Screen Shot 2019-09-22 at 6.39.29 PM


Lake Nimrod

Reading Time: 5 minutes

All this month my brother’s flights have allowed him weekly overnights in Houston. It’s been the rare treat to go down and pick him up for lunch at Hobby, talk a bit, and then see him off to fly around the country. Sitting at the Vietnamese sandwich shop sipping ice coffee, he said “Remember that time you were going to cut me out of the tent”? “What?” I said. “Yeah, don’t you remember.. the Island and the storm?” For a minute, I didn’t. And then in that way of the mind, a million memories connect and flash and I remembered.

With Dad’s new sobriety, we began to try to be less dysfunctional as a family. I don’t know if it was a formal plan, it just seemed to start happening. That’s what I think we were trying to do, that and heal some, so we started taking family camping trips. Mother would pack up enough stuff to make us feel at home and dad took us wherever his fragile new start on life could handle. You don’t get very far away from your demons very fast, so you got to let time work its magic. Young in the sobriety game, Dad’s need for isolation continued. He had found an island in the middle of Lake Nimrod when looking for slab crappie and we were going to spend a week, just the four of us, away from people. Dad made a big deal about how we would take everything with us, leave the truck locked and we would be on our own. Geez, I could see a lot of problems with all this, what if someone stole our truck, what if we didn’t have enough gas to get back. The plan seemed risky to me, but then that wasn’t really a new thing with us. Challenges and Dad’s acceptance of them was who God made him to be.  

Getting to the island took two trips. Dad hated big bass boaters. He believed in john boats. I didn’t know they were called that until much later in my married life and it strikes me that’s kind of an unflattering name for what we used to get around on the water. Despite our combined and learned prejudice against big boats, the Huddle’s remained faithful to our 12 foot aluminum job, which always leaked and water always threatened to overlap the sides. I don’t know if that was from overloading or just bad riveting but I remember a lot of trips across glassy, black water, and early morning fog making me shiver, with more than a few thoughts of what I would do if we sunk.  Dad could skull a boat like no one else I ever saw. Sitting at the front of the boat, he would brace the paddle against his left forearm, fishing pole in the right, and manage the boat with fluid motion, smooth, powerful figure eights, eddying the water around the paddle. Anything requiring two hands, he rested the paddle, dripping on his lap, while he sopped around brush for crappie. This was fishing movement of course. For jobs such as moving to an island for a week, we used the 9 horse Evinrude. 

Yet again, fearful of what I would do if we sunk, we loaded everything for a week into the boat, twice as I said, and headed for our private island. Once we got there, it was time for mother to make a home and for dad to take a nap. This was ongoing issue with my parents. Private islands sound very romantic, but even back then before we knew there was real entertainment like Ipods and DVD  players, my brother and I were bored, especially since our family’s main attraction was napping. Finally night came and we built a fire and wondering now what we were going to do, Dad brought the Coleman Lantern up a bit more and brought out a book. Dad could do three things that the only thing you can call them is beautiful. He could sing offkey, wavery and deep when singing Lee Marvin’s ‘I Was Born Under a Wandering Star’, which is the only song I really remember him singing and the only song that he needed to sing. He could whistle. There is no way to describe this, if I did justice to it you would just wish you could have heard it and besides that I don’t think people really do it much anymore, so it would just make you miss the lost art of it all that much more. Only you should know, it was clear and as on pitch as his singing wasn’t. The third thing is that he could read out loud. Whether, Poe’s Raven or the Highwayman’s Daughter, the cadence and passion of words, the timing, made the words more than ink on paper. Kind of like the things that only ole Willy can do to Midnight in Georgia. 

This night Dad had brought a book of short stories and he read one of them, more than 10 pages long, all the way through. It was a bit scary, children ghosts and such, simply titled “They”. Something a bit melancholy and lonely and lost and yet, we sat around, this dysfunctional band, counting on God to keep Dad sober and try to get the most of life, with eyes shining in the firelight. I think Dad felt good about his life and his family that night. The darkness was all around, but it wasn’t scary, because it was just us on this small island, nothing there but us, nothing could surprise us. The island was kind of like us. We spent a lot of time in life wishing we were in control of our lives and recognizing the scary things is we actually have little control. For a moment we thought we were in control. During the afternoon, a gusty wind has started to blow and now the twinkling heaven was increasingly cloudy. The casual remark or two from Dad that the water seemed a bit rougher, did not prepare me for what was to happen as we all lay down on the makeshift beds in the tent. I can only count a few times I ever saw my dad scared or weak. This was one of them. Out of a heavy sleep, Dad whispered for me to get up a storm had come through and it was blowing badly. The tent floor was shaking and rain was pouring down, but the worse part was there was a strange sound, almost like a train. But we weren’t any where close to a train. Mother was terrified and Dad gave me instructions. I am going to tie your brother to you. If the tent comes down around us, you have to cut your way out. Take this knife. If it comes to that, Janet, get low to the ground and wrap yourself around a tree. I went over in my mind, hold Neil to me, cut the tent, find a tree, over once again… just like I used to when mother would send me to store. List the items, don’t forget anything. But what if the rope gets around Neil’s neck?  No, Dad didn’t say anything about that. But it could happen. Add this to the list. Cut the rope if Neil gets tangled in it. Tense, I held Neil, scared and wondered, what do I do if something happens to my Dad?

I don’t know how long the tornado lasted. In an out of the tent, Dad settled on the tent floor and reassured Mother all was fine. Dad took the knife from me. I could tell he wasn’t scared anymore. “You can untie everything now Janet”. I remember laying there in the dark as Dad took his switch lantern outside and pulled the tent back into order. The moment of total quiet and stillness was better than the awful wind, but something still felt uncomfortable. When the crickets began their own wandering star song, my hunched shoulders settled down into my sleeping bag and Dad said, “I wonder if we lost the boat. Don’t worry Janet. In the morning we can figure everything out.” 

Today, this last day of July 2006 has the promise of a new day tomorrow. Don’t any of you worry, there’s always a morning, that begins a new day. A fresh start to take a look at where you are and where you can go and if this day doesn’t go so well, then take a rest, let the night pass, and just as God planned, in the morning, figure it out. Howdy, good morning and Happy Monday… er Tueday . 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recent posts!