to the worm or grasshopper we was using (I can’t recall who the culprit was that brought all the grief down on us). Anyways, the fight was on.
That ole catfish gave our Uncle Pet’s Creek fishin’ pole fits, but when we finally drug him to shallow water he didn’t stand a chance. We just pounced on him and drug him up on the bank of the creek.
Oh, he was a whopper! Why, he musta weighed four pounds...well, two pounds at least. Oh, we was proud! We strung him on a stringer with the perch we had snagged and took off for the house. We were so excited that we forgot to hide the Uncle Pet Creek fishin’ poles...we took ’em with us.
Have you ever tried to tell a mad mama how you caught these little ole mud-hole perch and this monster two-pound catfish up in—way up in—in Uncle Pet’s Creek? Take it from me, forget it. But don’t forget to hide them Uncle Pet’s Creek fishin’ pole before you get to the house. There ain’t a mad mama anywhere in this universe who’s gonna believe four lying boys about this monster two-pound channel catfish that was caught in Uncle Pet’s Creek...way up the creek.
Besides that you’re gonna have to go cut the switch she’s gonna whip you with, and if it breaks you’re gonna have to cut another one. And oh yeah, you’re gonna have to go to the chopping block and chop up every one of those Uncle Pet’s Creek fishin’ poles.
And that’s the way it was, down on Uncle Pet’s Creek!
Vernon Garrison lives in Denham Springs, Louisiana, and is a descendant of James N. Erwin, Jr., who was the fifth child and fourth son of James and Agness Irvine (Erwin), our immigrant ancestors.