Watch Out for the Fish

Join us on the Old House porch as we read from ‘Wind in the Pines.’


This is a reader favorite from my third book, Wind in the Pines.

You can order Wind in the Pines on Amazon.

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LISTEN  Listen to the Creekbank  Audio Podcast or at  Spotify: Curt Iles/Creekbank Stories

As always, enjoy.


Watch out for the Fish

It’s trendy to put a Christian fish on your car bumper. It is a replica of the simple two-mark symbol used as a secret code by Christians of the first century.

The “fish on the car” signals that the person behind the wheel is, hopefully, a Christian. But it is also scary—the responsibility that other drivers around us will watch closely to see if our driving habits model the teachings of Jesus.

I recall the popular bumper sticker of my teen years, “Honk if you love Jesus!” I heard the story of one happy Christian carload that kept honking at the bumper-stickered Ford LTD in front of them. Their honking brought no reply until, finally, the driver put his arm out the window and gave an obscene gesture that was definitely not associated with Jesus.

The same is true with the fish. We should be cautious in wearing or exhibiting any symbol representing Christ unless our corresponding actions will bring Him glory, not embarrassment.

I  word it this way: Watch Out for the Fish,


. . .And that brings me to one of my favorite stories on this subject:

A few summers ago, Clay, my nephew Adam, and I made a hiking trip to the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee. We had a great time walking and enjoying the rugged Appalachian Trail.

After most of a week, I sensed the boys had had enough of being in the wild.

Sensing this, I said, “We’ll go home when we see a bear, or it rains.

That night, we had a black bear raid our camp. That’s a good story for another time.

Adam said, “Well, Uncle Curt, I guess we can go home now.”

We loaded up the following day and headed west on I-20.


Everything went fine until we reached the Alabama-Mississippi state line. Just as we approached the I-20 exit for Toomsuba, Mississippi, the van sounded as if it had run over a landmine. The engine had no power, so we coasted off the interstate into the parking lot of a convenience store.

A quick inspection revealed that our drive shaft was gone.

I went into the store and asked the one clerk behind the counter, “How could I get help on car repair?

He studied me.  “Well, Bunyard’s Transmission is down the road. Let me give them a call.”

After a short conversation, he said,  “Bunyard said they’re leaving for the stockcars races, but he’ll drop by for a look.

An old red pickup pulled up within minutes, and two men got out.

I introduced myself to James Bunyard and his son Al.

  After Al inspected under the van, he said, “Daddy, we might have a drive shaft to fit back at the yard.”

They soon returned with a drive shaft hanging out of the truck bed. Al connected the drive shaft as Mr. Bunyard stood stonily, sizing me up. He seemed to be a man of few words, so I didn’t try to make small talk.

Al slid back out. “ I believe you’re ready to go.” 


Here was the moment of truth, “Mr. Bunyard, what do I owe you?”

 “Well, the drive shaft is $100. You can pay whatever you want for our labor.”

“Would you be happy with $150 total?”  

He nodded. 

 “Mr. Bunyard, I don’t have that much cash. Will you take a credit card?” 

“We don’t take cards.”

“Will you take a check?” 

He stiffened. “I don’t like taking out-of-town checks. I’ve been burned too many times.”

“Well, you don’t know me, Sir,  but I’m not going to write you a bad check with my son and nephew standing here as my witnesses.”

 He snorted as if he’d heard every sorry excuse ever made.

I handed him a copy of my first book, Stories from the Creekbank

He turned it over in his hands. “You wrote that?”

“Yes, sir. That copy is for you.”

 Then I made my fatal mistake, handing him my business card:

Curt Iles


Dry Creek Baptist Camp


“Mr. Bunyard, I’m one of those good Baptists. You know I wouldn’t cheat you.”

I had just poured gasoline on the fire.

James Bunyard bolted right side up, “Yep, I know all about you ‘good Baptists.’ Last year, a fellow broke down, and I got him going.  He told me he was a Baptist preacher from Birmingham and would pay me on his next trip. As you can probably guess, I’m still waiting.” He scoffed. “Well, I guess I’ll have to take your check.”

“Somebody may have cheated you before, but it won’t be this time.”

He pointed a finger in my face. “Just remember that what goes around comes around.”

“Mister Bunyard, I agree completely.”

I handed him my check.  He looked at it like I’d just given him a stack of Confederate dollars.

We shook hands, and they left in their truck for the races and we resumed our westward trek on I-20.

As we drove away, Adam said, “Uncle Curt, he sure got worked up when you told him you were a good Baptist.” 

Clay pitched in, “Daddy,  I don’t believe your ‘Baptist ID Card’ was a good idea.”

Later in the week, I called the bank to ensure the Bunyard check had cleared. 

We laughed all the way to the Louisiana stateline.

On another trip later that year, I paid the Bunyards a visit.  Walking into the shop, I asked a worker, “I’m looking for James and Al.”

He nodded toward a pair of feet sticking out from under a Chevrolet. “That’s Al. Mr. James is gone today.”

Al didn’t recognize me as he stood up. I said, “I’m the Louisiana fellow you changed the drive shaft for last year.”

A smile of recognition came over his face.  “Yeah, you’re the guy who wrote that book. Daddy’s enjoyed your stories. I hate he’s not here to see you today.”

I handed him several jars of homemade mayhaw jelly and two Dry Creek Camp caps, “I’ll try to stop any time I’m in this neck of the woods.” I hesitated at the door. “Al, one day, I’m going to put you and your Daddy in one of my books.”

He grinned. “Oh, come on.”

Reader, the book you’re holding and the story you’re reading is one more fulfilled promise to the Bunyards that I’ve kept.

A year later, I stopped in. You should have seen James Bunyard’s face when I handed him a copy of Wind in the Pines. I thumbed through it, showed him “Watch Out for the Fish,” and pointed out his name.

He was speechless, and I was happy. Once again, the ripple effect of my writing had traveled far from Dry Creek.

If you’re traveling along the I-20 near the Alabama/Mississippi line, take Exit 165 for Toomsuba and drive south about one mile. You can’t miss it on the right. Look for the sign that says, “No  out-of-town checks accepted.”

Tell them the Book-Man says, “Howdy, and thanks again.”

I guarantee they’ll help you in any way they can…

… don’t try to pass off an out-of-town check.

…Or tell them you’re a Baptist.


Finally, if you’ve got a fish on the back of your car,


Drive like Jesus would.



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