Bayler Daniels "Trouble in the Glades" (Chapter 1 part 2)
Jonah finished the Crab tanks, went behind the shed to the chicken pens, and walked through them looking for signs of rat snakes that can steal the eggs and small chicks. When he finished the inspection, he took a basket and proceeded to gather the eggs from the laying hens to take to the kitchen.
The family will use two dozen in a week, the rest are sold at market. Netty trades them with the IGA in Immokalee, along with the vegetables raised in the garden, to get necessary sundries, as well as other supplies.
As Netty started walking out to the garden from the house, she heard Ruthie scream. “Snake, Mom…snake!”
Netty called out “Jonah, Jonah! Come quick!” but Jonah already heard his sister’s scream; put down the eggs and was on a dead run to where his sister was in the garden. He grabbed a rake leaning against the shed the way.
His sister was backing up from her position in the garden by the tomato baskets when he arrived, and Jonah looked hard around the base of the plants. Underneath a large plant was a green striped Garter Snake. It was about thirteen inches long. He laughed at his sister, “You call that a snake?”
He took the garden rake and carefully lifted the snake up and out of its peaceful spot in the garden, laid it on the ground outside the garden, and grabbing it behind the head, picked the snake up.
“It’s just an old Garter Snake sis’…”Jonah laughed, and teased some more, “you wanna hold it?” as he reached it out towards Ruthie.
"No! Get it away!” screamed Ruthie.
“Jonah Elijah Daniels!” Netty warned, as she approached the garden. “You know better than that! Do you want me to tell your father what you just did?”
“Aw mom….I was just funning around, I wasn’t gonna hurt her” Jonah said.
“When a person’s afraid of something, you never tease with it, that is not funning around, that’s just being mean,” rebuked Netty. “Now you can do the dishes and clean the kitchen the rest of this week without Ruthie’s help.”
“Aw mom, that’s not fair!” his eyes flashed to Ruthie who had a smirk on her face.
“You should have thought of that before this little stunt,” his mother said, “now get that thing out of here and let it go by the woods, and hurry up in case I think of some more things for you to do.”
“Mom!” cried Jonah, “I wanted to go see String an’ Beetle till dad gets home”
“I think you just lost that privilege; you can see your friends tomorrow, now hurry up and don’t forget to bring in those eggs!” Netty said sternly. He turned and stomped off with the snake and headed towards the tree line running along the back of the property. Then Netty turned to Ruthie and said in a calm voice, “You know I don’t like snakes either, but you have to learn to control yourself. Jonah may not always be there, and you’ll have to deal with them.”
“I know, Mom, but I can’t help it, I really hate them”
“I know, I have trouble with them myself, but that’s all part of where we live.” She chortled and gave Ruthie a hug. “Your daddy says it keeps the Yankees away.” Ruthie looked up at her and smiled. Then Ruthie picked up the basket of vegetables she dropped, and together they finished the picking. She and her mom brought them back up to the house and the kitchen to clean them for the market, as well as some for the evening meal.
“Ok Bayler, that’ll bout settle it for today,” said Charlie, with a smile. “You did pretty good by me today, with the crayfish and the fillets, it makes two hundred fifty seven dollars I owe you.”
“I reckon’ that’ll be just fine Charlie,” answered Bayler, “better than I expected.”
“It was?” Charlie laughed as he counted out the cash. “That mean I can give you less?”
“No, you just keep on counting, Charlie; it means now I can get a little something for Netty.”
“Well I can understand that Bayler, she’s a right fine woman, and puttin’ up with the likes of you, she deserves all she can get” he said laughing.
Bayler laughed, “Yep you probably right about that, well I guess I best be getting back over to Ochopee, she’s got some Honey-do’s for me on my way back. I’ll see ya Saturday.”
“Ok," said Charlie “by the way, I need some mullet if ya can get any, whole or filets, seem to be selling a lot lately.”
“Ok, I’ll get ya some tomorrow if ya need it, don’t pay much though,” remarked Bayler.
