James 'JP' Smock

Homer Takes The Bit

Homer Takes The BitWhen I was young, Dad made sure that we had plenty of domestic animals around including dogs, chickens, ducks, peacocks, quail and sheep, to name a few. But, we never had a horse. I was around horses from time to time and learned to ride, but it would have been nice to have one of our own. When I was almost grown, Dad finally broke down and bought a horse for his kids.

Dad bought Homer from the feed store on Hempstead Highway and it always fascinated me that this horse was the only creature I ever met that was as stubborn or maybe even more stubborn than my dad. Homer was a middle aged, retired cutting horse that was certainly used to being ridden, so he seemed like a good choice for Dad’s large family.

However, it seems that Homer had a different view of the situation. If I could sum up Homer’s philosophy of life, it would go something like this; “Hey, I spent more than 15 years of my life carrying a cowboy around and cutting cattle. I’ve done my share of work, now I’d just like to take it easy and graze out in the pasture. However, if you really want to ride, lets go, but you better hold on, because I still remember a trick or two”.

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Serious Fishing

When I was young, Dad loved to hunt and fish. On weekends in the fall, when the redfish were running through the bays, he would frequently take me fishing at Christmas Bay, near Surfside. When he was old enough, my younger brother Joe usually came along. Sometimes Uncle Marion or Uncle Adam would meet us there, other times it was just Dad and the boys. Dad wasn’t one to do things halfway and fishing was no exception. We would usually load up the station wagon on Friday night and leave for Surfside before dawn on Saturday. Dad’s favorite spot to fish was on the last of three oyster bars that jutted out into the bay. I think he liked that one because it was the hardest to get to and the least likely to be visited by other humans. In those days, it wasn’t unusual for us to fish for two or three days and never see another person.

Unfortunately for us boys, you usually couldn’t drive the station wagon close to the first oyster bar, never mind the third. Dad would get as close as he could and pick a high spot of sand to camp on. There was a good reason for this; I can remember a few times when the high tide came in and we were high and dry, but surrounded by water. If the high spot Dad liked was overgrown with salt grass and brush, he would check the wind, light a match and burn us off a spot to camp on. It wasn’t unusual to see large rattlesnakes scurrying across the sand fleeing from the smoke and fire. After the fire was out, Dad would drive the station wagon up on the high spot and we would either pitch a tent or put up a tarp for shade.

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The Black Bear Road

When I was 5 years old, I was scheduled to go into the hospital to have my eye operated on. Before I went into the hospital, Dad and Uncle Marion decided to take me on a fishing trip to help get my mind off of the upcoming surgery. In his younger days, Dad was one of those guys that would fish darn near anywhere and Uncle Marion was even worse than Dad. The only places that they didn’t like to fish were where they might accidentally encounter another human being.

Uncle Marion had a secret fishing spot deep in the national forest just east of New Waverly. I seem to remember the lake was named Hoffstetter or something like that. It probably has a golf course and subdivision surrounding it by now, but in those days, it was pretty much free of human inhabitants. We started out in Uncle Marion’s pickup truck after Dad got off work on a Friday evening and reached the logging road that led to the lake right at dusk. We slowly made our way to the lake with lots of stops to remove fallen trees and to smooth out the ruts that were too deep for the truck. While we were traveling down the logging road, Dad and Uncle Marion had a long conversation about the black bears that inhabited the thick woods that we were traveling through. We were all kind of disappointed that we didn’t see any, but Uncle Marion assured us that there would be some hanging around the lake. By the time we reached the lake, it was after 10 pm and we were all tired. …

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What A Character!

Over my 50 some odd years on this earth, I’ve met a lot of people. Plain vanilla people are fine, but in my adult life, I’ve always been fascinated by people who are different, people who might be labeled as strange, weird, eccentric, or people that just plain march to a different drummer. We sometimes refer to these type of people as characters. My dictionary lists the following as one of the many definitions of character;

…a person of a specified kind (usually with many eccentricities); “a real character”

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