Boomer Winfrey  

Varmint Co. Correspondent

Last month, you will recall, we left our aging heroes from Doc Filstrup’s weekly poker game planning a deep-sea fishing trip to the Bahamas, with a little casino and bar time on the side.

This time the boys’ wives took no chances and demanded to go along, recalling that the last time they left their men folk to their own resources at a Fiesta Bowl game, they ended up mugged and penniless in Mexico.

Of course that doesn’t mean that everything went without incident, starting at the airport security line.

“We’ve got a gun, here!” a security guard called out.

“Of course you have. It’s mine. I don’t go anywhere without it!” Judge Hard Time Harwell proclaimed.

That did not exactly prove a convincing argument and the rest of the crew watched as the Judge was escorted to a holding room. Shortly afterward, he emerged, barely in time to board the flight.

 “The federal magistrate here is an old friend of mine,” Hard Time explained. “A quick phone call and they released me but they’re holding my .45 until I come back to the States, dad gum it.”

“That’s alright, Judge. If you really need to carry a pistol to feel comfortable, I got one you kin borrow,” Elijah Haig offered.

“How in the Devil can you get a pistol on a plane when a Criminal Court Judge can’t?” Hard Time asked.

“Grandpa wanted to bring some of his Haig Hollow Spring Run moonshine along but I told him it would never get through customs. So he called some Chief of Staff general or something who he does business with and the government arranged for him to have diplomatic immunity,” Penny Haig explained.

“Yup. They don’t check my bags, so I loaded a gallon of shine and a pair of Smith & Wesson .38s along with my clothes,” Elijah said with a grin. “Yore lookin’ at the o-fficial
U. S. of A. Consul to some place called Paradise Island!”

And so dear readers, yours truly got to witness yet another road trip adventure, or misadventure, with Varmint County’s finest citizens. 

Everything went more or less routinely for the next few hours as the gang settled into a couple of West Bay condos, compliments of one of Doc Filstrup’s pharmaceutical salesmen.

The first day in Nassau, Belinda Bandit, Penny, Dottie Jass and the other women headed downtown to shop while the boys visited a casino, quickly losing the money the wives had allowed them to take. All that is, except Hard Time Harwell, who ended up $1,200 in the black.

“Boys, I’ve spent a lifetime trying to guess what sort of bullcrap lawyers are going to lay on me next. I know how to run a bluff.”

The next day, the men all loaded up on “Goldie’s Girl” for a day of fishing, trolling for sailfish and king mackerel and stopping over reefs to bottom fish for grouper and red snapper.

Since the boat only had one trolling seat, everyone took turns going after the “big ones” when the boat was moving. Sheriff Smoky hooked a nice sailfish, but it slipped the hook after a twenty-minute fight. Doc and Hard Time both landed a couple of fair-sized kingfish while Clyde Junior managed to hook a hammerhead shark.

Clyde didn’t know what he had on the line until it was right up next to the boat, where it reared out of the water, teeth flashing. Clyde was so traumatized that he let go of the rod and lost the whole rig overboard.

“No problem, mon. I’ll just add the cost of one trolling rig to the charter,” Captain Goldie said with a shrug, his grin betraying a mouth full of solid gold teeth.

Finally, as the day was beginning to wind down, Doc and Archie were able to persuade old Elijah to try his hand at the trolling chair.

“Better strap in, Elijah. You saw how big some of those fish can get,” Doc advised. “I’m going into the cabin to mix a little rum cocktail.”

As a matter of fact, everyone on board was milling around in the cabin, sloshing drinks and comparing fish tales. All except Lawyer McSwine, who had been laid up in a bunk with a bad case of seasickness ever since the boat put to sea.

Clyde Junior was mixing his fourth double, still fuming about losing his fishing rig overboard and the fact that Captain Goldie was charging him $200 to replace it.

“That shark didn’t pull it out of your hands, son,” Doc scolded. “You just dropped it overboard. You can bet old Elijah Haig wouldn’t have lost his head like that.”

“Where is Elijah, by the way?” Hard Time asked. “I want to mix a little Haig Hollow special with this rum concoction.”

“He’s out in the chair, trying his luck now that everyone else is tired of fishing,” Doc replied.

“Uh… no, he’s not,” Sheriff Smoky announced. “I just went out there to see if we’re in sight of land yet, and the chair’s empty.”

