- There's probably a thin line between fishermen having inflated ego's
and that "extra something" that makes them unforgettable. Nearly
all of us can relate to living legends that sailed the seas or prowled
- Biloxi charterboat captain H. L. "Mac" McQueen could be counted
among the group. For almost half a century, Mac and his beloved Belvedere
was a fixture along Biloxi's waterfront. As a youngster, he was my tutor
and for most of my adult life I was in awe of his fishing savvy. The man
could flat find fish. He could also regale you with stories that left you
- One of his favorites involved a client who took him to task on his
posted "no fish, no pay" promise. To make a long story short,
everybody on the boat caught fish that day - except the guy who was paying
for the trip. If the fellow took the middle chair, the port and starboard
rods would snap tight. Switching chairs didn't help either; the guy was
simply snakebit. At four in the afternoon, Mac ordered the rods racked
and made for port.
- A quarter-mile from the dock, his worried mate came topside to report
the guy was stinking drunk and boasting that since he, personally, hadn't
caught a fish, no way in hell was he going to pay for the trip.
- Red-faced and seething, Mac told his mate to take the wheel so he could
go below and "straighten things out."
- It didn't take long. Going straight to the fish box, he took out a
slimy 30 pound cobia and at point blank range, hurled it at the guy who,
startled, bear-hugged it in self-defence.
- "All right", roared Mac, "You've caught your damned
fish. Now pay up!"
- Mac passed away in 1994 but his presence, I suspect, will be alive
for many years to come.
- My friend Blaine "Porkie" Alleman who lived in Gulfport before
fishing around the bend recently, will always be remembered fondly. He
caught specks like he had made a pact with the devil. I fished with him
on a regular basis but could never top him. Typically, using live shrimp
and popping corks and standing side by side in waist-deep water, he would
outfish his competitors on an average of five-to-one. No one could explain
this phenomenon and after awhile, no one tried.
- He made a true believer out of me when I told him I needed a picture
of a large jack crevalle for a photo assignment.
- "Be on the beach tomorrow morning at eight sharp", he said
without expression, "And make darned sure there's film in your camera."
- I arrived at 7:55 and while stepping from the cab of my pick-up, saw
him backing out of the water, rod bent to the breaking point, herding a
huge jack into the shallows. My goodness, I gasped, were my eyes deceiving
me? I thought only icons like Babe Ruth were allowed to "call their
- As I grabbed my camera and sprinted to the action, Porkie threw a glance
my way and shouted: "Dammit, you're early; I said eight a.m.!"
- That photo, incidentally, appeared in a national fishing calendar and
for the month of January, 1988 - immortalized him.
- On most saltwater locales, the "in thing to do" after you've
made your last cast, is to have your ashes scattered over your favorite
fishing hole. If it's a grieving widow who didn't like fishing - or more
likely the time her husband devoted to it - the trip will be short and
perfunctory. In rare instances, a minister, priest or rabbi may say a few
words. Very few.
- But in the best of circumstances, "scattering the ashes"
is more of a party-atmosphere ritual. The poor fellow may have died on
the coldest grayest day in January but the agreed time to do the deed will
invariably fall in fine weather at the very peak of the fishing season.
Count on the cobia run being in full swing or boiling acres of huge redfish.
At the very least there should be an endless procession of starving Spanish
mackerel, bonito and jacks eagerly waiting to sacrifice themselves.
- Back in the mid '90's, a fun-loving group from Orange Beach set out
to scatter the ashes of a fallen comrade but toasted him so much, they
soon forgot their primary mission. They might have yet fulfilled it had
not their gung-ho captain run smack dab into several thousand bull reds
gorging themselves on red minnows blasting the hapless baitfish into smithereens.
- It wasn't until wearily docking that afternoon that they remembered
their failed obligation.
- "Well, Hell!" One of the glassy-eyed anglers was quoted as
saying, "I guess we'll just have to go out again tomorrow!"
- Who among us have not dreamed of achieving immortality, not in the
sense of ancient mythology but just to be remembered for something. Perhaps
an act as simple as taking your son or daughter fishing.
- And so I was drifting in thought one recent Sunday when I told my wife
that instead of being buried in the family plot, maybe I'd like to be cremated
and have my ashes scattered in the sea.
- "What!" she said in that betrayed hurt way wives can summon
up at a moments notice. "I always assumed we'd be buried side by side
... You are joking, aren't you?"
- After a lump-in-the-throat pause, I said, "Sure, honey; why we'll
even go pick out a double headstone someday if you wish."
- No sooner had she left the room, shaking her head, that my imagination
started working overtime again.
- The deep gully at the end of Fairchild's Wharf would be the place I'd
choose. My youngest son, Bill, a strapping Coast Guardsman stationed in
Corpus Christi, would officiate. But it would have to be done on a clear
June morning with the sun just peeping over the horizon with a strong swelling
tide running ... The kind that tickles the hair on your legs. And there
should be laughing gulls about and the fragrance of ripe watermelon in
the air emanating from tub-sized slicks. That would be nice ... And not
take a lot of time to do it either. But if he wanted to make a couple of
casts with the prized floaters I had left him, that would be alright. No,
it would be better than alright.
- But not this June ...
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