If you have never been fishing out at Cypress Springs Lake in East Texas, you are missing out. Here is a “Tale from the Tackle Box.”
After arriving in Dallas the age of twenty-five to take a sales position with an industrial chemical company, my first order of business was to introduce myself to the myriad of customers that covered the Dallas Metroplex area (Dallas and surrounding suburbs). The sales representative that I had replaced had mysteriously disappeared during his rounds and nobody, including his wife, had a clue what had happened to him. The FBI had been called in to investigate, but this was neither here nor there: my job was to pick up where he had left off.
I was warned that there would be hostility from some of the customers, being that the previous salesman was a local, well liked, and I was a Yankee; but I was confident that with time, a good expense account, and plenty of liquor, I would be able to win all of them over. With these thoughts in mind, I put on my coat and tie and headed to our number one account. The man in charge of the plant, Robert Nolan, had been a close acquaintance of the missing sales rep and I had no idea what to expect as I entered the factory. “I’m here to see Mr. Nolan,” I told the secretary as I handed her my card. “Have a seat,” she said. Picking up her telephone, I overheard her say, “That damn Yankee is here.”
Robert entered the lobby wearing cowboy boots, jeans, and a bolo tie. He was a middle-aged man of jovial countenance and a hall of fame Lone Star beer gut. “Hello Robert, my name is Gary O’Callaghan,” I said, holding out my hand to greet him.
“Why can’t you damn Yankees stay put,” he said with a serious face.
“Just a jokin’─ come on in son and we’ll have a beer.”
I looked at my watch, which read nine o’clock and remembered that the customer was always right ─“Sounds good,” I said.
Entering Robert’s office, which was decorated with deer antlers, a hideous-looking boar head with spittle on its tusk, and numerous mammoth largemouth bass, I sat down. “Those bass are unbelievable,” I said while looking up at the trophies.
“We have some of the best black bass fishing in the country,” Robert replied as he reached into the refrigerator behind his desk and cracked open a couple cold Lone Star beers.
“Where do you fish at?” I asked.
“Mostly at Lake Fork, but I have a secret lake that not too many people know about.”
“What lake is that?”
“Cypress Springs ─ it’s a small lake, but it’s loaded with bass. I have a mobile home out there and I go on the weekends; it’s a great place to get away from my wife. If you would like to come out sometime, let me know. As a matter of fact, I’m going next weekend.
“If that’s an invitation, I’m in: I love to fish.”
“Where do you live?”
“In Rockwall,” I replied.
“That’s on the way. I’ll pick you up around five o’clock on Friday in my truck. Bring your golf clubs and we can hit a few balls out there.”
“One other thing,” Robert said.
“Lose that coat and tie around here before someone hangs you from a tree.”
I considered the sales call a smashing success. Not only had I befriended the plant manager, but I was also invited to go fishing and golfing with him. After a few more sales calls I rushed home to do some research on Cypress Springs Lake. I discovered that Cypress Springs was a small lake by Texas standards covering about 3,500 acres and was located seven miles south of Mt. Vernon in an area called the Piney Woods. The article indicated that the lake was spring fed and crystal clear with good populations of bass, crappie, catfish, and bream.
When Robert picked me on Friday, I was already standing in front of my house with my wife, holding my fishing gear in one hand and my golf clubs in the other. I felt like a little kid going on vacation. Throwing my “tools of the trade” in the back of Robert’s truck, I bid my wife farewell. “Have a good time and be safe,” she said as she cautiously viewed Robert’s rifle and shotgun mounted on the rear indoor panel of the truck.
Pulling onto the highway, Robert put on his George Strait tape and informed me that we were going to make a pit stop at the liquor store. Driving into what appeared to be a dilapidated red barn stacked with beer, a man approached the truck. “What can I do you fellers for?” he asked.
“Get us three cases of Lone Star beer,” Robert told him.
“You got it.”
I watched in bewilderment as the man loaded up the beer and we got back on the road. “What in the hell was that?” I asked.
“What does it look like? ─ It’s a ‘beer barn,’ you damn Yankee.”
“You’re telling me that you can buy beer without getting out of the truck.”
“Not only that, but you can drink in the truck while you are driving: it’s a god-given right in Texas. Now crack me a cold one and shut the hell up.”
