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I want to thank everyone who came to our big swap meet last Saturday. The crowd was the biggest one we have ever had and the place was packed. I think it was the biggest crowd we have had in the five or six or seven years we have done this big event. I surely did enjoy getting to meet so many readers of this newspaper column, and lots of old friends.

Visitors found some real bargains, and of course my wife, Gloria Jean, said it was the very best anniversary she ever had. I recall that spring day when we got married and borrowed her dad’s car and headed for Taneycomo. Halfway down there I was talking about the good trout fishing we were going to have and she sort of came down to earth a little, after the giddiness of being so happy about finding a husband of my caliber.

“Taneycomo!” she exclaimed as the old car rumbled southward… “I thought you said if I’d marry you you’d take me to Acapulco!”

Maybe I did, I can’t remember. I always got the two places mixed up. Anyways, I gave her the choice of going trout fishing on Taneycomo again this year or spending the day at my swap meet and she chose the latter.

My executive secretary, Ms. Wiggins, came to her first public appearance and showed up late of course. Folks were excited about finally meeting her. But she isn’t much for public relations. When she got there, she started working on her nails and put up a little sign saying she would sign autographs for 10¢ a piece or two for a nickel. This in spite of the fact that I am paying her $3.25 an hour just to sit there and be nice to folks. I don’t know if I will let her come again.

By the time you read this, the spring issues of both my magazines, The Lightnin’ Ridge Outdoor Journal and the Journal of the Ozarks, will be out. If you are a subscriber, you should get your issues to one or both next week, providing the U.S. Postal Service does what we paid them for. If you don’t get yours, or if you want to get one or both and aren’t a subscriber yet, call Ms. Wiggins at 417/777-5227 and ask her how to get one. She might sign one for you twice… for a nickel.

Sometimes you see small miracles happen. I saw one yesterday. I normally don’t fish or hunt on weekends, because I like to be outdoors alone and I avoid the crowds. But Sunday a pair of elderly relatives came by and wanted to catch some of the smallmouth I have found over the past couple of weeks. In their younger years they became accustomed to catching bass on casting outfits with line of 12 or 14 pounds, and with those, you cast big spinner baits or topwater lures which weigh three-eighths of an ounce or better.

But what I have been doing involves little quarter-ounce jigs and you can’t cast those with bait-casting open face reels unless you are really good with one and know what you are doing. These folks were unable to get the lighter lures out very far, and while I was catching lots of fish on a little light action spinning reel that I could cast a long ways, they weren’t catching many. They wanted to catch fish on crank-baits and spinner baits they could throw easily, but in the clear deep water, with that heavy line, the bass weren’t hitting those larger lures.

I gave them the smaller jigs to use and for about two hours they would catch an occasional small bass, none larger than 11 or 12 inches. On casting gear, with the heavier rods, those little fish do not put up much of a fight. I tried to maneuver the boat where they would have a good chance of catching fish but it wasn’t working. Finally about four in the evening, they decided they just weren’t going to catch any fish and decided they would quit and head home.

I do a lot of praying when I am out in the woods. Lots of times I just thank God for letting me be there, and allowing me to be healthy enough to keep doing what I do. Sometimes I thank God for letting me see things you don’t normally see, and sometimes I thank Him for everything I can think of. Sometimes I argue with God, asking Him why He has let this world be taken over by such money-hungry, downright evil people who seem to mock Him.

Sometimes I get downright mad because the wind is blowing so hard and I let Him know it. Sometimes if a storm comes up and I get scared of the lightning, I talk to God a great deal differently than when I am mad. My praying isn’t very flowery or poetic, like the kind of praying my dad could do, so I don’t let anyone hear it. But I know God hears it. Once when I was arguing with him and blaming him for not doing better with things here on earth, a big limb fell off a tree and landed in the water a few yards from my canoe. I got the message.

But Sunday I told God I don’t get to church very often, and reminded him what good Christian people I had with me, and how they are in church most every Sunday and have done so much good with their lives. I reminded him that because of their age this man and his wife wouldn’t get to fish many times this year, and I ask him if he’d just let them catch a couple of good bass before we went in. I really figured God was too busy to hear such a selfish request.

And while I know many people will laugh about this, I swear this is the truth. I had some compulsion to stop in a big deep hole on the way back to my pickup where I dropped my little lure right down to the bottom. And while never once in my entire life have I caught smallmouth bass under my boat in such a manner, a hefty smallmouth nailed it, fighting like a tiger. I told the couple to do the same thing, and they began to drop the lure straight down, and big heavy bass from 14 to 16 inches long began to clobber everything that hit the bottom in that deep water.

I stopped fishing, and watched the two of them just have a ball, pulling up 20 or more hard-fighting smallmouth and one good fat largemouth in a half hour or so. One would be releasing a fish while the other was catching another one. They caught fish until they were actually too tired to keep fishing. It was a great day, and I took time to thank Him.

Praying isn’t a bad idea, I don’t care where you do it. On Sunday, lots of folks go to church and pray there and forget what they said the rest of the week, but I do most of my praying outside, all week long. Sometimes I wonder if God is listening, but I think He always is. Sometimes, like last Sunday. I know darn well he is.

I hope this hasn’t offended anyone…(that’s a lie, I actually do not care who it offends). I would like to remind you that the largest newspaper in the Ozarks, which I once wrote for, wouldn’t let me publish this in my column I wrote for them. Those instructions they gave me 15 years ago to not mention God in what I wrote is the reason I have not written for them since. But over the last 15 years, my fishing has been great. Think about that.

A miracle, no doubt