On my bedside table...

  • ...a cup of hot tea
  • "Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Life."
  • Krakatoa - Simon Winchester

Monday, April 09, 2007

I wanted to send my fellow Pea Patch bloggers my own short synopsis of my favorite place on earth, aside from the Pea Patch, of course: Uncertain, Texas...

Lake Caddo must be the most beautiful and interesting lake that God has ever created. It is actually made up of many small lakes and is divided by cypress breaks and channels and boat roads. Different areas on the lake are designated with names like Whistleberry Slough, Hog Wallow, Death Hole, Swanson's Landing (once the first railroad terminal for East Texas' first railroad), Jap Islnd, Onion Island, Buzzard's Bay, Red Belly, Hell's Half Acre and Hay Rake. Does this sound like a ski map to you??
For grins, order a Caddo Lake Map. It's a hoot..

P.O. Box 139
Karnack, TX 75661
(903) 679-3743

You could easily get lost in there without a guide. Cypress trees are magnificent. Spanish moss hangs on everything. You can find lodging, canoes to rent and catfish joints, but remember...Uncertain is no resort! (though some locals think otherwise and attempt to capitalize through the only way they can -- lodging -- so don't be surprised to pay $100 smacks a night in some places. Lodging probably won't be worth writing home about, but Lake Caddo will captivate you. If you want spiffy, go to Jefferson, just up the road. In the days of the steamers, Jefferson was a port town, second only in size to Galveston.

Interesting tidbits...
- During Prohibition there were floating diners called beer boats. (I think Dovie and Alvin McCord had the first one - a pontoon arrangement requiring bilge pumps that ran day and night to keep it floating) It was called Caddo Diner. It soon became a smashing sensation (because of that naughty 3/2 beer) and was reconstructed, 100-by-80, on pilings. People got to it on flat-bottomed taxi boats! It was in the channel of Big Cypress Bayou that runs through the Caddo. The tree line across the bayou in Uncertain is Marion County- the 'wet' side!)

- Texas' first Secretary of the Navy, Robert Potter (a signer of Texas Declaration of Independence) and his family settled in the area now called Potter's Point. His wife's incredible life is recorded in Elithe Hamilton Kirkland's "Love is a Wild Assault." It details her migration to East Texas and is truly entertaining. To say that Robert Potter's life is extremely facinating would be an understatement also. He was a hero/yellowbelly/poetic cad and was shot to death by shotgun while swimming underwater away from a Regulator during the bawdy Moderator/Regulator wars in those parts.

- During the time of Pearl Harbor, a man of Japanese lineage named George Murata lived on one of the islands with his high-powered radio equpiment. (Jap Island) Rumored by some that he was there to sabotage oil wells on the Caddo and was reporting directly to Japan via high-powered radio equipment. (I have a picture of George smiling in front of this equipment. The calendar over his desk shows December 1941) He was actually a U.S. citizen, honorably discharged after years of service with the U.S. Navy. The high-powered equipment was a glorified C.B. - a dry battery-operated receiving set patched together with outdated and spliced-together junk. Ironically he was a "pearl" broker. At one point droves of people migrated to Caddo to dig up fresh-water mussels for the pearls inside. George traveled many places selling the pearls. Supposedly he was well-known at Tiffany's and all! owed to directly show his pearls over the counter to customers!

Of course there are plenty of ghosts and treasures...rumors of Lafitte(every little puddle has a good Lafitte rumor). In 1869 a steamer called the Mittie Stevens sank. It was reported to be carrying over $6,000 in gold, which hasn't been recovered. True, documented story.

And controversy...
"A potential buyer came on line a year and a half ago: New Orleans-based Entergy Corporation, which needed water to cool its power plant under construction near Marshall and was willing to pay $600,000 for it annually. But immediately the lake coalition attacked the deal...The TNRCC shut them —a decision that drew fire in a rare public fashion from Parks and Wildlife, who warned that drawing down lake levels would result in a severe loss of habitat in the adjacent wildlife management area. The back and forth continued until May, when Entergy executives decided they'd had enough, pulled out of the agreement with Marshall, and resolved to buy the city of Longview's treated wastewater instead."

