My Daddy was the finest man I ever knew and it was always a treat when he would ask me to go with him to the Douglas Fishing Club on the Big Satilla River below Atkinson Community. The trip he invited me on in the winter of ‘73 would be memorable.
We were busy packing for the trip when my Mother asked that if we saw any hornet nests while we were on the river she would like to have one for a decoration. Hornet nests were plentiful on the river in those days and since it was winter and all the hornets dead, I told her it would not be a problem.
Dad and I made the trip in record time because we could hardly wait to get to Boones Lake. We knew where the speckled perch should be waiting around some submerged treetops and, sure enough, they were. I paddled our boat quietly around and around the underwater structure and each pass would net us three or four fine fish.
This time spent with my Daddy in that pristine place is one of my fondest memories of him. He would talk about life in general and give sound advice I wish I had listened to. Sometimes, with tears rolling down his cheeks, he would talk about being in World War II, but the talk always centered on the starving and helpless children he saw who had no one to care for them. I guess I get my compassionate streak from Daddy.
We were on our way back downriver to the clubhouse with a fine mess of specks when, two bends from the landing, I spotted a hornet nest hanging out over the river. It was too high to reach so I told Daddy I would shoot the limb off and grab the nest out of the water. Just as I raised the shotgun, Daddy said to wait and for me to put him out on the nearby sandbar just in case there might still be hornets in the nest.
I laughed at him for being a chicken as I deposited him on dry land and motored just downstream under the nest. I knew that hornets died in the Fall and that their nests were abandoned. It said so in National Geographic and this was January. At the shot, the nest hit the water and floated up. Just then my motor quit and as I was trying to start it, I drifted up against a log and stopped. At this, the nest gently rolled over in the current and exposed its entrance.
Lord Jesus! I was looking right at the entrance hole when the first hornet came out. He hovered for a moment and then came right at me. I managed to slap him down but there was nothing I could do about the next twenty or so.
I fell into the bottom of the boat and pretended to be dead. I did not move or breathe and had both eyes squeezed shut for I knew my only hope was to be still. I heard the buzz and felt the wind from the angry hornet’s wings as they hovered over my ear, but they did not attack.
As I lay helpless in the boat wondering how I was going to get out of this mess, I could hear Daddy laughing. Finally, the current carried the nest around the boat and downriver and the hornets followed. Daddy yelled that it was safe to get up and I opened one eye just a little and surveyed the sky. Upon seeing no hornets, I got the motor cranked and made for the sand bar where Daddy was lying down and still laughing.
I intended to write the National Geographic and give them a piece of my mind but never did, and Mother had to do without her decoration.