Friday, April 22, 2011

Harrison Bay

Harrison Bay, in Tennessee, is a beautiful place to go fishing and camping in the summer. The park looks much the same as it did when I was a child the year my momma decided to go water skiing. My aunt, Jonnie Bell, and her husband, Robert, owned a boat. They met Momma and Daddy at the lake. After they showed my parents how to water ski they talked Momma into trying it. Momma was afraid she would drown so she bid me a tearful goodbye and I wished her luck. Robert kept telling her that if she fell down she needed to let go of the rope and she would resurface. Momma wore a life jacket because she couldn't swim.

Momma took her teeth out and handed them to Daddy for safekeeping. She said she didn't want to lose them if she drowned. She squatted down and leaned back as my uncle pushed the throttle and gave the engine gas. She came up kind of wobbly but she lost her balance and began churning through the water face first. She was holding on for dear life to the rope. She thought she was going to drown and she couldn't think straight. She said she would have drowned but the rope had twisted in a knot and pinched her finger causing her to remember what Robert had said, "Let go of the rope!" When she let go of the rope she was finally able to surface and breathe again. Robert brought her back to the bank where she was able to wade out of the water and give me a tearful hug and thank her lucky stars she was alive. 

Daddy got to take his turn water skiing and he came up out of the water like a pro. He skied around the lake until he fell into the water. As Robert circled around to come back and pick him up Daddy realized he could stand up in the middle of the lake. There was a sandbar underneath the lake and he happened to land on it. Daddy was able to start skiing again from the middle of the lake and came back to the bank, sliding over the water like a water bug until he got out. I was too little to water ski so I got to watch the excitement from the sidelines.

When Donny and I got married we went camping sometimes at Carter's Lake. We didn't start camping at Harrison Bay until Donny's momma, Edwadene, got remarried to Charlie McAllister. They were both widowed. Charlie's daughter-in-law worked with Donny's momma and introduced them.

Edwadene didn't like Charlie at first. She called him "that old man". I think she thought he was too old for her. Charlie was gray headed and big and burly. He had a smokers squint. Charlie set out to win Edwadene over with stuffed animals and presents. He was outgoing and friendly. Before long nearly everyone in the family liked him. Charlie convinced Edwadene to marry him.

Charlie loved to go fishing and camping at Harrison Bay. His family went up there every year for a week during the fourth of July. He wanted Edwadene to get her children to go camping with his family so that we could all get to know each other. 

Charlie's daughters, Deborah and Teresa, went camping with their families and friends. Deborah and Teresa's kids were close to the age of Tony's kids so they made friends quickly. Everybody had fun fishing and swimming and camping around the lake. 

We finally started camping on the campgrounds because of the convenience of having fresh water and a shower close by. Edwadene and Charlie had a huge camper that they set up close to the lake so that Charlie could keep an eye on his boat. The kids ran from one camp site to another playing with one another. 

Colt and Scout had been running around with the other kids. Colt was running around barefoot and stepped on a fish hook. He started screaming. Scout tried to help him but saw he couldn't get the hook out. He started dragging Colt, with one foot on the ground hopping, towards us. Colt was screaming and Scout was yelling that Colt needed help. Donny got some pliers and worked the hook out of Colt's foot. Colt was alright but he learned not to run around without shoes any more.

Charlie's family was very outgoing and close to each other. Part of the reason for that may have been because Charlie lost his wife and his son in the same year and he had been deeply depressed until he met Edwadene. They all wanted their daddy to be happy. But the biggest reason it was fun to be around Charlie and his family was because they were genuinely nice people. They really did love each other and look on the sunny side of life. Even with all their troubles they were happy.  

We had lots of fun when we went camping together. I think I got to know and like Donny's family better because we all got together and bonded. Until Charlie came into the Strickland's life I didn't know how much fun they could be. Tony was always joking around and entertaining everyone. Myra kept the kids busy and took them to the swimming pool. The boys chased snakes and looked for turtles. Time spent around the campfire was the best. Some primitive instinct must link us all by our fascination with fire.

The highlight of the camping trip for the men was the fishing. Charlie taught everyone about jug fishing. He had plastic pepsi bottles spray painted neon orange with a string tied to the neck and a fish hook on the end of the string. At night the men gathered around and cut up chunks of brim to bait the hooks. They wrapped the string around the bottle with the fish attached and put them in a black trashbag until it was full of jugs with bait. Charlie made up about a hundred jugs and then went out into the current to drop the jugs late at night. He would get up again early in the morning to go pull the jugs in. The  boys said that was the best part. They loved pulling the huge catfish into the boat and looking for more jugs on the water.

I miss the good old days when we all went camping together.


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  1. Nice memories, Pam. I have memories like those of camping with my folks and spending vacation at the beach. You know what they say about the family that plays together!

  2. I thought it was dirty and hot but everybody seemed to have a ball and it was really nice to camp with a big family.


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