July 12, 2019 - Character actor Ned Beatty’s first film was released in 1972, and was entitled “Deliverance”. It was the story of four male friends from Georgia who went on a weekend outing of boating and fishing in the mountains, and encountered trouble with mountain people.
Long before this movie was made, I was involved in a somewhat similar occasion, a similar mission, but, however, with a decidedly different outcome. In 1965 while living in Houston, Texas, several of my male friends decided we should go on a weekend trip of fishing and camping. Our jobs at Allstate Insurance Company were hectic and frustrating at times.So, this idea of relaxing and sleeping out in the open was very attractive to me and five friends.
We elected to drive north to the small town of Hemphill, Texas and find a spot on the Sabine River, which was the border between Texas and Louisiana. After stopping for bacon, eggs, bread, and coffee at a small mom and pop store in Hemphill, we made our way through the piney woods, on red dirt roads to the banks of the river. Compared to the mighty Mississippi river, the Sabine is a rather small river. But its waters contained bass, perch, cat fish, gar, and probably a few alligators – more than enough for our motley crew to handle.
After unloading the cars of our gear, mostly sleeping bags and cooking utensils, we began to notice the northwest sky. A breeze was kicking up, and a dark cloud began to appear. Soon, lightning was streaking through the sky. Having grown up near the Sabine River, I felt obliged to offer some sage advice – let’s get out of here before the dirt roads get wet. I knew from prior experience that one could get stranded or stuck in the mud very easily.
So, it seemed wise to pack up the gear again, and try to get back to a paved road before the rain hit us. About the time we got back on the paved road the rain came down in buckets. I felt that we were lucky to have gotten out safely. Consensus of opinion was that we might as well head back to Houston since we could not sleep on a wet and muddy ground. We recalled the old adage, “You win a few, lose a few, and some get rained out.” So, this was our rain-out.
On the way back home we drove past a new man-made lake, Dam B, a Corps of Engineers project that had developed a nice lake. The rain had stopped, the stars were out in abundance, and even the moon was peeking out from behind clouds. We decided that we might salvage at least one night of our outing by camping out on the shores of Dam B.
Again, we emptied our cars of our camping gear, built a fire, and cooked a supper of bacon, eggs, and bread. We unrolled our sleeping bags and settled in them for a night’s sleep. The storm had passed, we had full bellies, and the world was good.
Around 2:00 in the early morning, we were awakened by the sound of a motor boat out on the lake. The operator was operating his boat recklessly, loudly, and unsafely. I suspect that alcohol was a contributing factor to his conduct.
One of our crew sat up and made this statement, “I hope his dang motor blows up!!”
We all know that God works in mysterious ways, and sometimes exhibits a sense of humor. This was one of those occasions. Even as our brother was uttering his wish, there was a loud boom out on the lake, a fireball erupted around the motor, and we could see the operator diving into the lake, silhouetted against the red fireball. We all looked at each other in amazement.
Several people rushed their boats to the aid of the victim and apparently he was unhurt. I am unable to make the same statement about his boat and motor.
Well, our “Deliverance” weekend came to an unusual conclusion. We never planned another outing. I left Allstate in 1967 to work for another company.Now the Sabine River is under the waters of Toledo Bend Reservoir, although Dam B Lake is still yielding its fish to the locals. Somewhere on the bottom of the lake rests a small boat and motor that seemed to have come under the condemnation of the Almighty.