By the time we got to the Cypress Springs we had both consumed a six-pack of beer. We unloaded our gear and upon entering the mobile home, I noticed several golf balls imbedded in the aluminum siding of the building. “Son of a bitch,” I heard Robert grumble. Turning on the lights, he pulled out a bottle of Jack Daniels and poured two shots. “How about a nightcap?” he asked. We hammered the shots and immediately passed out.
At six in the morning I was awakened by Robert, had a quick breakfast that included some kind of obnoxious concoction called “tequila grits,” and then headed to Robert’s boat. I was stunned to see a beautiful crystal clear lake with a shoreline surrounded by pine trees and rolling hills. The geography of the area was similar to the resorts that I had visited for vacations in Wisconsin and Michigan when I was a child. “Geez Robert, I had no idea that East Texas had pine trees and rolling hills.”
“Not only pine trees and rolling hills, but also big “Bucketmouth” bass ─ let’s get to fishin’.”
We spent the morning hammering some nice black bass in the three to four pound range using spinner baits. After a quick lunch and a brief nap back at the mobile home, we resumed fishing about three o’clock and fished all the way until dark. We caught some nice frying-pan sized crappie and limited out on beer bass. Returning to camp, we cleaned the fish, cooked them up for dinner, and then sat down outside on some lawn chairs with the bottle of Jack.
“What a great day,” I told Robert suddenly realizing that it was almost midnight. “Where do you guys play golf around here?”
“I was just getting to that portion of program. What club do you hit about one hundred and fifty yards?”
“My seven iron.”
“Go inside and get your seven and that bag of shag balls on the floor.”
When I returned, Robert was standing up and looking at a grove of towering pine trees about thirty yards away. “The object of this game is to clear the trees directly in front of us. You are going to have to get the ball up fast in order to hit the target.”
“Never mind that ─ hand me that seven iron and stand back,” he said as he took another swig of the bourbon. Robert set the bottle down and took a mighty hack, sending the ball screaming over the pine trees into the darkness. “Whack!”
“What the hell was that?”
“I’m on the green,” he said.
“Give me that club,” I said, emboldened by the whiskey. I took a swig of the “Jack,” teed up an old Top Flite, and took a colossal liquor-induced cut. “Thack!”
“That was a mighty good approach, my Yankee friend. My turn.”
Our golf game continued into the wee hours of the night until we had consumed all the Jack and hit nearly all the shag balls. Robert took another hack and sent a ball screaming into the night. “Crash!”
“What was that?”
“That was glass. We bess get some sleep.”
“What were we hitting?” I asked.
“My brother-in-law has his mobile unit down yonder.”
“Your tellin’ me that those balls were hitting your brother-in-laws house?”
“Yep, screw him. You saw those golf balls stuck in my siding. Its a little game we play ─ kinda of like a drunkin’ Ryder Cup of East Texas.
“Isn’t he going to be pissed?”
“I reckon, but he ain’t here this weekend, so screw him. Let’s get some sleep.”
Shaking my head, I followed Robert into the mobile unit. I couldn’t believe that we had just shelled his brother-in-law’s home with about one hundred golf balls, shellacking the siding of the unit, and probably knocking out several windows. I laid down on the cot and had just closed my eyes, when I heard a noise. Looking up, I saw a huge bearded man standing above me in the darkness, holding a shotgun.
Son of a bitch! They’re pulling a “Deliverance” on me!
The light suddenly went on. “Now take it easy, Bubba,” Robert told the man as he eased toward him.
“Don’t take another step you yella, golf ball hackin’, foot wedge usin’, son of a bitch!”
“Now you know we were just a funnin’,” Robert said.
“Not while I’m a sleepin’.”
“I didn’t think you were going to be here this week. Now you take a shot of this here whiskey and put that gun down.”
The man seemed to ease off as Robert handed him a bottle from the cupboard. He took a huge gulp and then seemed to relax. “Thought a damn bear was breakin’ in,” he said with a laugh. We finished the bottle off and talked until dawn. “I bess try and get some sleep,” Bubba said, as he picked up his shotgun and headed out the door, “And no more golf balls!”
Robert peeked out the window and watched as Bubba disappeared into the woods. “That was a close one: that crazy son of a bitch could have easily shot both of us.”
Six months later, the missing sales rep was discovered by the FBI in a quarry filled with water, still sitting in his truck with a set of golf clubs in the back of the pick-up. He had been shot by shotgun blast to the head and I conjectured whether he had gone “fishin’ and a golfin’” with Robert.
G.O. Fishin’: Tall Tales from the Tackle Box.
Available at Amazon.com/books/garyocallaghan