Panic quickly ensued, or at least as much panic as a boatload of drunken Varmint Countians can generate. “He has obviously fallen overboard. We have to backtrack and try to find him!” Hard Time bellowed.

Captain Goldie was skeptical. “We have no idea how far back he went over, or exactly where. We need to report this and let the Marine Patrol search with their helicopter.”

“That’s a good idea, Captain. Report it. But while they’re searching, we’ll turn around and search ourselves,” Hard Time insisted, waving his borrowed pistol under Goldie’s nose. For the next four hours, the crew of Goldie’s Girl combed every foot of ocean that they had passed that day, with no sign of the missing patriarch of the Haig clan.

Twenty miles away, an aging, reclusive actor was out walking a pair of border collies on the beach in front of his private estate when he observed an elderly man emerging from the surf.

 “This is a private beach and you’re trespassing in case you didn’t know it,” the somewhat grumpy actor announced.

“Tell that to the fish that dragged me here. Maybe he’ll swim on down the beach another mile or two,” Elijah replied, wiping sand and seaweed out of his beard.

“What fish?” Connery asked.

“The one that’s on the end of this here line,” Elijah said, holding up a fishing rod that was bent nearly double. “It’s about played out now. If you give me a hand we might be able to pull him on the beach.” 

“Good God man, that’s a Great White Shark. A good thousand pounds of it, I’ll wager.”

“I don’t doubt that. He done pulled me over the end of a boat and through about ten miles of ocean. He come at me once or twice with them teeth flashing but when I’d pull the slack out of the line and tighten the hook, he’d veer away again.”

“Name’s Sean Connery. You’ve probably heard of me.”

“Can’t say I have.”

“Thank God! I’m sick of autograph seekers and paparazzi. You have a strange accent, mister uh. . . ”

“Elijah Haig. You’re one to talk. What kind of accent is that you have?”

“I’m Scottish.”

“Well, I’m part Scotch-Irish and part Cajun, but mostly I’m hillbilly.”

“Well, Mister Elijah Haig, mostly hillbilly, let us finish dragging this monster from the deep up on the sand and retire to my house where I will mix you a stiff drink.

“Shaken, not stirred – ha ha, and find you some dry clothes. My butler is about your size.”

“Actually, I’d rather take a shot of my own personal brew. I jest happen to have a flask in my hip pocket.”

Meanwhile out on the deep sea, the crew of Goldie’s Girl had all but given up hope.

 “This is terrible. The old man must have hooked something really big and been pulled overboard. I told him to strap into the chair but he didn’t,” Doc moaned.

“How are we gonna break the news to Penny? That old man was everything to her, raising her from a baby,” Archie added. “It will break her heart.”

“All we can do now is return to port. It’s pitch dark out here and there’s no way we’ll find him even if he’s still afloat,” Captain Goldie announced. “I’m sorry but we’ve done everything possible.”

With heavy hearts, the gang returned to Nassau Harbor. It was after midnight and a group of worried wives were gathered on the dock, waiting for the long-overdue boat to arrive.

Hard Time Harwell volunteered to break the news. “Where’s Penny? Something terrible has happened to her grandpa,” the Judge announced as he stepped to the pier.

“You mean that Elijah got pulled overboard and you drunks didn’t even know it until you were out of sight? Penny’s up there in that balcony bar, with her grandpa and his new friend,” Belinda Bandit replied, pointing to a pub overlooking the harbor.

A group of relieved, amazed and to say the least, confused men climbed the stairs to the “Crow’s Nest” where there sat Elijah Haig, wearing a dinner jacket and dress trousers, next to his granddaughter and an elegant, bearded man who looked vaguely familiar.

“It’s about time you boys showed up. We was jest getting ready to organize a search party and head out looking for you,” Elijah growled. “I want ya’ll to meet my new friend here, Mr. Connery.”

“So based on Mr. Haig’s description, you must be Doc, and you would be  Judge Hard Time Harwell, and the rest of your motley crew. You gentlemen are late for dinner!”

And so it was that by the time the crew of the good ship Goldie’s Girl reached land, Elijah had already been reunited with his granddaughter and made a new friend who admired the old bird for his tough manner as well as the quality of his homemade whiskey.

“The only thing I regret,” Elijah later said, “I’ve been looking for another pet since my alligator Old Gnash died a couple of winters back. But that danged shark can only live in salt water so I can’t take it home.”