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Adventures of the Saltwater Cowboy – Forward

by Jon Edward Edwards

I got shock treatment, did a stint in rehab, got divorced, and started writing. I haven’t stopped. Besides two brief “girlfriends” who only furthered my soured stance on sanctity, I’ve had nothing to distract me. I believe in the 10,000-hour rule. If my math is correct, I’ll be a master at my craft by the time I’m 56. Keep in mind that I hadn’t picked a pen up until 2009.

My life and imagination are wild, and some say I have a unique ability to tell stories and make them up with my fingers. These stories have graced the pages of the Coastal Breeze and the Mullet Rapper since 2020. The Breeze, that local rag you see in every resort community in the restaurants, drugstores, convenience stores, parks, and bus stops – they’re everywhere. Yet, I do not know how many people pick up and read them. I get no response from the online versions as well. But Lynn, Val, and Kathy keep printing them.

I’ve lived a high-octane life, residing in every coastal state along the Gulf of Mexico Rim by the time I was fifteen, aside from Alabama, which, let’s face it, was shafted when the U.S. government delved out the original Florida counties to make the state.

Let there be no mistake: Florida is my adopted home. I knew I belonged here since I was seventeen years old. That said, my heart will always belong to the Sportsman’s Paradise—the only state in the union with a completely different set of laws – the Napoleonic Code. We don’t have counties – we have parishes. We like our politicians shady, our levees substandard, and our food spicy. Hailing from Louisiana inflates my outdoor pedigree. For Rednecks, Louisiana is the Outdoorsman’s Harvard.

Regarding shady politicians and Louisiana, one cold winter’s morning in 74’, sitting in a steel pit blind sunken in a levee between two flooded rice fields, thousands of decoys shaking in the breeze, Ronnie, my dad, told a friend of then Governor Edwin Edwards, that he named his only son after the infamous Louisiana politician. He didn’t. Mom named me after my uncle, renowned archeologist and author Dr. Jon Gibson.

Word got back to the Governor, and a few months later, I was on the steps of the Homer, Louisiana courthouse receiving an honor – Master Jon Edward Edwards, Colonel on the Governor’s Staff. I got my picture in the paper and a plaque and everything. All over a ruse that Governor Edwards, finally going down in 2002 for racketeering, would have appreciated more than anyone.

The event with Governor Edwards is a testament to the uniqueness of our state and an example of the message in many of these stories, fraudulent nature notwithstanding. Relationships built on the water and in the field forge bonds that transcend typical interaction.

My life was destined to be interesting, and I hit the water swimming. Like a Labrador Retriever, I just knew how. “The next thing he will say is that he has webbed feet,” one may say. No, I don’t, but two friends from North Louisiana have webbed toes. And here go the inbred jokes.

We moved to Texas shortly after I was born until I was five years old, where I caught a ten-pound carp on a Mickey Mouse Zebco on Lake Texoma and rode dirt bikes in the hills and dunes around Grapevine. In 1980, we relocated to Louisiana, the northeast part of the state, Monroe. For the next two years, I could be found somewhere along the Ouachita River on a yellow Yamaha GT 80. A washed-out section of Indian mounds called Ooga Ooga Land comes to mind.

Aside from living with Ronnie in Mississippi for two years and Tampa for half of a year, the Chauvin River Basin on the north side of Monroe, Louisiana, would become my playground until I graduated college and left North Louisiana for good in ‘96. But not without a heavy heart.

There can’t be many places left that offer such outdoor freedom. A sportsman’s nirvana: Bayou Desaird, the Ouachita River, the river basin, and its bar pits, my friends and I engaged in a lifetime of adventure within approximately four square miles.

Thomas and I wakeboarding at first light on the Bayou during summertime was like skating on black ice. Water dead calm and dark from the alluvial soil of the river delta, spray erupts like shattered glass as you cut across the wake.

