Camping out on the creek
By Clif Knight
A summertime pleasure my brothers and I shared during our boyhood days on the farm was camping out on the banks of Fox Creek in Clay County.
A tributary of the Tallapoosa River, the creek originated in the eastern foothills of the Talladega National Forest. It snaked its way through multiple hills and valleys before emptying into the Tallapoosa River near the Clay/Randolph County line.
The water’s depth ranged from a few inches to several feet, depending on the amount of muddy water entering from rain-drenched farmland along its route. Fishing improved after a big rain when the creek filled with muddy water and swarms of catfish appeared searching for food. The rain also put work in the fields on hold and enhanced our chances of getting approval to pack our gear and go on an overnight camping trip.
Our campsite was a sand-covered creek bank one-half mile from our farm. A swimming hole was nearby and several fishing holes were located downstream within easy walking distance.
The boys were always on the lookout for conditions that would enhance our chances of getting the approval of our parents to go camping. School days and Sabbath days were out of question and it was understood that our chores would have to come first.
A big rain would get us out of the fields long enough to dig and catch bail, gather our fishing gear at a pitch camp before nightfall. We preferred daytime swimming because we had to share our swimming hole with water snakes. It was also easier to bait and set our hooks for night fishing when we could see what we were doing.
Even though we had no roof over our heads and slept under the stars on pallets with creepy, crawly varmints on the prowl, our overnight camp outs were a blast. We’d swim and fish until we were exhausted, build an open fire, fry our catch and spend a good part of the night checking on our baited set hooks.
At the break of day, we’d rekindle the fire and prepare a camper’s breakfast consisting of scrambled eggs, hash brown potatoes and warmed-over biscuits. With full stomachs, we’d retrieve our fishing poles, inventory our catch, hoping we’d have enough fish to dress and fry for supper. Finally, we’d enjoy an early morning swim and head home to do our chores.