Odell….Florida 1980

mtdWICKUM-1-FB1200-041 copy

Been junglin’ on the edge a these swamps so long, I can’t sleep if there ain’t frogs croakin’ in the background. Me and another guy, Jungle Ray, jungled at the pond the month of January. We cooked up ‘possum, coon, fish. There’s a couple a wild pigs loose down there. Never caught ‘em. Ray got close enough to throw his hatchet at one. Hit it square in the ribs, didn’t draw any blood, just bounced off. That ol’ pig went squeelin’ through the weeds and run off in the woods. You can’t catch a wild pig; they’re quick as a cat ‘n smart. Them pigs is one of the smartest animals you’ll find.

Caught an old mudfish. Got a dollar ‘n a half for him over at the liquor sto’. Waited outside the door with it ‘n first guy to come along asks me how much ‘n I told him a dollar n’ a half.  It’s a good spot to sell what you got. You wait there with your catch, ‘n if you don’t ask a high price, it’ll be gone in no time at all. I sold three coons Thursday. Guy give me three-fifty apiece for ‘em. They wasn’t very big. The pond at the South end of the yards is a good place for coon, same place I got the mudfish. If you can’t sell your catch, you can always cook it up for yourself.

Ray ain’t been around for a few weeks. This time of year, you’ll find him down around Pomano. He’s been carryin’ the stick thirty-five years ‘n he kind of runs a pattern. Only time he leaves the South is fall. He’ll be up in Michigan pickin’ apples come September. This last year, Ray ‘n I met up at the pond. I’d come in from Baldwin. It was about midnight ‘n I was lookin’ to jungle in them bad order cars. It’d been rainin’ hard ‘n I wasn’t takin’ any chances sleepin’ out in the open. I’m walkin’ ‘long this line a cars, lookin’ for one I could crawl into, ‘n I see a body under this bad order hopper. I crouch down to see if it was dead or what, ‘n I see it’s Ray. So I says, “Ray is that you,” ‘n I ask him why he’s sleepin’ under the hopper like that. And he said he was drunk when it started rainin’. He was sleepin’ it off in a gondola, ‘n when he woke up, he was all soaked. His clothes, blankets, everything, soaked. He crawled under that gondola to get outta the rain, but it didn’t make no difference, he was wet as a body could get.

It was cold, about forty degrees, ‘n Ray was shakin’ ‘n shiverin’ under his blanket. So I walked into town over to where they got this Goodwill box ‘n rummaged around till I found some dungarees and a couple a shirts seemed like they’d fit Ray. There weren’t any jackets in there, otherwise I’d a got one. I took ‘em back to the hopper ‘n tell him, “Ray, I got some dry clothes for you.” And you know what he did? He tells me he’ll go through ‘em in the mornin’. And he rolls everything up ‘n uses it as a pillow. I’ll be goddamned if he didn’t fall back to sleep all soakin’ wet like that. You get that white port blanket ‘n you’ll sleep through most anything.