Last month we celebrated Mommas, and rightfully so. They deserve all the praise for the things they do for their families and the love they show to their kids and other’s kids as well.
My daughter Gabby and her family moved back to Louisiana from Colorado. They were at our house this weekend preparing to move in their new house when one of the boys asked her to go swimming in the river.
This made me a bit excited. I was not sure about them swimming in brown water when they were used to crystal clear (although freezing) mountain stream water. So I got a step ladder for Eli and his momma to get out of the water and started a quick project to build a permanent ladder.
The next afternoon, Enoch decided to join in the swim party, and those two kids had a blast riding the waves. Although some of my other grandkids are older and have swam off our pier on the Diversion many times, this hit home near Father’s Day.
The laughter and screams of joy brought me back to my days as a kid swimming off the pier at our camp on Chinquapin Canal. Man, that was the place to be! Paw Paw Marchand built it and plenty of his 35 grandchildren took part in the family ritual of spending time there.
We eventually bought the camp, and that’s when this part of the story begins. Jerry Lyle Johnson Sr. was born in Hobart 88 years ago and passed away in 2001. I had the privilege of being his son for 48 years and the pleasure of his company on many outdoor trips.
Along with trying to provide for his eight kids, He took me and my seven brothers and sisters fishing and hunting on a regular basis. I can remember the fussing when we were old enough to all go with him, trying to decide just whose turn it was to go.
As a young boy his mentor was his Uncle Donnie Nickens. He took him fishing every time he had a chance. Uncle Donnie was a commercial fisherman in the 1930s and '40s, so they caught literally tons of catfish on trot lines and hoop nets.
We ate lots of fresh Amite River catfish and you may have also because they sold them to local restaurants. But they had a common passion for bass fishing that formed his skills in catching largemouth bass.
Some of my first memories of my daddy taking me fishing and some of my siblings was to the East Ascension Sportsman’s League Kid’s Fishing rodeo. The sight of all those kids gathered around Dutton’s pond in Prairieville getting ready to catch fish was a bit overwhelming but we had a great time. A couple of my brothers were fishing with me and we caught plenty of fish.
None of us caught enough to win the most or biggest fish trophies, but I won a watermelon for one of the door prizes. You would have thought we hit a gold mine as the Washington Parish beauty fed our family and some of my cousins at a watermelon party we had as soon as we could.
As his kids grew up and starting having kids of their own, daddy’s focus changed to his grandkids. He spent so much time untangling fishing lines, baiting hooks and just about anything it took to make those kids happy. As much as he loved to fish, so many times he put that aside to spend time with his grandkids, swinging them on the swing and just playing with them.
My name is Jerry Lyle Johnson Jr., so technically my grandkids have a “Paw Paw Jerry”. Nothing brings me more pleasure to sit back and watch my kids (even though they are grown) or grandkids fishing and swimming off the pier.
It’s my duty and pleasure to bait the hooks, untangle lines and take the fish off as often as I can. But what makes my dad a legend and a hero is how he taught me to live. “Paw Paw Jerry”, as he was affectionately known by his grandkids, created many memories in our lives.
In his past 20 years or so, his example of how to be a good man, husband, and father will live on for generations. I will never forget the sounds of the voices of the kids asking, “Paw Paw Jerry, will you take us for a boat ride, will you bait my hook, will you take off my fish? And the answer was always yes.
I go to the pier every day. I fish a lot, tend to things that need fixing or sometimes just to sit and watch the water go by thinking about daddy and how much fun he would have sitting there doing the same thing that I’m doing.
These are fond memories with no heart-ache attached to them as I know I’ll see him again one day in heaven. But I do miss him a lot. So until next time, remember to keep the slack out and set the hook hard. Have fun, be safe in the outdoors and may God truly bless you!!