Buck had a funny little toolbox I hadn’t seen before. We were sitting in the backyard of one of our projects in Greenwich in the late eighties. I often stopped on-site at lunchtime to check the “pulse” of the crews. On this day, circumstance or happenstance brought me into Buck’s personal world.
That little toolbox seemed odd. It clearly wasn’t part of his lunch kit. Eventually I asked him about it.
The box couldn’t have been bigger than 6” x 4” x 3″. When Buck opened it for me, there was a complete set of fishing gear in miniature! It turned out Buck was an expert bass guy, ready for action anytime, anywhere. And it just so happened that the property we working on had a small (probably not natural) pond, no more than 50 feet in diameter – one of those ponds you see completely algae-covered in mid-summer. Buck was going fishing for small mouth bass in the pond today after work. I had to see this!
Buck was from Louisiana.
Pronounce that LOO-si-anna. During the early to mid eighties, before we had minted enough carpenters to fill the need, construction crews migrated north to find work. Buck came up with a gang of commercial carpenters – stayed in motels or trailers, eating out a lot, living a sort of pipeline building lifestyle. He eventually met a girl, fell in love, got an apartment and answered my ad in the help wanted section of the local newspaper.
I needed the help. But I knew from the start that Buck probably wouldn’t fit.
It wasn’t the southern thing; it was that Buck wasn’t a very good carpenter. He could cut accurately enough … but something about chewing-tobacco spit on the recently built deck would just not fly. He was a little cavalier on the safety end as well, cutting 2×4’s off his boot, and jumping down the eight feet from the wall plate to the plywood deck. Nothing I said was going to change this cowboy!
One day, while putting the pressure treated plates on newly poured concrete walls, Buck jumped down that eight feet to retrieve a dropped tool or something, and landed full foot on a nail-embedded board. Everyone on the site heard his painful scream. We took Buck to the hospital with his boot on and nail still in. Ouch! As I said, he wasn’t really careful enough.
But boy, could he fish!
I challenged him that lunch hour:
“No way is there any fish worth catching in that mud hole.”
He told me to come back at 4:30 pm … and we would see.
Inside that tackle box was the tiniest rod and reel I had ever seen. The rod was the telescoping sort. Still, it couldn’t have been longer than 24” fully extended. The reel was a true spinning type, albeit, very small. In the box were several of his favorite lures, guaranteed to work. Buck explained to me that bass eggs are distributed on the legs of waterfowl … This was why he said bass were everywhere.
When I arrived ready for my first-ever Bass Pro Challenge, Buck had on his real boots – lizard skin, I guess – and his cowboy fishin hat. It seems, as I know now, style matters in bass fishin.
While I watched him set up his rig, I realized I was in the presence of a true craftsman. “It takes one to know one,” as I have said before.
We walked down to the pond. Buck said, “I got a good feeling about that log over there.” That little rig could cast beautifully … in no more than two or three shots he hooked one! Not a bluegill or a sunny, but a 12” small mouth bass. Wow, was I wrong. This guy was good – and no bullshitter either.
Buck was a catch and release angler, a naturalist at heart. His hooks were barbless – so he let that fish go.
I went fishing with Buck again at one of the local reservoirs. Full rig this time. He let me cast, coaching in a soft southern way. That day he caught several fish including an exquisite lake trout – all shimmering color, gills pulsing full of life. Even though it was “good eatin,” we put that fish back as well.
Eventually, I had to let Buck go. The company leaned down in the late eighties … survival of the fittest, Darwin’s curse. We parted as friends.
I’ll always remember Buck’s bayou magic that afternoon. Wonder what he’s doing these days. If you see him, say hey for me.