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Log Float on the Calcasieu A Good Place

Special thanks to my friend Joe Chaney for inspiring this scene.

A Good Place, the upcoming novel from Creekbank Stories

Curt’s followup novel to The Wayfaring Stranger should be ready later in 2009. We’ll keep you posted as we know more.

Set in 1863, it tells the story of Joe and Eliza Moore through the eyes of their son Mayo.

My favorite scene in the book features a group of Ten Mile men floating rafts of the huge pine logs down the Calcasieu River to the sawmills in Lake Charles.

Mayo tells of what happens:

Caleb, riding with Unk out front, said, “I’ve got to get away from that singing, before I drown him.”

They let their lead raft drift close to the shady east bank. Just as they went under a low hanging willow limb, they began hollering. At first, we couldn’t make out their words and were puzzled as they dove into the river. When they came up, I heard Unk, “Wasts. Wasts.”

Unk was hard to understand at times, so I turned to Daddy. “Did he say ‘wasts?’”
“I believe they got into a wasp nest.”

By now, the second raft, occupied by Pistol and Dan, neared the same limb. Dan’s singing stopped abruptly as he and his daddy tried like crazy to steer clear of the limb. However, it was too late as hundreds of angry wasps awaited their arrival. I heard Pistol hollering, “Abandon ship. Abandon ship.”

We laughed as they plunged into the river.

Ben’s raft was next, and he hollered, “I can’t swim a lick. I’m just gonna hang on.” He lay down on his raft trying to paddle with his hand away from the limb.

He took his hat off and fought them off as the raft went under the limb. Luckily, they had spread out, and there weren’t as many to fend off. Seeing the futility of fighting them with his hat, he rolled up in a ball, covering his head.

We could hear his muffled voice praying one sentence, and airing his lungs out cussing the next.
Ahead of us were three rafts, two of them empty, and one manned by a fellow alternating between swearing and entreating the Lord. Three men were in the water and one-my uncle was still yelling, “Wasts. Wasts. Watch those wasts.”

Now it was our turn. Daddy didn’t even try to steer our raft away, instead saying, “Let’s get in the water and hang on the side of our raft.”

Trying to forget about alligators, I eased into the water.
As we floated under the limb, Daddy said, “Look at the size of that nest. It’s as big as a pumpkin.” Hundreds of red wasps were on it as well as swarming around. One popped me on the hand and I yelled. Daddy thought it was real funny until one stung him on the ear. Our yelling and movement attracted a whole wasp patrol on us and he said, “Get under.”

Before I could go under, several stung me, including one right on the end of my nose. I dove under and stayed there until my lungs burned. When I came up, we’d cleared the limb and were out of the cloud of wasps. The other swimmers, now re-boarded, seemed to be enjoying our part of the show.

At the next bend, everyone pulled up to lick our wounds and compare notes. Most of the men had dozens of stings. Pistol got his knife out, scraping bark off one of the logs. He dug down into the tree, scooping up pinesap, and daubed it on his stings. Everyone followed his example, except his son Dan, who spit out his chew of tobacco and began daubing it on his stings.

By now the humor of the situation began to sink in. Dan began mocking Unk, “ Wast. Wast. Watch out for the wasts.”

My uncle smiled, “ I was just trying to warn you fellows.” This was followed by Daddy mimicking Pistol, “Abandon Ship. Abandon Ship” as he poked our leader, “When your captain says ‘abandon ship,’ you know it’s a bad situation.”

Everyone laughed, and we talked about it for the rest of the float, embellishing every word and sting with each retelling. Soon, our encounter even had a name, “The Battle of Wast Bend.”

 

About Curt Iles

I write to have influence and impact through well-told stories of my Louisiana and African sojourn.

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One comment

  1. Joe would know about wasp on a willow limb,as do I from first hand experiance. I have given up the front seat of a 14' john boat to a moccasin at least once too. While trying to steer around a wasp nest. The shame was those little larve are the best Brimm bait you can get. not only that but they more often than not guard the deepest and best catfish holes.

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