“You get me eighty pounds or better an I’ll pay ya a dollar fifty a pound, that’s fifty cents better than market,” offered Charlie
“I guess you do need it pretty bad, I’ll see what I can do” said Bayler, and he turned towards the truck and walked out. “Come on Shellie, say bye to Charlie and let’s go. You can see him tomorrow.”
Bayler headed his truck back toward Ochopee. He parked in front of the Five & Dime, telling Shellie to stay put. He found the pickling spice and picked up two boxes. He noticed Mason Jars were on sale, and got two cases of quarts and two of half quarts along with the lids and seals Netty asked for
Buck Miller always had good things to say. He was in his upper sixties, five foot eight inches tall with curly gray hair with a moustache just as curly. He was trim and gangly and always offered a great smile with a desire to please. “Afternoon Bayler,” said Buck. “How’s that sweet woman you’re married too?”
“Doing real fine Buck, I’ll tell her you asked. I’ll need to pay for this stuff and take look at the Montgomery Ward’s catalogue if you still have it.”
“Just so happens we do. Need some fishing stuff?”
“Not just now, need to look at sewing machines. I think Netty was lookin at em last time she was in here.
“Yeah Bayler I think she was lookin at one, let me get Mavis and see if she knows," Buck spoke into the intercom to the back office. “Mavis, would you come out here please?” Mavis soon walked up to the front smiling from ear to ear.
“Hey Bayler, how’s things at home, family doing ok?”
Mavis, Bucks wife of forty plus years, is a small framed, handsome woman with well-defined facial characteristics.. She is ten years older than Buck, whom she had met at her home church in Pennsylvania; she’s lived in Ochopee for so long, she truly believes she’s a Southerner. Mavis always wore her hair shoulder length, and pulled back on the sides. She was a pleasure to talk to, and made a person feel good; no matter what your situation.
“Everyone’s doin’ real good Ma’am, preciate’ you askin,” said Bayler. “I believe Netty was in here last week with Ruthie, lookin at the Wards book?”
“Why yes Bayler, I remember. She was looking at sewing machines; let me see if I can find it,” Mavis said as she reached under the counter and pulled out the Montgomery Ward’s catalogue. She thumbed two thirds of the way into the book and opened it to the sewing machines. “Here it is; automatic, programmable, sewing machine with a computer processor, bobbin alarm, and variable stitch pattern. Wards best or so it claims.”
“Well I don’t know about all that Mavis,” He said somewhat apologetic, “but I know it’s what she wants, and her birthday is coming up. I’d like to order it if I may, and I have fifty dollars to put down today.”
“That’d be fine Bayler, the total will be four hundred, thirty-nine I’ll have the machine in a week or two, and you can pay the balance when you can.”
“Nope,” Bayler responded without hesitation, “Netty’s birthday is in a month, I’ll try to have it paid off by then.”
“Very well Bayler, but you know your words’ good enough for us here,” said Buck “if you need some extra time, you don’t even have to ask.”
“I ‘preciate that Buck, but I don’t like havin’ anything over my head.” With that, Bayler laid down his fifty dollars and picked up his receipt, “I’ll see y’all later on then,” and he headed back to Copeland. It was three twenty and he was already late getting home.
Bayler pulled into the driveway and backed the truck up to the boat in the shed. He opened the door to the truck and stepped out followed by Shellie. After he hooked up the boat and lights, he put a pair of gloves into the forward dry box under the front deck. Then he took the waste bucket from under the cleaning table, dumped the contents into a five gallon pail, and set it in the back of the boat. After the boat was ready to go, Bayler picked up the four cases of bell jars and pickling spice and headed towards the back porch, followed by Shellie.
Jonah met Bayler at the back door and held it open for him, “You ready to go dad?” Jonah loved going out on the boat with his dad, especially when they ran the crab traps.
“Let me put these things away, son, and we’ll get going.” Bayler set the jars on the shelves on the back porch and walked into the kitchen. “Hey Dear,” he said, “Sorry I’m late, took a little longer than expected.”
