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Yokum's holler

 If you go past the barn with "Chew Mail Pouch Tobacco" faded on the side,
you went too far. Yokum's holler is south between Turtletown and Mudrucket.
Lots of lakes and bass fishing spots. I'd been after an uncommon aquatic
plant for an aquarium for almost six years. It was Saturday morning as I
ambled in to Buddy Bill's Bait Barn.  This was the legendary fishing
bragging spot for any angler's worth their salt. I thought I'd had the good
fortune of overhearing a conversation between two wobbly kneed codgers
complain about their neighbor's cess pool "sewer riffle" as each one tried
to out do the other with who had the worse aliments. By all accounts the
skinny one won the duel.

"I've been bitten twice where a man would least like to be bitten by a
raccoon!" He'd cornered one once when it raided his garbage. No one would
challenge his assertion since no one in their right mind would demand proof
of the "semi mortal" wound.
    The portly feller that looked like the Far Side caveman characters bent
over with his mouth agape describe the vile weed with the upmost contempt.
At first I thought he was talking about a lawyer, but then he said
"underwoodter" and I thought while he might have the gumption, it was
unlikely he was plotting first degree murder.

       Sensing I was interrupting their conversation, the other glanced up
and ask me if I'd like a a dozen shiners for "bass fishin", as they were
real frisky and would get the big ones to bite. "The bass will bite on to
these like that Raccoon bit Melvin." Calhoun asked Melvin if his technique
for grappling those big flathead catfish was the same for the Raccoon. I had
little chance to respond since they now had an audience for this "victim" of
the Bait Barn. 

Melvin stomped out cussing. The day's first victim of social cannibalism.

   I sensed I'd better ask for what I want or else I might be the next
victim of their quest for something to kill the boredom. "So where's this
vile weed ya'll were talking about?"  Surprised that I had wanted something
besides bait, Calhoun pipes his corncomb twice, then pulls his belt up over
the sag line. "Why in tarnations would you want that underwater Kudzu?" I
replied that " Such a weed might be useful if you sold it to a plant nursery
that sells aquatic plants." Calhoun and his sidekick, Terry, a straight fine
white hair fellow with a bad underbite, were caught up in their infinite
jibbing of everyone in sight. They thought I was joking but then realized I
was serious. "I'll pay well for it if you can show me where some is."

Terry pulls out a pack of Camels begins to write a map on the outer wrapper.
" I cain't go no wheres till 5pm, but I'll write you a map of how to get
there. Go up yonder bout 2 miles, turn left on Old Bull road. Drive along
the stone wall fence a piece till you get to a deep 4x4 muddin trail and
park or if you chose, go muddin. I'll meet ya there after 5pm. You'll hatfa
hunt fer it from the trail". I asked if I need permission to cross the land
to get to Yokum's holler. "Don't lollygag too much other wise the Bull might
get you". Bull? The image of the running of Bulls like they do every year in
Spain flashed in my mind. I thought to myself, "Naw, these folks would be
more likely ride a wild Bull, not act like rodeo Clowns running around
them." So with the empty pack of Camel cigarettes, off I went.

   I came up to Old Bull road and turned down the gravel road complete with
about 2 miles of washboards. I finally got to the "muddin" trail head with a
few teeth left in my head from all the jarring. Beyond the old oak was the
muddin trail which amounted to a creek bed that they seem to call a road. I
hopped rock to rock headed up the stream wary of cotton mouths. The stream
bed was rocky full of "baby heads" and "goat horns" that move around if you
try to walk on top of them.  The stream opened up into a flat meandering
stream with braids and riffles full of all sorts of colorful rocks.
My head buried in the immediate surrounding I failed to notice something
important, the Bull.
I certainly got lucky I thought at first. The Bull got a good laugh at my
reaction to his presence when I fell, bit my lip and ended up soaking wet. I
was in a deep eroded part of the stream bed where Bull had no intention of
mowing me over. The beast was just sitting there staring. I could tell by
the look in his eye he wanted gore me good. One tip of his horn was busted
off. I suppose that was my second mistake, never look a bull in the eye. He
gave a deep gruff and snort at me and paced me along the stream. I kept
looking up ahead to make certain I'd maintain this detente. No longer paying
any attention to the water below and 100% wet, I trudged though the
Aldrovandra. Now few folks have heard about the Venus fly trap of the
aquatic world but I quickly bent over a grabbed some and when I looked up
the Bull was gone.
I thought  "Good riddance!". I double checked down the creek, glanced up the
Holler, then I heard trampling coming my way. I knew it wasn't coming down
the creek either way and Bull would not jump the creek down after me so I
was at loss about what to do so I ran back down the creek.
Turned out the trampling was none other than Calhoun. He got worried that
the Bull might get this greenhorn and he might not collect his pay for the
information. "Since I lived up this way I's stoppped in to check on ya". He
offered me an ice cold generic beer which I declined but sensing that'd be
impolite, I took it anyway. "Terry told you to go up to creek and take the
west fork, not the east fork of the creck." I held up the plant I had been
after and replied " I got the plant I wanted anyhow". Calhoun got an even
more sour look. "Being city feller, ever ridden a bull befer?" Some what
interested I said "No, but I'd like to try at least once before I die."
Calhoun got a devil's grin on his face.
    I wondered what had got into me to agree to such a fool hardy thing. It
was hot, chiggers were eating me alive. We came up to the barn, such as it
was, certainly not in the Amish tradition. "This one is a young en." It
looked pretty calm, so I agreed to have a ride. About 4 seconds in Calhoun
and a couple more of his friends had arrived for the evenings festivities
got to see the site. The bull had tossed me clean over the fence.
Sad thing was, my ego and my body had landed in the same pile.
Calhoun and company had gotten a good laugh and agreed to "hose me down".
I was thankful nothing was broken and we parted company. They were drinking
and stopped with the beer and were starting in on the "Ten High Bourbon". I
knew when it was time to leave.

On the way out of town, I stopped by Buddy Bill's Bait Barn to wet my
whistle before the long drive home. The two codgers had started another
round trying to out do the other's infirmaries.

 The owner, "everyone just calls me Buddy" was still chewing on the same end
butt of a Swisher Sweet cigar that he had in his mouth earlier that morning
like the holding on to "the one that got away". I thought to myself as I
left, "That was what the bull was thinking too. I'd accomplished what I'd
set out to do. Some folks even pay to ride Bulls. How'd I'd end up riding a
bull to simply collect a plant?" Life is strange.

-Tom Barr