A fisherman’s tale

Roy and Gerald Dodd flew down to Okeechobee in March and Eddie and granddaughter and grandkids drove down so he could fish in Okeechobee one more time. Son Eddie driving the boat.

On July 17, 1923, Roy Dodd was born in the Aldridge Grove Community of Lawrence County, to Maggie Warren Dodd and Oscar William “Dutch” Dodd.  One of four children, has always known what hard work was. As a young boy, Dodd fished in little ponds and creeks whenever he had the time and opportunity. He still does, only the water is bigger, darker and much deeper. 

As a boy he fished the swift, murky waters of Flint Creek, in seclusion at Beaver Pond and in private ponds in the community, as a man he has fished the hauntingly beautiful waters of the White River in Arkansas, in the wilds of Alaska,  and in the rough waters of the Gulf of Mexico. He still fishes a few times a week when he can. 

He grew up poor, but that would change. As a boy he made his fishing line by measuring his arm, then twisting three strands of his mother’s precious thread into a single strand and tied it onto his cane pole. “When I could get up a penny or two I would buy hooks,” he recalls. 

He bought most of his fishing supplies at the same place where he bought seeds to plant the family garden, at Kelly Littrell’s Hardware store on the west side of the square, where McCullouch’s Furniture was for many years, and where Janice Parker’s consignment store is now located.  

He recalls that you could get your horse shod on the south side of the square for 50 cents a shoe. 

His dad farmed cotton, corn and hay, and raised cattle, pigs and goats for cash and to feed the family. Roy remembers plowing a mule from sun up ‘til sun down, barefoot because there was no money for shoes until the crop was in and sold. 

When it came time to kill hogs in the winter, they always had a big crowd on hand to help with this labor intensive job. They raised big hogs, planting turnip greens for them to forage on to fatten them up. Sometimes they weighed in the neighborhood of 600-700 pounds and had litters of 9-7 piglets. “We always killed 7-8 hogs but one year we killed 22,” said Dodd. “There was always neighbors who came to help cook out the fat in a big wash pot with a hot fire under it. We used the lard for cooking and making soap.”

They always had plenty to eat, but it was work, constant work, everyday. “When we killed hogs there was never anything gone to waste,” he pointed out. “Even the lungs, backbone and ribs, Papa always said he didn’t waste nothing but the squeal,” he laughed.  “And when they were cooked, they were all so good! My sisters, Audrey and Marie, would flour and fry tenderloin and boy, was it good!” 

They were able to feed the family for the entire winter with the hams, and middlins, all cured, tubs of sausage seasoned with red pepper and sage, then put into home-sewn bags that his mother made from flour sacks hung from the ceiling of the smoke house after being cured for three weeks in a salt box. This would keep for up to a year. 

“You could smell it plumb to Landersville,” Dodd laughed. “We’d eat fresh ham, sausage, eggs, all cooked on a wood stove and wash it down with milk fresh from the cow.”

The intestines were boiled for about a week, changing water at intervals to make sure they were clean. This was referred to as chitlins and Dodd says again, that they were so good! “We ate it all, the intestines, brains cooked up with eggs, with some wild onions, and food from the garden,  green beans, turnip greens, okra, carrots, watermelons, sweet potatoes and Irish potatoes and corn, and it was a constant job to keep the rabbits out of it,” he chuckled.

He killed chickens for his mother to fry for Sunday dinner with a sling shot. “I got so good at it by the time I was seven or eight, that I could hit the chicken right in the eye!”

The baby chicks came in the mail back then, just imagine, if you will, getting a hundred pecks and scratches all at one time. 

His boyhood was filled with adventures, hunting and fishing and being outdoors almost all day long every day. 

As he got older he would sometimes attend dances, and it was at one of these community events that he first laid eyes on a beautiful dark-haired girl by the name of Joyce Johnson. He finally got up the nerve to ask her to dance and the rest is history. They were married on January 3, 1948.

He served in the National Guard after the war, having attended the only school in the state that offered training to work in the Air Force, the Alabama State School in Mobile. “They got me started on a trade,” he explained. 

After the war he opened up an appliance business in Moulton, wired houses on the side, and then went to work at Chemstrand (later called Monsanto) where he worked for the next 20 years as Electrical Distribution Superintendent. His job was to head all the electricity that came into the huge plant, 44,000 volts, which was stepped down to 13.2 thousand volts when divided up between the sub-stations. His office was the broiler room. 

Roy and Joyce had two sons, Gerald and Eddie. Both boys graduated from Lawrence County High School. While still in school, both Gerald and his father attained their pilot’s license,  and Eddie got his later on, all of which led to more adventures, this time in the sky instead of on a creek bank. But his first love, besides his family, has always been fishing, and he’s caught some whoppers, with pictures to prove it! 

He and his brother-in-law, CJ Johnson once went fishing in Arkansas, taking their own boat with them behind a little camper they were also towing. When they got home they discovered that they’d lost their boat. Their wives, Joyce and Edith, asked where it was. Since they had no idea, they all piled up in the car and back-tracked the entire route, finally finding the boat still sitting in a ditch somewhere in Mississippi.

 Roy, Joyce, Gerald and Eddie Dodd owned and operated Valley Parts in Town Creek, Rogersville and Courtland for a long while. Greg Dutton was one of their employees for several years. 

Once on the way to Florida, Joyce and a friend were in front, while Roy napped in the back seat. The ladies saw a promising looking fruit stand in Cullman and stopped to get some supplies for the beach. While they were shopping Roy woke up feeling the call of nature. He got out and went looking for the men’s room. The ladies came back and settled in front, chatting away in what must have been a very interesting conversation because it wasn’t until they were in Prattville, at least two hours down the road, that they discovered that the back seat was empty. This being the days before cell phones, they had to drive all the way back to Cullman to find Roy waiting for them calmly eating peaches and talking fishing with the proprietor. 

The couple enjoyed going to auctions and collecting coins and antiques. They could be found practically every morning at Shrewsbury’s Donuts, enjoying a leisurely breakfast and visiting with regular customers.  Regretfully, Joyce passed away last year. It hasn’t been easy for Dodd, but his family, including six grandchildren, have kept him occupied.  

He and his friend and cousin, Billy Warren Shelton still stay on the river whenever possible, catching fish and telling tales of the old days. Mr. Dodd will celebrate his 98th birthday on July 17, and we would like to wish him a very happy, well deserved birthday, and many more healthy ones to come! 

Note: Just prior to publication Mr. Dodd suffered a fall which broke his pelvis, and although he is expected to recover fully, he is in the hospital on his birthday. We all hope you mend quickly and are back on the river in no time, Mr. Dodd! Thanks for sharing your memories! 

One of Dodd’s sisters, Audrey, grew up to marry a tall, dark and handsome coach. The family called him Cooter. The rest of the world fearfully called him Mr. Watkins. (Lewis Watkins, most feared and respected principal at LCHS for years). 

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