Netty was sitting at the table cleaning the vegetables that she and Ruthie had picked earlier. “That’s ok dear,” she said as she picked up a hand full of black-eyed peas. “When will you get back?”
“Well, I ‘spect it’ll be some time after sunset cause, Charlie asked me to get him some mullet, for tomorrow. I’ve got to run those thirty-five crab traps on the northwest side of the bay, an’ then head over to the sand point on the southeast side for the mullet. I hope to get done early but…it’s still fishin’.”
“Well, please be careful. I’ll see you when you get back .”
“I will” said Bayler “come on boy, we’re burnin’ daylight,” as he headed out the back door for the shed.
Jonah came running out the back door trying to catch up to his dad, letting the screen door slam behind him, when he heard his mother holler,
“Jonah Elijah” you know better than to let that door slam,” Netty scolded “now you come back here and close it right, do you hear me?”
“Y e s M a m a,” Jonah said exasperatedly as he came back in, allowed to door to close half way, then went back out and half held the door so it made little noise as it closed.
“That’s better,” said Netty “Do it right next time and you won’t have to come back.”
“Ok Mom, I’m sorry. See ya later,” and off to the shed he ran.
“Grab the net bucket and bring it out to the boat Jonah,” Bayler said, “an hurry, we got to get goin.”
“Yes sir,” said Jonah “wait, Dad! I can’t lift it, it’s too heavy.”
“Son, it’s not that heavy, you just have to decide you can do it. You want me to have your sister come and get it?”
“No!” Said Jonah adamantly, “No Sir, argh!” Grunted Jonah, the thought of his sister doing something he couldn’t, strong on his mind “I eeegh can get it, aghhhh! Dad!” Jonah continued to grunt and breathe heavily as he fought getting the net bucket out to the boat.
“Good job Son, remember use your legs and not your back.”
Jonah got the net out next to the boat, and watched as his father picked it up and set it in the front of the boat effortlessly. Then Jonah jumped into the front seat of the truck, Bayler opened the other door, Shellie jumped in and they were ready to go. They pulled out and headed towards the bay.
The sun was shining brightly in their eyes as the boat headed towards the northwest side of the bay. Bayler worked hard to get the crab traps checked and re-baited with the waste from the morning’s fish cleaning. There were many crabs in the traps but half were too small and had to be thrown back. They pulled out a hundred twenty keepers, and put them all in the starboard live well.
Bayler finished the traps and headed for the southeast side, to Sandy point. The sun started to set in the west as he guided the boat towards the shallow water. Time was running short, but the light was right for netting. The sun being low meant no shadow on the water to spook the fish, when he threw the net.
Bayler took out the twelve-foot cast net, and got in the water. He set the weights on the bottom, pulled the net up to unfurl it. Then he made three loops in his hand, divided the weights and laid them over the top of his right hand and the loops.
“Alright Son, tell me when you see ‘em.”
Ok, over on the left I think”
Bayler gathered up about five feet of the remaining net, about two arms lengths, and placed the center point of the length in his teeth. Then he grabbed a hand full of the netting and weights and placed part of it in his mouth and turned to his right. Jonah watched as his dad swung around from right to left lifting the net skywards as he turned, eventually ending up facing the area he wanted the net to cover and tossed it out away from himself. He reminded him of a bullfighter spinning his cape at a bull. The net opened up like a spinning parachute to a perfect twenty four foot circle as it hit the water with a splash.
At first there were just the ripples of the water from the net’s splash, then the water became alive with activity. The mullet jumped up into the net trying to get away and then dove down towards the edges looking for an escape. Jonah watched in awe as his father pulled tight on the draw rope, closing the net under the mullet, as the fish continued to fight the net. It was a good cast, and Bayler could see the large fish as they tried hard to gain their freedom.
The net was heavy to pull in; Bayler held the rope and backed into shallower water to gain better control of the net. He emptied the net into the boat. Shellie watched with excitement as the fish flapped and bounced all over the deck, while Jonah tried to pick them up one at a time and put them in the starboard live well.
