Ron’s Fishing Tips and Stories: How This Fishing Guide Almost Swam With the Fishes (Part 3)
Last week the story ended with the Austin fishermen racing wood-hauling carts with burros, drinking hot beer, and having a great time along with the fine people of the village. Suddenly a loud sharp train whistle sounded in the distance and everyone got very quite. Remember… some of the guys had persuaded the bus driver to park the bus across the train tracks to stop the train.
Everyone took off running toward the tracks and the bus. In about 2 or 3 minutes the short train came to a complete stop at the bus. Three or four of the largest men led the way on the train over the objections of the train personnel. I went along with them as I didn’t want to stay in this remote village with nothing to drink but HOT BEER. The train was already full with passengers so it just got even more full with 24 fishermen, 2 pilots, and Coach Phillips and myself. Everyone just found a place to sit or stand and we finally started moving again after all the objections of the train personnel.
I managed to find out that the train was headed for Chihuahua City and it would arrive in about 3 hours. I also found out that the next day a train left Chihuahua City at 7 am and crossed the Sierra Madre Mountains arriving at El Fuerte Mexico in 10 hours. Remember, El Fuerte was our original destination when we lost the airplane engine. I asked every one of my fishermen if they wanted to continue this adventure and still go fishing or fly back to Austin from Chihuahua. Everyone decided to go on with the fishing trip on the condition that Bill Hodge, the pilot, would go back to Ft. Worth and get another plane and come back and get them in 5 days in El Fuerte. What an amazing group of real tough men!
Upon arrival in Chihuahua City I went to the ticket office and bought 26 train tickets from Chihuahua through Copper Canyon to El Fuerte for the next day. We then hired cabs to take us downtown where we rented hotel rooms for the night.
The next morning before daylight we were all loading in cabs to go to the train station to catch our 7 am train when one fisherman came up to me and said he had talked to his family the night before and they wanted him to come back home. I gave him a big hug and told him how sorry I was things didn’t turn out like we planned. I wished him good luck and good bye.
We got to the train station in plenty of time and at 7 am we were back on track for a fishing adventure. The ride across the mountains was simply fantastic and unbelievably spectacular. In one word, breathtaking! I called this train ride the survival trip as everyone was so happy and having such a great time. The entire crew went to the back of the train to the restaurant and bar and ordered drinks by 8 am. Many games of chance broke out and the standing order for the waiters was to bring a tray full of drinks, take the empty glasses and bottles away and bring another full tray of drinks. This went on all day long and I can tell you for a fact that several thousand dollars changed hands that day. “Not to worry,” one fisherman said… “IT’S ONLY MONEY. I have my life and I am going to live what’s left in high style.”
We arrived in El Fuerte sometime around 5 or 6 PM that afternoon. FINALLY, WE HAD ARRIVED! Charlie Wright, the camp owner, was there waiting with his crew and vans to take us to the house where we would be staying.
The fishing was good and everyone had a good time. But I want to fast forward this story, as there is some great stuff still ahead. Bill Hodge, the pilot, came back in 5 days as he promised and picked up Bob Landis and the great guys he brought with him. When Bill came in to Mexico he brought my next group of fishermen which was 24 guys from Dallas and Arlington. Most, if not all were car dealers and salesmen ready to go fishing. The Austin group flew out, bound for Austin with one stop in Laredo Texas.
Guess what… They didn’t make it as they lost another engine just as they got into the mountains. Bill Hodge turned the plane around and flew to Los Mochis to have the engine fixed. Two days later they finally took off from Los Mochis and this time they made it across the mountains and landed in Laredo Texas. There they all were greeted by about 10 to 15 federal agents. Each man was questioned thoroughly and was told he would have to appear in court in the future as a witness. The plane was locked down and confiscated by the agents. I really don’t know what happened to Bill Hodge and his co-pilot here in Laredo. Everyone got commercial flights back to Austin.
Coach Phillips and I were not aware of any of the problems as we were still at the lake working the group that came in. When that group left, Coach and I left real early the next morning for a 3-hour drive to Obregon to catch a commercial flight to Phoenix, connecting to Dallas. About 20 miles out of Obregon the brand new Volkswagen combi transmission went out and it would only run about 10 miles an hour. Finally, it just stopped and I jumped out and hailed down a yellow Chevy II. Tommy and I threw our gear in and we asked the driver to take us to the airport ASAP. I told him we only had 20 minutes to catch a plane. He said “can’t do!” By now, I had the routine down and said, “if you make it we’ll give you a nice sum of money for your trouble.” As we left a city street to get on the main highway the driver made a gesture with his hand to his forehead and then across his chest. God save us! Tommy gave me a silent glance, took the stopper out of the whiskey bottle and threw it out of the window. He wouldn’t be needing that stopper any more!
We were passing cars on the wrong side and driving wild and crazy. The driver had his yellow Chevy II going as fast as it would go, probably 80 mph. The car had really bad shocks and it was rolling from one side of the highway to the other. With no stopper in the whiskey bottle to slow us down, we drank about half the 5th in 5 minutes. Finally, I moved up behind the driver and hollered calf rope! I told him to slow down as I just couldn’t take any more excitement, even with the whiskey. I told the driver I was going to pay him a nice amount even if we missed the flight as we were certain to do.
THIS IS THE END OF PART 3—- NEXT WEEK WILL BRING THIS EXCITING STORY TO A CLOSE WITH SOME BIGGER SURPRISES YET.
Good luck with your fishing and wear that lifejacket.