Daddy's Homemade Fun
Written by : Tina Easley
Thank you , Daddy !
June 17, 2010
My Morton family has a long line of history in Greene County , Arkansas . Coming to the county in the early 1900's from Butler County , Missouri . My sisters , Pam the oldest , Kathleen the baby , and myself lived our whole lives in Miller Community and attended one school . Members of Mulberry Church of Christ our growing up years with our different branches of our families . We were lucky , or at least I always thought we were , to have so much and the pleasure of living in one of the best fishing and hunting spots in the county just a skip away from our house . Our own little paradise the St. Francis River .
My family always fished and hunted , I guess some of my earliest memories were of us going fishing and camping . Our Daddy , Otto Morton taught us how to clean what we caught or killed , I can remember catching a mess of Brim and using a table spoon to take the scales off , I think I might of been about six years old . Daddy always had a way of making even work a learning and fun experience that stuck with you . Sometimes even today I catch myself asking " What would Daddy do ? " My dad could always come up with some of the best , what I call Homemade Fun .
Most people called me and my sisters , tomboys but for us it was just our way of life the only way we knew . I use to think it was mean of other kids when they called us tomboys . But not now I am proud we were brought up that way , it made us strong and proud adults and not afraid of hard work . My Parents , Grandparents and Uncles , Aunts and cousins all enjoyed the Great Outdoors it just came naturally to all of us . Our family fished , camped and hunted in and around the St. Francis River and other parts of Arkansas . It was how we spent our vacations then and even now .
My sisters and I spent nearly every weekend growing up , during the summer fishing and camping with our family over in the St. Francis River at a place called the Blue - Hole , that ran on the east side of Miller Community . We might spend the day pole fishing , or setting out trotlines , or waiting for nightfall to go frogging , sometimes we would all just go for a cool boat ride on a hot summer day . I can remember fighting with my sisters over whose turn is was to go with Daddy. These were some of the best times of our lives when familes had time for each other .
Daddy once told me , that he had been told during the summer time in the early 1900's , over on the river at night time you could see all the campfires along the St. Francis bottoms lighting up the darkness all the way from the Ridge . The settlers of Miller Community would go over in the swamps of the St. Francis River . Setting up camp right in the middle of the big drifts , during fishing season .Driving their wagons on the thick piled drifts along the chutes of the river where the drifts had damned up deep holes and packed tight from spring floods that made good beds for all sorts of fish . The fishermen would fish the deep holes with big cane poles , formed by the high flood waters and bring fish out by the barrels full. Which back then the fishermen had no rules and regulations or limits , like we have today.
In the late 60's and early 70's you could get what was called a Family Picnic Permit that cost around $10.00 , which made you legal to use big trammel nets to trap fish . Something , I wish my children could take part of today. The rules of using the Permit was you had to " cook and eat your catch that day on the bank ". So before every 4th of July , Daddy would go and get us a permit for our family outting . My Mom , Mattie Reddick Morton , my Grandma Helen Morton and my Aunt Kathy Strope , my daddy's sister would pack all the food and drinks and all the cooking supplies we would need for our holiday fun celebration .
Which our family made up of the Morton's and Strope's and some of our neighbors . Would all get together and go over to the Blue - Hole , a backup chute off of the St. Francis River. We had to ride over to the Blue - Hole on a long wooden trailer hauling all of the women and children and our supplies for a cookout and a day of Daddy's Homemade Fun .
The trailer was pulled by a homemade Dune Buggy with big tractor wheels and a old Ford pickup body that Daddy built just for the use of going to the Blue - Hole . Daddy's homemade Dune Buggy sat high enough , it could go thru just about anything , especially thru the deep gumbo and over the cypress knees and logs that scattered the old logging road to the river . It looked allot like the big 4x4 Monster trucks you see now days. Sometimes we would get stuck in the gumbo and we would have to throw logs under the wheels of the Dune Buggy to get traction . We would all laugh and just keep on going , sometimes getting covered head to toe in sticky gumbo .
The old logging road leading over to the Blue - Hole was always muddy and deep , deep , gumbo with ruts , knee deep from the sawmill crews that was logging over in the bottoms.The woods was so thick and overgrown with cypress trees , cypress knees and vines , that very little sunlight got thru to dry up the old road bed. Every Spring we would always go after , the spring floods to clear out all the downed trees and limbs so we could get down the old logging road to the Blue - Hole . The fresh smell of cypress and gumbo was always a sure sign that summer was on its way .
When we would get over to the Blue - Hole , the men would go out in boats and put out the net in a large half moon circle across the river , and then tell us children to go up stream . All of the kids that was old enough , would take sticks and hit the top of the water and make as much noise as we could , while the men ran the outside of the net with the boats and taking wooden boat paddles slapping the top of the water , hollering and yelling to run the fish in the net. It usually took about thirty - mintues to an hour to have all the fish you could eat .
We always ended up with plenty of fish to fry , the men would bring in a fish or two at a time that had been caught in the net . While women would be waiting to dress the fish and have the cookers ready to fry .
Oh , what a day of Daddy's Homemade Fun.