The first cast provided seventeen large mullet, of three around five lbs. each and Bayler was well pleased. He reset the net in his hands and prepared for the next cast. He walked out towards the right side of the bar and watched for movement in the water to give away the fishes location. The fish were a little more wary now, and kept a good fifteen to twenty feet away from him.
He held the net up, his arms like a trip hammer, cocked and waiting to be released. Then he saw some movement off to the left, and turned to get a better position on the fish.
“There they are Dad,” Jonah whispered as he saw the ripples on top of the water from the fish swimming.
He set himself and spun around throwing the net more outwards trying to reach the school. The net rose high in the air as it traveled out away from Bayler. It opened like a large umbrella, crashing into the water. At first, the same ripples as before, then the signs of life. Mullet once again began thrashing about looking for escape. Bayler pulled tight on the draw rope to close the net and saw what he thought would be another super catch. Then, something grabbed the net, Bayler felt it and fought hard to close it.
“The net snagged Son; get ready to catch what I put in the boat again.”
“I’m ready Dad.”
It was obvious something had gone wrong with the net as Bayler worked feverishly to salvage what he could of the nets' contents. He got into the water and grabbed the weights at the bottom, closing the bottom of the net with his hands, stood back up and placed the weights into the boat. Jonah grabbed the fish as they fell out of the net. The catch provided eight more good-sized mullet and Bayler knew he’d lost a good many more than that.
Bayler jumped into the boat and examined the net. Two draw strings had been cut, and a large two foot hole had been torn into the side. The draw strings may have been cut by the sharp fins from the fish as they fought for freedom. However, the tear in the net must have come from oysters, or perhaps from something lying on the bottom. He could repair the net but by then the sun would be full down, and it would be too late to try for more. Bayler and Jonah headed back to the landing and then home.
When they arrived home, Bayler took the net from the boat, and hung it up; he cleaned, it off, rinsed and let it hang to dry. Jonah helped his dad pull the mullet out of the live wells into five-gallon buckets and moved them over to the cleaning table. Bayler then took the sorting baskets and transferred the crabs from the boat into them. Then he climbed down from the boat and carried the baskets of crabs to the aerated tanks to be sorted.
While Jonah sorted, the crabs, Bayler cleaned the mullet, rinsed them off and placed them in a shipping container in the cooler. After Jonah finished sorting the crabs he helped his dad clean the boat and put away the gear. Then the two of them washed up and went in for Supper.
Netty had supper waiting when they came in. The family sat down at the table, Ruthie asked the blessing and the food was passed around. Talk of the day’s events and their fishing trip that evening were the topics of conversation..
Jonah did the dishes and cleaned the kitchen and dining room; Ruthie took lessons from her mother on quilting. Bayler sat in his favorite chair, next to an antique floor lamp, to read his bible that had been handed down through generations. The spine on the Bible was in dire need of rebinding, but the reading was just as good as it was when his great grandfather read it so many years ago.
After Jonah finished in the kitchen, he went to get his bath, and then Ruthie took hers. The two of them said their goodnights and were off to bed. Netty and Bayler finally had some time together without the kids.
Bayler woke up promptly at four thirty. He didn’t need an alarm clock, after so many days of getting up earl it had become a habit…even on Sunday when he didn’t go to work. He got dressed and went to the kitchen.
“Morning dear,” said Bayler as he found his chair at the table.
Netty was standing over the stove with bacon frying, a spatula in her hands as she turned to him, “Morning Honey, ready for some coffee?”
Bayler sat at the table and set his cup in a saucer on the table in front of him. He put a good amount of milk into the cup from a small pitcher on the table and answered “Sure dear, that’d be great, pour it on in”
Netty picked up a Corning Ware coffee pot from the stove, and poured the coffee up to the very top. He added two teaspoons of sugar some cream and stirred vigorously, spilling it into the saucer. Then he began to drink his coffee from the saucer.
