Be careful where you buy your bait:
I had just returned home from a long day of work, put on my sweats, cracked a beer, sat back in my recliner, and turned on the evening news when the headline story broke: “Cowboy Bob” had struck again in Mesquite, Texas, and had added another bank to his long list of knock-offs. I watched in astonishment as the brazen bandit captured by the bank’s security camera calmly walked in dressed in black, wearing a cowboy hat and sunglasses, and sporting a bushy beard with mustache. He approached the teller, pulled out a note, nodded his head and watched the clerk as she emptied the cash drawer into a bag. Without missing a queue Bob tipped his hat, grabbed the “bootie” and then nonchalantly walked out the door. “Hey Lori,” I yelled out to my wife in the kitchen, “you’ll never guess what happened.”
“Cowboy Bob just robbed our bank!”
The western attired bandit had been linked to a series of bank robberies in Dallas and the surrounding metroplex area and had now made the FBI’s ten most wanted list. His workman-like and methodical approach to his job reminded me of the poor working saps like myself, who got out of bed every morning, showered, shaved, put on a coat and tie, grabbed a brief case and fought the traffic to get to work. In Bob’s case, he got out of bed, showered, did not shave, put on his black bandit outfit which included a cowboy hat and sunglasses, grabbed his heater, and fought traffic on his way to rob a bank.
I wasn’t about to lose any sleep about it because I knew the bank was insured to cover my miniscule savings and I had bigger fish to fry (literally). I was going to take the next week off to go fishing with my brother and father and I needed to get my tackle in order.
The next day, their flight from Chicago arrived on time and I picked them up at arrivals. I took the LBJ freeway to I-30 heading east to Rockwall where my homestead was located. “We’re going to fish Ray Hubbard for a few days and then head out to Lake Fork in East Texas for a black bass bonanza,” I said, “but for right now, the sandies and hybrid are schooling big time in Hubbard, so I hope you’re ready to catch some fish. That was all it took to get them fired up; they were chomping at the bit.
We woke at five o’clock the following morning and after a quick breakfast, packed the boat and headed to the boat launch. “Let’s stop at the bait shop and get some minnows in case we can’t find the schooling fish; we can always go crappie fishing,” I said. My brother took out his billfold and stuffed it in his pocket, “I’m buying.” Racing down the catwalk we entered the old wooden bait shop. The smell of fresh brewed coffee, stale donuts, and minnows, was a fisherman’s delight. “Can I help you fellas?” a middle-aged, weathered looking woman with grey hair asked us.
“We’ll take three coffees, two dozen guaranteed minnows, and a launch permit, ma’am,” my brother said.
“Be right up young man,” she replied as she turned and made eye contact with me. Her eyes were an icy grey and appeared to be fixated on my cap for an extended period of time. Her demeanor seemed to instantly transform from hospitable, to a cold distant countenance. Turning to the aerator in the back of the room, she began fishing out the minnows.
“What was that all about?” my brother quietly asked.
“Hell if I know.”
The woman returned with our bait and handed us our launch permit. “That will be six-fifty,” she said. My brother took the money out his wallet and paid the woman, and once again gave me a glacial glance.
“Here you go; keep the change,” he said as he handed her seven dollars. She stared at us blankly.
“See you later,” I said.
“What was that woman’s problem?” my brother asked as we departed the bait shop and headed back to the boat.
“I don’t know; maybe the cheese fell off her muffin this morning.”
“Why was she staring at your hat?” I took it off and looked at it: it was my FBI cap that I had bought in Washington DC the previous year while on vacation. “Maybe she thought I was J. Edgar Hoover.”
Once we got on the lake we immediately followed a flock of gulls into a huge school of feeding white bass and hybrid and hammered out our limit by noon time. “Let’s get these fish cleaned and then head to the house for an old-fashioned fish fry,” I said. We pulled in our lines, headed to the cleaning station, and then made our way to the house for some cold beer and fishing fellowship.
“What do you say we head out to Lake Fork tomorrow and look for some grand daddy black bass,” I asked.
“Fine with me,” my brother agreed. “This house needs a wall hangar bucketmouth in your game room.”
After a good nights sleep, we gathered all the tackle up and hitched up the boat. “Next time you see us, we’ll have a wall hangar,” I said to my wife as I kissed her goodbye.”
“Whatever; just be safe and wear your life jackets.”
I guided the truck back to I-30 and headed east to Lake Fork, which is located close to Tyler, Texas (approximately one hundred miles from home). A small log cabin had been rented for two days to serve as fishing headquarters for the gang. Once we arrived, we unpacked and immediately hit the lake to seek our trophy. We threw spinner baits, top waters, deep divers, and every kind of plastic bait on the planet, to no avail. “That’s it fellas; their just not biting today,” I said. “Let’s go catch some beer bass.”
Back at the cabin, we kicked back, popped a few beers, and turned on the tube. Cowboy Bob had struck again, except this time his luck had run out. Bob had robbed a Guaranty Bank shortly after eleven o’clock in the morning in Tyler, Texas. After leaving the bank with the bag of money, a dye pack exploded leaving a trail of smoke. Bob had run across a busy seven lane road leaving a trail of smoke, while witnesses yelled at him as he jumped into the getaway vehicle (a Frontier motor home). Police had immediately responded to the emergency radio call sent out and the hunt ensued. After a short chase the motor home stopped at an intersection and the driver pulled down the shades inside. Officers John Brown and Gary Rice crouched behind their vehicles with guns drawn. Ten minutes later the driver stepped out, pointed a gun at the officers, and was shot dead.
After close examination, it was determined that Bob was really a woman wearing a fake beard as part of a western disguise. The woman was identified as Peggy Jo Tallas, a sixty year old ex-convict. When her mug shot was flashed I nearly fell off my chair.
“Is that who I think it is?” my wide-eyed brother asked.
“Sure the hell is! Good thing you didn’t ask her for any guaranteed night crawlers: she might have shot us both dead!”
G.O. Fishin': Tall Tails from the Tackle Box