Caddo Lake stretches across the border shared by Texas and Louisiana. It is an eerie, surreal place, dense with cypress and overhung with moss, that makes you think you've been transported back to prehistoric times. One could easily get lost in the many waterways, and folks often do. In fact there are actually direction signs and path markers sticking out of the deep water to help fishermen find their way. It is amazingly beautiful, and at the same time disturbing. The 1972 horror movie "The Legend of Boggy Creek" was actually filmed there.
Papa Bear spent about five years near Caddo Lake while he was growing up, and has many fond memories of fishing there with his Granddaddy. He's returned several times as an adult to fish those waters, and has chosen Caddo Lake to be the final resting place for his ashes someday.
On one such fishing trip long before my time with him, Papa Bear was out on the lake in his boat with his wife Sandy (now deceased). Sandy loved to fish as much as Papa Bear, and the day found them trolling slowly along one of the dense, shadowy back channels of the lake.
At one point, Papa Bear called back to Sandy from the front of the boat, pointing to something ahead in the water. "There's an alligator," he said.
"Yeah, right" said Sandy, rolling her eyes. Papa Bear is well known for his playful sense of humor.
"Really, it's alligator," Papa Bear insisted, turning so she could see over his shoulder.
"Bull@#*&," responded Sandy. But when she glanced up ahead in the murky water she did indeed see an alligator moving ahead of the boat about 50 feet in the distance. She let out a scream.
Papa Bear couldn't contain his excitement and moved in closer for a good look, following the huge beast as it skimmed along the water toward Diablo's Den, rumored to be it's home. It's head measured about a foot and a half from snout to eyes... a big gator, maybe twelve feet long.
Sighting confirmed, Sandy screamed bloody murder, insisting that she'd had enough of fishing and wanted to go back to shore! But Papa Bear isn't afraid of anything; he convinced her that the alligator wasn't going to climb into the boat with them, and he managed to persuade her to continue fishing in another part of the lake.
Papa Bear and I got married at a little Bed & Breakfast in Jefferson, Texas near Caddo Lake, and we spent a wonderful few days honeymooning there. One evening just before sunset we took a boat ride on Caddo Lake, piloted by a guide who filled us in on the scenery and local lore as we glided thru the silent, spooky waters. It was incredibly beautiful, something I can't even begin to describe, but having heard this tale of the alligator sighting, I was VERY careful not to dangle my hands over the side of the boat!
I'm not so sure I want to go fishing with Papa Bear at Caddo Lake. When I tell him that the possibility of one of us falling out of the boat or it capsizing is terrifying, he just laughs. He points out that he always has a gun in his possession for emergencies. None the less, if I saw something with a big head and bulging eyes swimming alongside the boat, a change of clothing would definitely be required!