“How many you want this morning Honey” said Netty as she cracked an egg open and dropped it into the skillet.
“‘bout three this morning should be good and maybe some rye toast.”
“You want them on the grits or beside them?”
“On’s ok and I guess four pieces of that good smellin’ bacon.”
“’Be ready in just a minute, there’s sliced tomatoes there if you’d like some. Would you like butter on your toast or should I set some cumquat marmalade in front of you?"
“Believe I’ll have both, since I can’t decide.”
Netty smiled shaking her head and working over the stove preparing his breakfast. “Ruthie and Kerri-Anne went berry picking and she brought home two nice pints of black berries yesterday afternoon, I’ll get some for you if you’d like.”
“No dear, I’d rather you made them into some of that great cobbler I like so much, maybe for desert tonight?, he said with a wink.”
‘If I have time” she said, and winked back at him. “I’ve got to run over to the IGA in Immokalee and drop off some eggs and vegetables.” Netty handed Bayler his breakfast and she sat down with her coffee.
“Going over to Sweetwater fetch the mullet to Charlie today, then drop an order at the crab shack in Ochopee.”
“OK, Oh, by the way, the restaurant in Immokalee called. They said they need fifteen dozen large crabs, and ten dozen jumbos by four today.”
“Yeah, I saw the note last night. I’ll run the southeast traps this morning and see what I got. Then you should be able to call them and confirm the order when I get back.”
“Ok, I hope you get some big ones.”
“We’ll see, been a pretty good week so far.” Bayler finished his breakfast and Netty poured his coffee into a travel mug, added some cream to it and snapped the cover on. He kissed Netty goodbye and headed out to the porch, put on his coveralls and boots, then his knife belt. He pressed down on his knife and pliers to seat the sheath better and headed out the door towards the shed.
The morning drive to the landing was peaceful,. The old truck had no air conditioning, so the windows were down and Bayler always enjoyed the sights and smells along the way.
Bayler slowed the truck down to allow a covey of Quail cross the road in front of him, and smiled watching them run single file as fast as they could to get to the other side.
The water was calm with hardly a ripple, as Bayler made his way down the tributary. As he checked his traps, he was still thinking of last night’s happenings and the net trouble. He had thrown his net on Sandy Point plenty of times prior to the hurricanes last year and had no difficulty at all. The crab traps on the southeast side of the bay offered a nice assortment of crabs, and he would have no problem filling the orders that had come in the day before.
He checked the trotlines in Chevalier Bay and picked up some additional meat fish. He was startled when he pulled up one of the circle hooks; it had a strange, odd shaped fish that he had never encountered before. Bayler was even more surprised when he caught a second one further down the line. He put them on ice with the meat fish, re-baited the lines and started back across the bay. He would stop by the Fish and Game office on the way back to town and see if they could identify the fish.
As Bayler passed by Sandy Point, he decided to check out the area where his net got caught, and see what may have caused the problem; the tide was out and the point should be very visible. He walked the point carefully, so as not to step on or pass by anything that may have caught his net. Then he noticed something just below the surface. It was rust covered but had an unusual shape.
He bent down closer to the object and tried to remove the sand covering most of the item. As it came visible, he noticed it appeared to be some type of blade although caked with old oyster shells and growth it was most likely what damaged his net. He decided to take it back to his house where he could examine it closely time permitting.
When Bayler’s truck pulled up to the Fish and Game office Tom McKinsey, The local game officer, walked out to greet him.
“Hey Bayler, how the heck are you?”
“Doin fine Tom, doin fine”
“What brings you here today, you need a variance for all the extra fish yore catching’?” said Tom.
"Not hardly!” He answered as he laughed and shook his head and got out of the truck. Shellie jumped out after Bayler
“Hello Shellie. How you doing boy?” Shellie ran over and greeted Tom, “Shake Boy, Shake” Shellie sat down in front of Tom and held up his paw. “Good boy” Tom said as he took Shellie’s paw. Tom smiled and glanced back to Bayler, “So how can I help you today?” as he petted Shellie on the back of the neck.
