Texas history can trigger intense personal memories.
Nothing pleases us more than the personal histories that readers send into Think, Texas. This one comes from Gary Brantley of Cameron. We liked it so much, we decided to share it in full, with some light edits:
I wanted to say that I enjoyed your reference to the Little River in your Think, Texas column. Growing up in Cameron, in a family of "catfishermen," I spent a lot of time on and in Little River.
My dad, Johnny Brantley, and my Mom's brother, my Uncle Elzy Harris, were great fishing buddies. They fished many Central Texas rivers and the Little River was close to home, so they fished there a lot.
They were men who never fished with a rod and reel, using instead "drop lines" (single hooks on weighted line) tied to limbs impaled into the soft river mud along the banks or tied to overhanging tree limbs and branches.
They also used "throw lines," which were longer and usually had three or four hooks. Trotlines were seldom employed on their trips to the best of my memory.
Favorite bait was large yellow grasshoppers, which we caught by the hundreds at night by walking through tall bloodweed plants on the river banks and grabbing the hoppers off the stalks.
Of course that was seasonal, but Dad and Elzy would sometimes freeze the live grasshoppers in pint-sized cardboard cartons stuffed full of the wriggling insects and then filled with water. On with the lid and into the freezer! They would be pulled out months later and used just as if they were alive.
Dad and his fishing buds often had 75 to 100 hooks in the water and these had to be checked often — every two or three hours at least – by running the lines, an exciting chore for a kid.
The aluminum jon boat was tied up to the bank and we walked down a path cut into the steep river bank. At night, one or two flashlights illuminated the way. Into the boat would go men and boys and girls, too, because my cousin Becky, a month my senior, was Elzy's youngest and quite a tough little tomboy. She was often camping there, too, and would run the lines as well.
It was always exciting being on the river and a surprise could — and often did — lie around a bend. At night, in that inky river darkness, it was positively electric!
I'll tell you, sliding that boat up under those drooping branches to reach a drop line was a bit chilling as someone played a light along the branches looking for snakes.
The company of fishermen often included several men of various ages, and gambling and drinking was common. Of course, we ate a lot of catfish, too. Dad and Elzy could clean catfish faster than anyone I ever saw and they were also the cooks.
Manning at least two Coleman white-gas stoves, their deep cast-iron pots bubbled with grease and the cornmeal-battered fish cooked in just moments. One skillet was cooking mounds of french fries. The fish and fries, with sliced white bread and maybe a sliced onion or two, made up the meal. Oh, and don't forget the ketchup!
Hell, I was almost a teen before I had even heard of tartar sauce. Some catfish were big enough to provide nice-sized filets, but a lot of pieces had bones that looked like a comb, or a cartoon fish skeleton, when one was done with it. If a small bone made it into your throat, someone would tell you "quick, eat some light bread, that'll push it down!" Me, I was super careful to avoid that situation and can't remember it happening often.
When my cousin Becky and her older brother Thomas were there with me, we would get bored with the camp scene and go for walks along the river, or swimming along the gravel bar near the camp. The men would say as we left, "Y'all sure better watch out for the guygooter!"
We'd ask, "What's that?" And the reply was always something like "Oh, you don't want to see one, that's for sure! You hear something growl or scream, you better try to get back!"
At night, if a coyote yelped, it was "Hear that? Yeah, that's that guygooter alright!"
Smug grins all around while our burred hair stood on end.
I've spelled the mythical creature's name phonetically here as I really don't know what is correct. I've done a few internet searches for the term or something similar thinking that maybe there's an origin to the "story" somewhere, but so far I've found nothing. Perhaps you may have even come across a similar thing/term elsewhere.
I'm sorry for the long email but that Little River, much like Sugarloaf Mountain that rises above it, holds many special memories for me. Your reference was all it took, I'm afraid, to bore you with these tales but I do appreciate it much sir!