As Large As You Like

Daryl Gay | June 2, 2024

He was a good friend of my good friends, so they told me. I’d never met the guy, but was about to.

“He won’t know who you’re talking to if you call him by his real name, and it really don’t bother him when we pick at him about it, so just call him…”

Well, no. I ain’t.

In fact, I ain’t even going to mention it here. And not that this has any particular relevance in my world, but this day and age the term would be relegated to Un-PC Status. Like me.

But back to the new guy…

I’m pretty good with first impressions. And there wasn’t exactly a treasure trove of knowledge to draw from since I hadn’t been told much. So I decided to just go with whatever popped up first; no doubt my off-plumb brainbox would come through…

Lake Blackshear was dark and misty as the three of us arrived a little early and launched two boats.

“He’ll be along, don’t worry,” I was told with a smirk. “He moves a little slower than the rest of us.”

Gravel crunched, a truck door slammed in the parking lot and out of the gloom came… the largest man I have ever seen.

He walked toward us like a camo-covered avalanche. In his left paw rested a suitcase/tackle box. Four rods were tucked under that armpit.

But it was the wooden box atop his right shoulder that drew me in.

Nobody said a word; all eyes were on me, including his. I felt like some judge was about to hand down my sentence…

And out it came: “Mornin’, Blip.”

Suddenly, you could hear shad splash at 50 yards.

“Why you call me that?” he asked, obviously having expected something else and taken slightly aback.

“Because if there’s a radar screen operating within 50 miles, you just showed up on it,” I replied with a grin, extending my right arm.

His face seemed to light up the dock as he smiled hugely and shook my hand.

It’s still in recovery. But I had made a friend for life.

Then he turned to my astounded buds and growled, “You little idiots load my stuff on the boat. I’m riding with him. Gotta get the cooler.”

True. As I discovered over the years, he’s GOT to get the cooler!

At very near 600 pounds, Blip was never without the cooler. And that wooden box?

Think Piggly Wiggly. Kroger. Winn Dixie. Combined.

For a day on the lake, I’d maybe take a ham sandwich. Blip had a ham. Spiral cut. Two loaves of bread. Every condiment from every continent. Three or four large bags of potato chips, flavored from Barbecue to Whoop-de-do; sliced watermelon, grapes, bananas, cans of deviled ham, pork and beans, I’m running out of space…

Here’s how boat loading went…

Blip waddles over the side first. ALWAYS! Because you do NOT want to be semi-seated if he happens to land a touch off-center.

Ain’t no rodeo bronc ever bucked like my Ouachita when Blip slipped!

He sits in the front. The outboard counterbalances, roughly, one leg from waist to knee. I hand him the box, then the cooler. When sustenance is safe aboard, Blip’s a happy man.

Well, most of the time.

I’ve gone back through my mental files in order to select one that best exemplifies the peeved behemoth that Blip could become at a moment’s notice.

Yeah; that shellcracker morning… Same four of us, same two boats—and about a million redear sunfish bedded up and giving 4-lb. test line all it wanted.

Early in the year, and it had been a cold ride to this cove. I’m bundled in coveralls; Blip has his ever-present camo t-shirt and shorts.

He’d always tell us: “If you little reprobates would put some meat on your bones, you wouldn’t GET cold…”

(His wife would acquire the two largest pairs of camo pants she could find, cut the seats out, then sew them together to cover his big ol’ butt. And whack ’em off at the knees. I can still see him waddling away across a dove field, box on the shoulder, with that huge “V” sewed beneath his suspenders…)

Except for the splashing of incoming shellcrackers and chortling compadres, it’s dead quiet back here. Near ethereal.

But that’s just before the whine begins to get closer.

Blip perked up: “Ski-baby boat.”

“Skiing? At daylight? As cold as it is? No way,” I told him.

Louder. Closer. And then it breaks around the point and roars into our cove.

Yep; ski-baby boat. And at the end of the rope was a lunatic in black wetsuit, from head to toe.

And y’all think I’m crazy!

We were sloshed almost on the bank as the other boat swung by, occupants howling with laughter.

Before anyone could react—other than grabbing a gunwale—they were gone.

I managed to talk Blip down to a rumble—just before that stupid boat came right back, obviously meaning to swing even closer.

In semi-horror, I watched as the hooting skier whirled right at us—precisely as Blip scrambled in the cooler, came up with an unopened bottle of Pepsi and put 600 pounds behind flinging it.

Missed that skier’s head by about a foot—which is why Blip is not presently an expensive ward of the state. Blip turned, and I could see genuine concern on his face.

“Uh oh,” he mumbled. “I done drank up all my sweet tea. Does Pepsi float?”

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