"Yachting woul' na' be so popular were it na' fa' the sheer imorality 'v it."
That's an old quote I disremember from somewhere. I surely can't remember where it came from but it says that boats and immorality have been 'round for many a hundred years and in many a country. Down here in my part of the South it isn't even needed to have a yacht... a shantyboat does just fine. Oh, I guess that yachts would attract a more expensive type gal, but I like the ones I get just fine.
You don't know what a shantyboat is? Ahhh, I'm not surprised. They've sort of gone out of favor since outboard motors and inboard-outboards came on so strong. You might say that they've gone upscale and high price and get called houseboats, floating palaces, gas hogs, and lots of other things that can't be described in front of the preacher. The other names happen a lot when one of these over-powered garbage scows rips past a ol' boy fishin' in a jon boat and tips him over... something that happens too often by far.
Now a shanty boat, that's another story from another time. No motor, none. If you want to move it you pole it, you row it, or you tow it with another boat. It usually looks like a box on a box. Not at all fancy. It's living cut down to fundamentals... bed, stove, ice box, a couple of chairs. If it's a fancy one it might have a shower from a 5 gallon can of water up on the roof. It may have a porta-potty if it's real fancy. If not, it'll have a bucket with a cover.
Now, lookin' at me you can tell I'm no spring chicken. I'm gettin' too old for a lot of the bullshit goin' on nowadays. I like to fish but the idea of spending $30,000 - $50,000 for a bass boat just strikes me as stupid. Sure it's great for going fast but I don' fish tournaments... and I don't want to burn 20 gallons of gas ta run an' hour. When I'm off work all I want to do is get away from the house and the ol' lady, fish the backwaters and flats, and enjoy myself.
House boat's an even worse deal. It burns more gas in a day than I'd want to pay for in a week. It has to be kept in the water, so you've gotta pay slip rent. They're so dam' big you can't get 'em into the places I wanna go to get away from everything. To make matters worse, most of 'em have air conditioning, screens, indoor plumbin'... all the sort of things that might make the ol' lady change her mind about coming along when I wanta get away from everyin'.
I figured out real quick that for the kind of fishin' I do a jon boat was about the best thing around. Doesn't cost all of an arm and a leg, moves out of it's own way and is shallow enough that I don't get stuck all that often.
My only real problem then was that by the time I get out back where I want to be, then fish a bit, it's time to turn around and head home. Either that or sleep on the bottom of the boat. Like I tol' you, I ain't no spring chicken. I'm ain't'a going to ruin myself sleeping like that, gettin' dewed on and getting et up by the bugs at my age. Figure I should be smarter than that.
So I did some thinking about the times when I was growin' up and decided that I was going to whup together a shantyboat. I did some quick figuring, gave myself enough room to cook, eat, sleep, and shit and came up with a little box 'bout 8 foot square with a 4 foot deck on one end. Took me 'bout a week to nail it together, another day or so to put a couple of coats of paint on it. By the time I was through it sure din't look like much... but when I put 'er in the creek fur a test she floated just like I wanted her to.
Next mornin' I tole the ol' lady that I was going fishing and that I'd be back in a coupla days. Much as she hates the bugs, the water and the heat she looked sorta glad that I wasn't trying to talk her into goin' 'long. Me, I gave up askin' her to go 'long quite a few years ago. Some things jus' doan go t'gether... my ol' lady and fishin' are two of them.
While I was busyin' myself puttin' the jon and the shantyboat in the creek it was amazin' just how many people there were lookin' over my rig. I swear you'd think that the people were coming out of the woods jus' to look me an' my rig over. If'n I had to I'd a bet that nary a one of 'em had ever seen anything like my lash-up. What was even more 'mazing was that they all wanted to natter away 'bout it. Between it bein' the first time to hook every thing up and all the chatterin' goin' on it took me 'bout an hour to get ready to head out to the slough.
Nope, a shantyboat doesn't sound like much... but it seems there's a lot of poontang 'round these parts that aren't looking for much more than a chance to get out of town for the weekend. They want some peace and quiet, lots of privacy to work on their tan, to be treated nicely... and the ones I know are willin' to treat me nice to be able to get that all-over tan they want. 'Course, I gotta admit that I didn't know that a shantyboat worked as a poon trap when I got the idea to build one. Really, I was startin' to think that maybe this whole thing wasn't such a good idea cause of all the attention I was getting' when I had my mind changed for me.
