LeBlanc: Old anglers and tall tales

As an outdoorsman, there is a lot that can go on that is funny if you later look at it over your shoulder into the past. Much that happened seemed serious at the time, but in the minds eye looking back it can sure cause a smile if not a good old belly laugh.

If you want to hear some funny and sometimes outlandish tales, try joining and listen to some old men sitting around drinking coffee and holding court. I have had my share those encounters and it is my considered opinion that anglers have come up with some of the best tales I have heard. I will relate one such story to you now.

One time back in the stone ages when it was the duty of the flower children to protest everything, burn their bras and for any reason, or no reason at all, light up a toke, Mercury outboards came out with an inline six-cylinder outboard motor.

Before that, as best I recall, their largest outboard was called a Mark 55 and was four cylinder and forty horsepower. It was similar in appearance to their Mark 30, which was thirty horsepower. Don't ask me about their logic between the Mark designation on some models and the actual horsepower on others because I couldn't figure it out then and am no wiser today.

That was also a time when full-size Detroit automobiles were made of American made steel and would out pull any five-eight ton designated truck of today with about anything you wanted to hook to the back of it, so that is how most folks pulled their boats, with a car.

As the story goes a man bought a brand new, fresh out of the box, six cylinder Mercury outboard motor, I think was a model 950s, anyway it was an inline six with bunches of horsepower.

This new outboard motor came with a throttle assembly that mounted at the right hand of the boater and had a not really too unique shifting method built into the same handle. There was one lever that was “L” shape with a button underneath it and the pilot of the vessel could sit with his hand on the throttle/shifter handle and push the button to start the motor and control the speed, forward and reverse of the vessel.

The throttle/shifter was normally centered in its travel range and to go forward the throttle was moved forward of center and the starter button pressed and the engine started in forward. To go in reverse the throttle was brought back to center, stopping the engine and then moved into the reverse direction and started in reverse, there was no neutral.  This gear and shifting method was not unusual for many years to come.

The man used his boat successfully for a while with no problems. Then he started having trouble with it starting occasionally. Now this motor not only had an electric starter but it had a pull rope built into the top. That way if your battery ran down or died, you could always pull the rope to start it. 

One day he took his boat out into Clear Lake, down by NASA, and was doing a little fishing. He wasn't having any luck so he threw in the towel and decided to go home. He sat down at the throttle of his boat put it in forward and push the starter button and the engine cranked but would not start. The motor just cranked and cranked until the battery finally ran down.

Exasperated, he got up, went to the back of the boat, checked to make sure he was getting gas  and once he had established that lack of fuel was not his problem he started pulling the start rope. After a number of pulls the engine caught with the throttle wide open and threw him over the transom into the lake. The boat took off toward the boat launch at Clear Lake, running wide open completely empty and hit the low sand bank at a high rate of speed going briefly airborne and slamming into the side of a brand new Cadillac.

The angler, still recovering from his dunking, slowly made his way to shore and went to his car where he casually unhook the trailer, dropping it on the ground and went home. He called the police and reported his boat missing and a couple hours later they called back and said they found it, so he went and got it feigning ignorance as to how his boat ended up high and dry against the side of a car.

That wasn't the end of his problems with that rig and beings everybody at that time was a shade tree mechanic he never considered bringing it to the boat shop to have them look for the intermittent starting problem. He just messed with it and the problem became worst.

As a matter of fact, some time later his boat ended up sinking in Galveston Bay leaving him, complete with a GI Surplus May West (life preserver), to swim to shore and call for a ride home, but that's another story.

So friends, in the future when you see a number of senior anglers sitting around a coffee pot somewhere you may wonder just what kind of tales you are missing.


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