Hosses And Halves

Life On The Back Page With Daryl Gay - June 2022

Daryl Gay | May 29, 2022

Never know what you’ll trip over, er, discover, while rummaging through that storage building unvisited for a couple years. Said visit usually comes while musing, “Now where did I put that thing…?”

And for entertainment purposes, it’s always a hopping good time to have a Jack Russell in tow.

Because when that first resident rat jumps: “Yeeeehaaaa, on with the show!!!”

I could never rightly be accused of becoming a hoarder; it’s just that I seldom throw anything away. And if I do, I NEED that very item, for the latest project, the next day.

So I’m searching through the rubble, er, repository—I’m going to install shelving in here one day, just as soon as I gather enough suitable scrap lumber and brackets—for something or other promptly forgotten immediately upon my right ankle bouncing off a random item much more solid than it.

Just so you’ll know, it takes talent to beller and prance among all this clutter without bringing the whole shebang down upon one’s noggin.

Turned out to be a prop. Securely attached to an outboard motor. That I forgot was in there…


Ain’t inventory fun?

As near as I can figger, this is one of my newer technological masterpieces. 1956, I believe. Perfect!

To say that I’m fascinated by mechanical stuff that still purrs after nearly 70 years would be an understatement.

To say that this thing will ever purr again just might be an overstatement…

But, heh-heh,  we’re gonna find out!

And—you knew this was coming—I’m a’gonna tell you why.

 But first you need to know all about the new toy. It’s a Johnson Seahorse, 5.5-hp, with more knobs and levers than you could ever possibly need or figure out. I’m guessing that if you ever take this thing out on the sea, you’ll find a way to make use of them. And you never know when you’ll have to kick in that extra half a horse.

Which only adds to the fun…

Stamped on the front cover above a short lever and some fairly interesting numbers is “SLOW SPEED.” Underneath is a longer lever, more numbers and “HIGH SPEED.” So maybe that’s where the extra half makes its impactful debut. Them there levers switch from “RICH”  to “LEAN,” one through five for slow, one through six for high.

And if that ain’t enough to confound a redneck, jes’ please don’t add no more. Besides, we’ll figure it all out when we get on the water. And speaking of which…

It’s hot. And dry. Know what happens to my local stretch of the  Oconee River under those conditions?

The reading typically falls to a foot or less. (Unless, of course, the dam keepers at Lake Sinclair find out I’m going fishing, at which time they will promptly open the gates for 40 days and 40 nights.)

I absolutely adore fishing the Oconee with but a foot of water in it. You know all those guys with the fast boats who love to scream by while you’re anchored on a submerged rockpile? They’re home now. Rummaging through storage buildings hoping to find lower units to match those bashed off by rockpiles not quite as submerged as they thought.

And the rocks? They’re right there where they’ve been for a bazillion years, singing out, “NNNEEEEXXXTTT!”

Point being, the Seahorse is exactly 39 inches tall from prop guard to cover latch. That leaves not much more than prop underneath my Ouachita. And since we ain’t apt to be going nowhere fast—even with that extra half hoss—I can pretty much keep a close eye on any crotchety rocks. Besides, I’ve fished this river a time or two, and as stated earlier, rockpiles don’t tend to move around much. Logs, now…

I’m figuring I can hit the run of the Oconee and cruise up to a whopping 8 miles an hour. Not that I need to go 8 miles. Or run for an hour at any speed. Which is another great feature of June and July fishing here. Where all that water used to be is now mud, concentrating the water’s inhabitants so I can get at ‘em better.

With nobody else around…

If there’s a drawback to the Johnson—it’s that 8 miles an hour top end. Those diabolical pop-up summer storms can slip up on you hiding behind sheltering trees, and it’s a slow, damp go back to the landing. The wettest I have ever been—and that includes swimming in the ocean—was right here on this river four years ago.

It was a special kind of wet, a deluge with no let-up and seemingly no end. On that day there was no running the river—at any speed. Besides, every minute or so the sky ripped open with brilliant bolts of lightning, reminding me that the boat was, after all, aluminum. No, thanks; I’ve been wet before, but never fried.

And yes, I was issued a warning of the oncoming storm via phone. But boys, when you’ve just boated a 15-lb. striper followed by a 30-lb. striper, what’s a fisherman to do? Pulling anchor just didn’t seem to be an option…

So maybe if I could come up with another half to add to the existing half then I’d have uh, let’s see now,  yeah, SIX horsepower!

That ain’t a’gonna outrun no storm, is it? Assuming I have sense enough to leave anyhow.

Hmmm, what’s this over here in the corner? A blue dome caught my eye… EUREKA! A 1958 Sportwin 10 Evinrude! Just what I’ve been looking for…


Order your copy of Daryl Gay’s books, “Rabbit Stompin’ And Other Homegrown Safari Tactics,” $19.95 plus $3 S&H and “Life On the Back Page,” $14.95 plus $3 S&H from or 16 Press, 219 Brookwood Drive, Dublin, GA, 31021.

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