Wha' changed my mind? Well, to be honest 'bout it, 'twas a li'l ol' gal that came waltzin' up to me wearin' not much mor'n a coupla bandanners. She tol' me that her name was Mary, that my rig was "the cutest thang she'd seen since she din't know when," tol' me that she'd "really like to see inside that sweet li'l house," then carried on for another twenny minutes 'bout how cute everything was put together and how nice it'd be to have one like it.
As I've tol' you twice now, I ain't no spring chicken... but that doan mean I'm too ol' or too slow to grab a chanc't at some strange... and that gal was some good looking strange to me. I'm a-guessin' she was pushin' 15 years younger than I was, say 'bout 40ish. Lookin' at her you knew she'd be 'round the block a time or two, but she was still a pert' good lookin' thing. She was 'bout shoulder high to me, sorta brunette with red glints where the sun hit. I ain't gonna lie and say that she di'n't sag a bit, but it sure wasn't a lot an' those two bandanners di'n't hide much. I put her 'round 160 pounds or so, just right for cuddlin' close. I sorta figured I din't have much to lose and asked if she wanted to go along while I set things up. I mention my name was Willy, then I tole her I was headin' back in the slough, was planning on stayin' overnight an' that she was welcome to join me... and tole her that I'd bring her back to the landin' after I set up... iff'n she wanted.
She sorta gave me a strange look, thought about if for a short bit, then decided she wanted. She tol' me she had to get some things outa her car, then took off like a scalded cat, actin' 'fraid I wouldn't wait on her. Twasn't but a coupla minutes and she was back, carryin' one of them bags women like to tote to the beach in one hand and a fishin' rod and li'l tackle box in the other. Got me to thinkin' things were looking up a bit.
We got in the jon and I started the kicker, put 'er in gear, backed out into the current, then eased into forward and went with the current. Once we got out of sight of the dock I looked over at my newfound friend and told her that there was some beer in the cooler and I'd be right pleased if she'd hand me one. I told her we had 'bout fifteen minutes, give or take, and we'd be leaving the main creek and heading into the slough. Asked her if she'd ever been back in the sloughs and swamps. She told me that she hadn't, that this was the first time that she'd been around this part of the water on a boat. Said that she came up to do some fishing and some sunning but that, most of the time, there were just too many single men around for her to get comfortable, being by herself.
Runnin' and gabbin' like we were it didn't seem like no time at all 'til we hit where the railroad line crossed the creek. Mind you, I'd measured the clearance pretty well and had it figured for seven foot even. With this in mind I'd build the shanty with a height of six foot and ten inches', 'bout 5 inches of which was already under water... 'Course, Mary didn't know about that, all she knew was that she turned around to get us another beer and saw what she thought was gonna be a sure and certain collision. Well, I'll tell you, with that gal on board I didn't need no horn, whistle, or bell. She let out with one of the longest, loudest screeches that I ever heard. 'Course, just like I had good sense and made plans, we greased under that trestle like grass through a goose. Seems like we got all the way through before she stopped screeching, but that might be stretching things just a mite.
Just 'bout the time I stopped laughing at the look on that pretty gal's face it was time to back off on the throttle and swing right into the channel to the slough. It's an easy channel if you know it but can be tricky if you don't. You head into what looks like a dead end but, when you get almost to the end you hang a right into another long, real narrow channel. Follow that for a bit, then a hard left and you're in the slough. Lotta people look at it, but there ain't many that'll go past the first turn. Most of those give up at the second one where it shallows out right well.
While I was working back and forth with only a couple of feet of clearance on each side Mary was watching, looking as if she di'n't believe that we were going to make it through. Once we broke out into the open slough I cut the engine, coasted and gave her a chance to look around. Off on the left were a couple of Blue Herons. As usual they were ignoring everything except the fishing that they were doing. Past them, up a side channel a bit was a beaver dam. It was old enough that small trees and brush was growing in it.
.... There is more of this story ...