This past weekend my Dad went gigging with Ross, his dad and their friend Ronnie.
For those of you unfamiliar with the term gigging (a lot of people think it's catching frogs), here's what it is. You take your john boat with your nice motor out onto the river at night. You have a light bar and gigging rails on the front of your boat. When you get to a nice little place in the river and start looking for fish, you just motor around with the trolling motor while the people in the front of the boat are looking down into the water for fish. Around here it's suckers that are gigged. They have these really long poles that have a fork looking thing on the end of it for stabbing fish. So, when they see one they ram this long pole into the water and try to "gig" a fish. It's a huge deal in this part of the country. The season goes from September 15 - January 31th. The men (and some women too) are just crazy for it.
Another part of gigging on the Meremac involves driving your boat very fast up and down the river looking for your favorite fishing hole. Since the Meremac is known to be pretty shallow the speed is necessary so your boat won't drag the bottom and get hung up on gravel bars and such. If your driving around slowly in the boat, the motor and the back end of the boat are pretty far down into the water, when you increase your speed the boat will rise up level and plane across the top of the water. There are a lot of twists and turns in the Meremac so you really have to be on guard at all times when you drive fast up the river going through one 90 degree turn after another and at the faster speed you have less control.
Like I said before, Ross is crazy about gigging, so one day I let him talk me into taking the boat out during the day so he could show me what it was like when they were gigging. Now, I've never been afraid of being in a boat or being on the water, but since that day, I've not been really pleased with boats on small rivers like the Meremac and Huzzah. We put in at River Bluffs which has a nice, deep swimming hole and is a relatively wide area of the river. Normally they go down river, but that day Ross wanted to go up. He had never actually driven the boat up and he wanted to check out a spot they wanted to try to gig at. So, off we go, racing up the river at ridiculous speeds and I see a pretty sharp 90 degree bend in the river coming up and Ross isn't slowing down at all. So, we go right and then almost immediately need to go back left on another 90 and we don't. We slam into a big root glob on the riverbank. Needless to say, first experience on the river did not leave a good taste in my mouth.
He managed to convince me to go out with them one night to gig. His dad was driving the boat that night and I just assumed (silly me) that his dad would be a better driver than Ross was that day. I assumed wrong, we were scooting right along and WHAM, we slammed right into a gravel bar and Ross just about goes flying over the gigging rails onto the bank. Second experience on the river left a pretty sour taste in my mouth and I told Ross I would never gig again. And to this day I haven't. We've taken the boat out a few times during the day, but I will never get in a boat on a river at night ever again.
Now, after all that back story, here is what I really wanted to tell you about. Dad hadn't been gigging since he was a boy. And since Ross loves it so much, he likes to share it with other people who have never done it. He tried to get all my brothers to come along too, but the only one who could make it was Dad. They headed out around 5 and I guess is was a little before 7 that we got the call to come on down to Bill and Carol's for the fry. We of course asked how it went and they said it was fine, except your Dad got a little wet. I said, "How wet?" Well, he was kind of in the water and Ronnie was holding his leg to keep him from going all the way in. Now mind you, they were out on Sunday night so it was probably about 10 degrees or so. Well, Mom and I of course flipped out and wanted to know what happened. This is what we managed to get out of them.
They were going along with Ronnie driving the boat and Dad beside him and Ross and Bill must have been up in the front of the boat facing backwards. Ronnie hollered for them to duck because they were going under some low hanging branches. Apparently at the same time the branches hit Dad across the side of the face they also hit a log on Dad's side of the boat and it stopped them short and dipped Dad's side down into the water, so over he went. Ronnie held onto his leg to keep him from going all the way in. They all said it was fine and not to worry, but I worry all the time about someone getting hurt. Being on a river is dangerous in itself in the daylight and warmer weather. But add nighttime and freezing temperatures and it's a recipe for disaster if you ask me.
So, we fried fish and sat around and then headed back to our house and Dad started shedding layers of clothing. The only thing not wet, was his socks because they were in his rubber boots. We didn't realize just how wet he got until he started giving me his clothes to wash and dry. His pants, underwear, long sleeve t, flannel shirt, pullover fleece shirt, coat, gloves, sock cap and ear wrap were all drenched. When he handed me the sock cap, I said, "Dad, your head was even under water?" He said, "Yeah, my sock cap was the only reason my glasses stayed on my face." Oh my goodness!
Dad says he'll go again, that he had a great time, but Mom says she's not sure if she'll ever let him go again! I'm just really thankful that he or anyone else didn't get hurt. I thanked Ronnie for holding onto him, I said, "He's my only Dad, thanks for saving him!"
But now, my Dad can say he's been swimming in the Meremac River in January!