"Dallas oilman Albert Huddleston, whose political leanings, it should be noted, are at the opposite end of the spectrum from Henley's. A longtime contributor to Governor Rick Perry's campaigns, Huddleston has poured hundreds of thousands of dollars of his own money into defending Caddo Lake. "I believe in both economic prosperity and environmental awareness," Huddleston told me by telephone from Peru, just hours after he'd climbed down from Machu Picchu, "but sucking water out of Caddo Lake and destroying that fragile ecosystem is no different than sticking a pipe in the Alamo and selling it brick by brick." Henley's and Huddleston's money has bought, among other things, the expertise of Dwight Shellman, who is the founding director of the Caddo Lake Institute...
(I found these two paragraphs in Texas Monthly)

Regarding Caddo's oil history...
Cado was the first loation where oil was known to be under water. It is Caddo that basic underwater drilling techniques widly used over the world were first developed! In the early 1900's an oil boom was developing in that area, second to Spindletop (Beaumont area)
Howard Hughes, Sr. and Jr. have very interesting ties to the Uncertain area...(I don't have the energy for that epistle -- hint: rotary rock drill got its start on Caddo Lake)

My husband and I were out one afternoon on the Harleys, when we came upon a posted area marked private - Dallas Caddo Club. It's near Starr Ditch and Goose Prarie, near the landing. ("The state's oldest continually operated hunting and fishing club, the Dallas Caddo Club, was established in 1906 on its southern shores. A fly-in fishing resort even operated briefly in Uncertain, which was incorporated in 1961 to allow the sale of alcoholic beverages." - Texas Monthly)

I could just see beyond the thickets and Spanish moss a large, white plantation-style home on the water. Of course my husband had no choice but follow me in - ha! Sitting on the screened-in wraparound porch area were about six or seven gentlemen members. (This club did not allow females until sometime in the '60s or early '70s.) They were sitting in lawn chairs, visiting, frying mounds catfish. We were thrilled when they heartilly invited us to join them for suppa'. Of course..."Five years of water-quality data indicate a severe loss of oxygen, in an area that already has a high level of acid rain—thanks to coal-fired power plants in East Texas—and the presence of mercury contamination throughout the Cypress River Basin's food chain at levels high enough to warn pregnant women and infants against eating fish caught in the lake." (Texas Monthly also) Yuummm!

A simple sign hangs just through the screened-in porch area and inside the doorway to the club's home. "Life is too short to live in Dallas." To the right is the parlor area -- cypress panelled and a taxidermist's dream. The really cool room was scattered with old books and newspapers. There were framed "catch" photos of members that spanned who knows how long, photo albums of members and their children and grandchildren that spanned who knows how long, taxidermed fish trophies, and fishing plaque awards. I don't remember how many, but there are quite a few spartan bedrooms that members stay in when they come for a visit. I met an old-old-timer in there that didn't seem to like me much until he realized how much I loved Caddo -- and that I knew how to fish and bait a trot line. (I draw the line at frog-gigging) He was a simple man of not many words, but I managed to learn from him that he had made his fortune by "selling off his land so that those fellas could build that big airport in Dallas." (DFW!) He was awesome, a life-member and was friends with the oil tycoons that had once frequented the place. Those guys had great stories and were so good to welcome us so graciously that afternoon.

During the 4th of July they have professional group fire the shots from the middle of the bayou (Turtle Shell). It is spectacular. Before the fireworks they also have the Miss Uncertain Pagent. The contestants are actually men in hideous drag. They look awesome. It is so funny. A funny thing happened to me at the fireworks a couple of years ago. I went to the marina to buy a couple of beers. The two volunteering got into an argument over whether to sell the beer for 75 cents or $1.00! (hickup!)

During Christmas they have the floating and lighted Christmas parade on the bayou. Gator-clause is the finale.

There used to be a turtle derby, until an animal activist group squashed that fun. Certain time of the year the females all come ashore to lay their eggs. They are everywhere! An unbelievable sight.

There is an old gal that runs the steam-driven paddlewheel and gives guided tours. (A must) She looks like an "Animal Planet" TV personality. She's awesome. She knows everything there is to know about Uncertain. She had just better watch it, because I would love to have her job!!

Great resources...
Caddo Was... A Short History of Caddo Lake." - Fed Dahmer
"Love is a Wild Assault" - Elithe Hamilton Kirkland






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