In chest waders, we hunted wood ducks in the flooded timber behind Ned’s house, fog rising off the water, trying to shield our faces from the freshly migrated blue and green wing teal and native wood ducks. Ole’ Ned taught me two valuable lessons among sportsmen after I returned his Browning BPS in a condition lesser than I’d borrowed it – a story itself. It involves falling into the pit blind at the LA-Ark Hilton – Big Sperry’s camp in Jones.

Moving around as a kid sucked, and I dealt with the anxiety by attracting attention. I come from a long line of gifted, funny people, and I discovered I had a knack for making people laugh early on, telling jokes, flinging movie quotes with impeccable timing, and making impressions. Unbeknownst to me, l was writing bits. Every instance required creative thought and focus through execution, pass or fail, crickets or kill.

Such as the legend at Louisiana Tech University (Kappa Sigma – Epsilon Gamma) about a man they called “Porkchop,” a physical comedian who would show up at random in various stages of undress, primarily complete. Aside from his trademark pull-on Redwing Work Boots and a hat – sometimes.

Eyewitness accounts say this character exhibited no inhibitions, performing a routine that had the crowd on the floor every time. Sometimes, he’d walk into a party and mingle, order a drink, turn around, and face the public while he waited as if he wasn’t al-fresco.

I’ve heard bits and pieces – rumors – over the years that this person is me. I can neither confirm nor deny these accusations. However, should there be any truth to it, let it be known that I own creative license.

I’ve caught ten-pound bass on Lake Fork, Texas, jerked white perch from run-offs on Davis Island with cane poles, caught Opelousas catfish on trot-lines in the Mississippi River, pulled Spiney Tail Lobster from haunts shared with moray eels in the Keys, and hunted quail on horseback in the Plains of North, Texas.

Following the noses of bird dogs along a ridge overlooking the Peace River, I could hear the lyrics of a George Strait song in my head.

When that sun is high in that Texas sky, I’ll be bucking it to County Fair Paducah, Texas, a place near and dear to my heart, where Boone and Crockett Trophy whitetail deer roamed the natural gulleys, and wild Eastern and Rio-Grande gobblers roosted in the buttonwoods on the edge of the river pasture. Home of the Running R Ranch, where I watched Ronnie ride a bucking quarter horse from one stable to another, separated by an iron header bar that would have decapitated him if not for his rodeo skills. When he ducked under it at the last minute, I remember thinking, Damn, he IS a cowboy. He said he was and showed me a check for $150 with “cow punchy” written in the Memo that he saved in a scrapbook with other mementos of a life stranger than fiction – Ronnie’s. A check from Warner Brothers for $200 gets an honorable mention. If you ask him, it’s his silver-screen debut, not ½ a second of screen time as an extra in the Sean Connery “non-classic,” Just Cause.

Fast forward a couple of decades, and I stumble upon what some say is an ability to spin a yarn, and here we are. I am your ambassador to the outdoors, the Sportsman’s consigliere representing our interests to the masses of uninformed and confused who think Southern Outdoorsmen are ignorant to the environment’s plight by default. May these stories provide clarity to those confused about the meaning of sportsmanship and how it relates to conservation.

From the mountains to the sea, I roam by whatever means necessary – technical poling skiff or little bateau (jon boat), foot or hoof, wheels or wings. A free-range outdoor nomad, I live for the experience. I must because I lose more than I win, yet I keep showing up. I keep taking risks, physical and legal, in search of adventure.

I have put in my 10,000 hours as a sportsman, and I’m here to tell you that if everyone would get outside, the world would be a better place. Mother Nature is gender-neutral and can’t see color. Come one, come all, laissez les bon temps rouler (let the good times roll). I speak my mind, stand my ground, and stick up for the little guy. I wear flip-flops and a cowboy hat and run a backwater ghost named the Honey Badger. I am the Saltwater Cowboy.

Books Available: Sunshine Booksellers on Marco Island and soon on Amazon.

Adventures of the Saltwater Cowboy by Jon Edward Edwards
2024-06-19T15:36:32-04:00July 8, 2024|Community|

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