“Do What?”

Just kidding.

I’m a pro and don’t abuse my models. I guess in part because I’m a “nice guy”—or so a lot of people tell me (and we all remember where nice guys finish—don’t we?)

Jessica struck this pose of her own volition—she is a master of “cute” and “adorable” as well as just about any sort of expression a photographer can think up. Generally when we get together however, she does most of the thinking up—I just press the shutter.

This image brings to mind a poster of a cute Mexican girl with a similar expression that was hanging inside a small country store at the intersection of two dirt roads in the Central Texas desert. That was a few miles from the Rio Brazos before it was dammed up in 1969 to create Lake Granbury. I was stationed at Foot Hood in the mid-sixties—I left a few years before the dam was completed. That store site is now under 120 feet of water. The Rio Brazos is the 11th longest river in the U.S. and was originally called by early Spanish explorers “Rio de los Brazos de Dios”—“The River of the Arms of God.” A beautiful name but I don’t remember having any religious experiences whenever I went there. I do remember one incident quite clearly.

I used to stop at the store (whose name I can’t remember. It was 44 years ago—what do you expect?) to buy a coke on my way back from a swimming hole on the river where locals used to swim and picnic. It was a great place to hang out on a hot summer afternoon. The air temp could be well above a hundred but the water was always wonderfully cool—you just had to watch out for trot lines strung across the river by fishermen. Seems like every time I went there some kid would get a hook stuck in his/her foot.

People would sometimes drive their cars and trucks into the shallow water and wash them. I’d often go over and help them wash—it was a good way to strike up a conversation, meet people, make friends. Very often I’d be invited to a picnic and enjoy a great home-cooked meal—something the Army wasn’t very good at.

Really the main agenda I had was to make friendships outside of the military—which would increase the likelihood of meeting a girl. Those of you who have never served in the military wouldn’t know it but it borders on the impossible to meet a nice, normal girl in the area immediately around a military base. That’s why I would go places and try to meet people at a distance from the base—like this “swimming hole.”

A few months before I was discharged in early September of 1966 I was lying on a beach towel on the river bank reading when I heard a kid screaming. I knew immediately it was another fish hook. By that time I’d seen at least a half-dozen of these things removed so I knew exactly what to do. And I was prepared.

I usually kept a first aid kit in my car and only a few days before added a pair of TL-21s—pliers with cutting edges—just for this purpose. I remembered one occasion where no one on the river that day had the correct pliers and the kid had to be taken home (who knows how far away) with the hook embedded in his foot. I decided then I’d keep the right equipment in my car. Maybe I could help someone and be a hero and maybe if one of the people in the group was a girl the right age, she might appreciate what I did and maybe she’d be interested in me and maybe I could find a girlfriend.


On weekends the swimming hole would often be crowded but that day there were only a few other parties at the stream. The kid—a 6 or 7 year old girl—was there with her young aunt (about 17 or 18 years old) and a brother a year or two younger.

I got out my first aid kit and pliers and ambled in the direction of the crying. When I saw the girl (the aunt) I got really excited. She was definitely a cutie-pie. I’m thinking I can’t believe my luck—here was my chance to be a hero and rescue a maiden in distress. The girl (the aunt—not the kid) had that borderline panicky—looking-left-and-right-for-someone-to-help look on her face. The little girl had stopped screaming and was standing there in the stream crying and whimpering. The hook was one of probably a dozen on a line stretched across the creek—tied on both ends to trees on the banks.

I waded out into the stream and offered to help. The girl (aunt) asked if I knew what to do—I said “yes,” I’d seen it done many times. Now she had that “I-have-no-idea-if-this-clown-actually-does-knows-what-to do-but-what-choice-do-I-have” look all over her cute face.

I cut the short line that joined the hook to the longer, “bank to bank” line then picked up the little girl and carried her to the shore, putting her down on their blanket. I poured alcohol on the hook and the skin around it. As is almost always the case in these instances the hook had penetrated deeply enough to bury the barb in the flesh.

I griped the shaft of the hook with the pliers and told the little girl to take a deep breath, close her eyes and let it out when I said, “now.”

She did and as she exhaled I quickly pushed the hook around and up through the skin so the barn was exposed. It worked like a charm—the little girl squealed a bit then stared at the exposed barb as I snipped it off with the pliers. I told her to do it again and once more it worked perfectly as I quickly backed out the now de-barbed hook.

I washed the area again with alcohol while the child winced then put a band-aid on the puncture wound. I advised the girl (aunt) to watch the site for inflammation then gathered up my things.

She (the aunt) was very grateful—thanked me several times as she packed the kids and their blanket into their car. I introduced myself, she told me her name—I think it was Allison.

Anticipating an awkward moment I smiled and said something like,” Well—I guess you’d better get the kids home, her (meaning the little girl’s) mom might want to take her to a doctor.” I stepped back and asked if she came here frequently and maybe I’d see her there again? Now she had that “how-do-I-know-this-guy-isn’t-a-rapist-and-murderer?” look.

She nervously mumbled something along the lines of “yeah—well sometimes I guess—maybe-kinda-sorta” and got into the car slamming the door. Starting the engine she smiled briefly and backed it onto the nearby road.

Standing there holding my first aid kit and pliers in my hands in front of me I smiled back and nodded. She turned the car around and peeled out leaving a thin cloud of dust hanging in the air. I guess I should have tried a bit harder—figured out some way to engage her in conversation—tried to get a phone number. My little attempt at heroism was a big disappointment. I had helped someone in need and while it always feels good to help someone, I hadn’t been rewarded in any way—or at least not in the way I’d hoped.

I felt really dumb. I told myself, ”you can’t expect to get a hit every time you step up to the plate. There’ll be other times—other kids with hooks in their feet. But there weren’t.

Back at the base I told a buddy what had happened. He just laughed and told me some things I should have done differently. I don’t remember what he said I should have done now—like I said—it was a really long time ago. The only thing I do remember for sure was the last thing he said as he walked away snickering, “Nice guys finish last.”

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