“I come across a strange fish today, couple of them actually,” as he walked back towards his boat.
“As long as you been fishin’ these waters, didn’t think there was much you haven’t seen,” said Tom following behind.
“Reckon so but I spect you might ought to take a look and tell me your thinkin’ on em’ then we’ll talk about it” Bayler walked back to the fish well with the ice in it, reached in and uncovered one of the fish he’d caught that morning, still partially alive, and handed it to him. Tom was six foot and husky. He had sandy blond hair and a full beard. He always wore a stiff brimmed Mounties style hat like a State Trooper, only his was green, with the state Fish and Game seal on the front.
“Well I’ll be,” said Tom, “that is a strange fish, never seen one like that before. He handed Bayler the fish, “Let’s go look it up inside” Tom walked inside his office; Bayler set the fish back in the ice followed Tom with Shellie right behind. “Where’d you say you caught it?”
“At the mouth of the Chevalier tributary, comin’ from Chokoloske.”
An old Computer sat on the floor with the monitor sitting on top of Tom’s desk on the left side. Tom sat down at his desk and pulled out a keyboard and mouse on a tray mounted underneath. Bayler walked over to the coffee pot “Mind if I have a cup?”
“Lord no Bayler, long as you’ve known me and you have to ask!”
Bayler poured the coffee into a Styrofoam cup sat down in a chair in front of Tom’s desk and Shellie lay down next to him.
“It appears to be some type of Lungfish I think. So, let’s check out the known lungfish on line.”
Tom typed in Lung fish in the United State into the computer and hit enter. The screen went blank while the computer processed the information, then the screen displayed a list of Lungfish and locations of the most recent sightings
“These are similar to yours, but not quite, maybe if we expanded the search” Soon a new listing of lungfish came up on the screen, listed by international locations. Tom opened the listings one at a time and dismissed the ones that were not a match. Then Tom got a strange look on his face. “Damn,” Tom said with heavy concern in his voice. “I think I found your fish.
“Well what is it?”
“According to this it’s Asian! The fish was originally imported as a tropical fish for pet stores, marketed as a Cobra Snake Head. The problem was that when they got too big they became a threat to the other fish in the aquarium. Some people didn’t want to kill them so they flushed them, or released them into the local lakes and ponds.
"Release is against the law because they have no natural enemies here, and they could wipe out the indigenous fish of the area. They can walk short distances on land, because they have lungs as well as gills,” Tom responded, as he read the copy.
“The, ones up north died out, because of the cool temperatures. The problem is, they do well in warm tropical environments like ours. It further states, that there were reports of some being raised in small local lakes and ponds by people, to provide a supply to a growing need for an Asian delicacy. Possession of these fish is considered a felony; evidently some have been released illegally in Florida waters as well.”
“Is it dangerous?”
“I don’t know if it’s dangerous yet, but I have a name for it now, it’s called a Channa Marulius, or Giant Snakehead.” Tom read the description from the computer aloud. “Says here, yours is a “Bulls-eye Snakehead” and it describes your fish to a “T”. It’s supposed to have a torpedo shaped body, jaws full of teeth, a long dorsal fin without spines, and a very distinctive Bull’s-eye; which is that black spot surrounded by the orange circle near the tail fin. I think that about covers the ‘what’ portion of your question Bayler”
“Yeah, Tom I guess it does. Reckon you can check into it for me and call me tomorrow?”
“Yea I can do that, and I may need you to show me where you caught it ok?”
“Fine, you can meet me one morning when I go out on my run.”
“I don’t think so,” said Tom. “I’ll just meet you on the water, I’m not getting up when you do.”
“You city folk, waste most of the day just getting out of the house.”
“Yeah, whatever Bayler. I’ll call ya tomorrow and we can discuss it.”
“Ok, I’ll talk at you then.” He opened the truck door for Shellie then, climbed in behind him. He gave the ignition a turn, the truck came to life and off they went. ©
To be continued....