One of the stories told at night to us kids by our dad Ernest OJ Vaughn while we were camping alone along the river. This is the story as told by him around the campfire.
As a young boy I would sit out a small trotline at the mouth of a small creek along Arkansas River. I would always catch some nice fish but I started getting bent broken or straightened hooks and no fish. So I saved and ordered some big “real big” hooks from the sears catalog book. I was gonna catch the son-of-gun. The best time was at night, so one evening I set out my line across the mouth of the creek and baited it with some big red ear perch. . I made a little campsite close and gathered up enough dry drift wood and dead fallen limbs to have a small fire so I could roast wieners and warm up some pork & beans when I got hungry. I Had an oil lantern for being able to see around a little and to take with me when I would run (check) my trotline, I created the first fish on alerted device, by taking my used bean can and put several small rocks in it and tie a sting to it then throw over a limb close then tie other end to my trotline. By doing this I could nap during the night and not have to run line until I heard the rocks rattling around in the can. We had had several days of steady good hard rains and the water was flowing real well, but not too fast. I had baited up with some really bid red ear perch. I was napping and around midnight my alarm can started to rattle pretty good then just stopped, so I figured that it had got my bait off the hook and if I wanted to catch whatever had been breaking and straightening out my hooks I was gonna have to re-bait up. I used my little homemade wooden boat, that I had used tar to seal up the joint cracks. It was only 10 foot long and 3 foot wide and was easy to drag to my fishing spot. The mouth of the creek was just a little wider than the 12 foot boat. I grabbed my oil lantern & several big perch and stepped into my boat and grabbed the trotline to pull myself along to the first hook, but when I got there the perch was still hooked and swimming real good, so I pulled to the next hook which was pretty close to the middle of the creek mouth. It was a really really dark night and I couldn’t see more than a few feet and with all the clouds I couldn’t even see any stars. I was only 12 years old and not too scared of the woods unless I heard some panthers screaming out looking for a mate. Well as I tried to pull the main line up it wouldn’t budge. I kept pulling up and releasing it so just maybe I could free it up from whatever it had hung up on. Well eventually I could feel it move up just a little, so I just kept pulling up and slowly and I mean real slow it was coming up, I figured that with all the rain a big old log upstream had come loose and was washed down to the mouth of the creek and my hook had snagged it and it had rattled my rock can but had stopped when the can stopped rattling. It was then that I heard some wolves howling and the panthers starting to sing out, the hair on the back of my neck started to stand up and tingling, and I could feel that something was gonna happen. I sure wish I had a brighter light so I could see a lot better and further out.i finally felt something bump the bottom of my little boat, I had to stand up so I lean over the side to see where my hook was hung and try to unhook it. But what I saw ran chills all the way to my toes; it was a great big old fish eye I think. It was about 4 inches wide and looking straight at me, I was so startled I kinda leaned back and as I did my lantern kind of swung over the other side of the boat, and that was when I saw another big eye.
At this point in the story our dad just sat quiet, Well the rest of the story is what all us kids did at that point because our dad had just stopped at that point and we just had to know what he had done next, and what did he catch that had 4 inch eyes that were over 3 foot apart, with all of us kids talking at once our dad would just smile real wide and not say another word leaving the answer to our questions to a young kids imagination to think of all it could have been.
Story submitted by Millard Vaughn