It was mid morning in mid July. It promised to be one of those days when the humidity and the temperature merge together to produce just a hint off brimstone on the air. I was sitting with my brother Mike in an old rented wooden jon boat with an anchor at one end and an empty bait can at the other for bailing purposes. We had found ourselves the shade of a big cypress and settled there. Mike was somewhere around ten years old, and I was a few of years behind him. As we sat there with a couple of cane poles apiece resting on the gunwales and our bobbers fanned out in several directions, we both silently prayed that nothing would bite. Neither of us wanted to move. Even at that young age the heat of the day had drained us, the shade had called us and our lids were heavy and working their way towards closed.
Now my Granny Tharpe and Grandma Rowell were sharing another boat and had hit upon a bream bed a little ways down the river from us. They had tied off a bit from the bank to get a better shot at it, and they ended up sitting in the full sun. You see when you come upon a bream bed, even the heat of Satan’s breath will not deter a true fisherman or a couple fisherwomen, in this case. There is nothing like a bunch of biting fish to bring a blue blooded socialite and blue collared Rosy Riveter together. They both had on their heads one of those pointy straw hats that gave just a hint of Far Eastern mystique, and I think it was the hats that caught the attention of the young pilot out for the day from Eglin Air Force Base.
You see down around the Chipola River it’s mostly catfish and cottonmouths, and the Air Force folks practice down there so as to not kill any civilians on the off chance that something goes wrong.
Being a well trained pilot he came in from the East, with the sun behind him. Mike and I had heard him. Being little boys we were fascinated by anything fast, so the far off sound caught our ears; but Granny and Grandma were so focused on the fish that the muted noise of the jet engine blended in with the cicadas all around them and went unnoticed.
Our young eyes quickly located the gleaming jet fighter as it dropped like a falcon from the sky and settled a few feet above the trees down range. Fascinated we watched as the pilot approached our position. When he reached the river a mile or so below us the young hot shot truly began to feel his oats and dropped just below the tree line; for all intents and purposes like a rock skipping on the surface of the river.
It was an impressive display of prowess made all the more exciting by the fact that my Granny and my Grandma, the intended targets, remained unaware.
He barreled down the river with deadly focus and pinpoint precision with his affections set upon the two old ladies. At the last moment I could almost hear his maniacal laughing as he pulled up and disappeared into the morning sky.
First came the shadow. When the shadow passed over the target both Grandmas responded the same. They responded just like a rabbit would should the shadow an owl traveling at Mach one pass over. They had just enough time to blink and begin their instinctive crouch when the shadow was quickly followed by the sonic boom which was quickly followed by thoughts of the coming rapture accompanied by straw hats, cane poles, crickets and a few choice words being lifted into the air and scattered over the waters.
Mike and I were beside ourselves with excitement, joy and laughter. You don’t see something like that every day, and besides we revered anyone who could get the better of Granny Tharpe. Granny Tharpe’s response was predictable for her. When her color finally returned she responded with her trademark cackle of excitement at the rush received from the sudden fear. Grandma Rowell’s response was a bit more surprising to me. Apparently her blue blood went white and along with it her proper language went south. Trust me that young whippersnapper got a world class tongue lashing, and I learned a few new words that morning myself.
Now to tell the truth I don’t know which gave Granny Tharpe more pleasure; the excitement of being targeted or the satisfaction of witnessing Grandma Rowell unravel. If I had to take bets, I would back the unraveling any day.
I'll bet you're wondering why I wrote of this old memory of mine? I’ll tell you. It could be a lesson on how to respond to the surprises of life, or it could a lesson on the human being and accompanying frailties that lie just the beneath the calm facade of us all, but it’s not. I just thought that you might need a minutes rest from the worries of your world today. The Lord knows that we all do from time to time.