Stan Wright innocently threw out pieces of his unfinished Honey Bun into the waters of the Hwy. 1215 boat lane on Toledo Bend. We were there tied up to a big old stump fishing for big old bluegills. Myself, I would never have thrown away part of a good Honey Bun. But it led to a remarkable fish story. Neither of us expected what happened next in the water around my old 15-foot green Hustler fiberglass boat.
The little pieces of Honey Bun got the attention of a big school of baitfish. They, in turn, got the attention of a big bunch of bass. For the next few minutes, the bass began to school, eating both shad and Honey Bun. Who would have known?
And who would have known that, in the right circumstances, bass will also bite crickets.
That’s all we had to fish with at the time, so we pitched them into the frothing water. We actually caught bass on cane poles and crickets. I couldn’t tell many people. They would have kicked me out of the bass club. It wasn’t long until the action slowed. Another Honey Bun had to be unwrapped, crumbled up and thrown into the lake. Then came more schooling bass. And more bass in the boat. On crickets. It was a good trade-off. Honey Buns and crickets for bass.
That was a long time ago. But to this day, I bet we are the only pair of bream fishermen in the history of Toledo Bend to catch a limit of largemouth bass on cane poles and crickets while the schooling fish chased floating Honey Buns.
This old story is suddenly important again today. Two weeks ago, my lifelong friend had a serious medical issue out of the blue. A week later, he passed away. He was buried Saturday.
Even though we lived too far apart to see each other often, we stayed in regular contact. Just a few weeks ago, he called me to harass me on my 65th Birthday, knowing full well a payback call from me would be coming from me this week.
Today would have been Ralph Stanford Wright’s 65th birthday. Sadly, I won’t get to make that return call.
I have to share a few things about my friend. Stan was tight. He could squeeze six cents out of a nickel. He worked hard, spoke his peace. He owned no political correctness. He worked at Northwestern State and, told me recently, that he planned to retire this fall and move back to Toledo. He had a lot of interesting jobs in his day, including a short stint with the FBI in New Orleans. I don’t remember much about that. Except the time he called me when he found out why there were such big crowds at Ethel’s Marina on Toledo every weekend. Sorry, that’s all I’ll say about that.
Stan wasn’t one to fool around. I was. My actions and words were often met with his patented, chin back and lowered, scowling ‘Urrrrrgghhhh’ .
Our days go back to when our childhood when our families spent many Saturdays “chillin and grillin” in Bastrop. One of those days in the backyard, Stan was being a pro pitcher and I was a pro catcher, like 12 year olds often are. He was supposed to throw a fast ball, but let loose a big lefty curve ball. I missed. It caught me, Right in the shin. My only shin guard in those days was skin. To this day, there is still a slight twinge there.
He was the first guy I ever knew that had a tackle box of his own just for bass baits. He had about six plastic worms pre-rigged with hooks and spinners, two frog colored Hellbenders, a couple of black back, silver belly Cordell Hot Spots and two or three white H&H spinners. He even had an extra spool of line for his green Johnson Century reel. Who ever heard of such?
I have no room to share all the old stories we were leading characters in. But what I share should remind everyone of one simple, important thing: Fishing and hunting isn’t about filling the freezer. It’s about spending time with friends, having fun and making memories.
There is one story I am glad my wife witnessed, because nobody ever believed Stan or me without her nodding approval of its validity. At that time, Stan was living on Toledo. At the end of his long pier, there was a big bream bed. We frequented it often, even though by now I was a staunch bass fisherman with my own tackle box just for bass.
I spotted a huge bass swimming just under the surface right alongside the pier. I hurried back to my Ranger Bass Boat, which was tied to the pier, and grabbed the dip net. I had no rod and reel handy. The big bass continued to swim down beside the pier toward me at a leisurely pace. I scooped it up with the net. It went crazy, thrashing and splashing. I died laughing. Stan gave a big “Urrrrrgghhhh”. I know what you are going to say. It is illegal to use a net to catch a bass. But I’m hoping the statute of limitations has run out. If it hasn’t, no judge will believe it and my wife does not have to testify.
After closer examination, we understood why the whopper wasn’t scared away by me or of the finality of the approaching dip net. The bass was blind in its right eye, the one on the side by the pier. The bass never saw me coming.
Stan was a stickler for details. He took the fish up to the Lantana Bay Grocery to be weighed on certified scales. Officially, it weighed seven pounds, four ounces. But I’m sticking with eight. It just sounds better. After a brief discussion of whether something might be wrong with the bass, we concurred he was okay. So we cleaned him and ate him for supper.
It was that same yearning for exactness that led Stan to have a big talking clock in his guest bedroom on the lake. It wasn’t just any clock. it was a Coordinated Universal Time clock and radio. You could turn the volume down, but every minute, you could still hear exactly what time it was in the center of the universe. I can still hear the clock in the middle of the night, “Ping. Ping. It is now 2:31 a.m. Coordinated Universal Time”. CTU is the primary time standard by which the world regulates clocks and time around the world, a detail that would escape most folks. Not Stan.
One final tale. In our high school days, Stan would often come back up to Bastrop and spend a few days fishing. One day we were clear on the backside of Bussey Brake Reservoir when we hit and stump and sheared the pin on our Evinrude Lightwin 3-horse. We couldn’t find a spare in the tackle box. Stan got out on the bank, walked a mile and a half down the levee and got one from Mr. Bardin at the boat dock. About the time I saw him walking back down the levee a couple hundred yards away, I remembered that Dad often put an extra shear pin on the back of the motor under a piece of black electric tape. Yep, there it was.
Stan never found out about that. I would surely have ended up hearing a long “Urrrrgghhhh“, prefaced with several other words. And I might have had to swim part of the way back home.
But now, I guess it doesn’t matter. Urrrrgghhhh.
Rest In Peace, Stan.
Thanks for the great note on our old friend Stan, Mike Smith
Loved that story! You two were truly best friends and you are so good a “penning” those memories. What a fitting tribute to Stan even on a heavenly birthday.
You are blessed to have such good memories to share of your friend, Stan.