Outdoor Corner: Only Momma

Lyle Johnson
A proud mama, my daughter Kaycee, poses with her son, Canaan, and a nice catfish that she cooked for her family.

Mother's Day has just passed, and as usual some of my brothers and sisters (eight of us) sat around and did some reminiscing about our past with mom, Clara Ann. She will be 85 on May 21, and she spent lots of her life tending to us kids. Now it's our turn to take care of her, but we so enjoyed thinking back about how special a mother is.

I thought back about a gumbo I ate that was probably one of the best my taste buds have experienced in a long time. The make up of this gumbo was very special, and you probably can't find this one in any cookbook around because some of the ingredients are intangible.

It starts off like most recipes of this tasty, Cajun delight. A roux, cooked to a deep-brown hue, some browned onions, some good homemade stock, and then the meat is added. Many different combinations of meats or seafood are used in the preparation of this "liquid gold" we call gumbo. But this one consisted of a couple of squirrels, one rabbit, a handful of doves, and a little chicken topped off with andouille and smoked sausage.

Here's why this one is different. The squirrel, rabbit, and doves were provided by a young boy that loves to hunt, my nephew Taylor Diez. It's taken him nearly a year to build up this stash of goodies as his opportunities sometimes come sparingly. But he takes advantage of them all.

One day he might kill one squirrel, then a couple of weeks later he might harvest another. Then come the doves, and hunting season ends. Now it's next year. He bags the rabbit, and finally there's enough meat to hopefully feed our large family.

His effort to provide meat for the table and his love of the outdoors are only a part of the "intangibles" that are added to the mix. The other flavors come from a momma's love for her son, as she probably heard begging of some sort after every successful hunt he made, asking her to cook the kill.

All these ingredients add up to make a great success story, in the kitchen and in the life of a young man. Only a momma (Bernadine, better known as Bernie) can bring to life the dream of a kid that's had success in the field become a reality.

I remember my first one. Me, my brother Cliff, and the preacher's kid David Arnold were hanging around the Church of Christ on Orice Roth Road. The ditch in front had a couple of inches of water in it, and me and Cliff started looking around and caught a couple of crawfish with our hands.

Now, David was from Tennessee and not only did he not understand our enthusiasm for catching the weird looking creatures, he wouldn't touch them either. But we found a way to include him in our quest to catch enough mudbugs to eat (yeah right!). He could spot the crawfish by their whiskers on top of the water, his eyesight was unbelievable! So he would spot them and we would do the dirty work, catching every one he saw.

At the end of our adventure we had caught about 50 crawfish, none which were big enough to eat, except maybe for a catfish on a trotline. But we went home along with our prize catch looking for our favorite cook, my momma. After much begging and pleading she relented and boiled those crawfish using only salt with the water. They probably tasted pretty bland, but I remember them to be delicious.

I remember when my son Wesley killed his first squirrels. He came through the backdoor with two of them, and I was pleasantly surprised at the success he had. I asked him how many times he shot and he replied "Well, two!" looking at me like I asked a dumb question. He was a very proud young man when his mom cooked those two squirrels he brought home in a delicious gravy that we all enjoyed.

Another momma memory came via my Aunt Cat. Jeff Bourque is my first cousin and along Bayou Francois. My brother Cliff, Jeff, and I were inseparable in the summertime spending all of our time fishing.

One of those days we were trying to provide some fine dining fare for our lunch. We did our best to catch bream, catfish, or any other desirable species for Aunt Cat to fry. We did catch plenty enough to eat but not the kind we were expecting.

Using earthworms for bait we struck out on our normal catch. We were about to give up when one of us caught a mullet. This was a bit unusual so we got a little excited about catching them. We caught five or six more and headed home. It took some very prolific begging, but we finally talked Jeff's mom into cooking our "prize" catch. I’m sure they tasted really awful, but we bragged about how good they tasted. Our taste buds were probably tainted from the joy of the catch.

Like I mentioned earlier, it's our turn to take care of mom. So I cooked some catfish and bream I'd caught off my pier for the two best moms I know, my momma and my kid's momma, Deborah. Both of them have prepared lots of fish for our family.

Today I'd like to pay tribute to every mother who at one time or another, participated in her son's or another young man's passage of rites to outdoors' manhood, the first time he provided meat for the table. I realize it was a sacrifice. You probably didn't feel like doing it, and maybe even nobody wanted to eat the finished product. Believe me, it was worth the effort for the positive reinforcement you gave him.

Lyle Johnson is a free-lance writer, co-host of Ascension Outdoors TV and Curator of the Louisiana State Fish Records. He can be contacted at

Outdoor Calendar

EASL Monthly Meeting: 3rd Monday every month, East Ascension Sportsman's League meeting held at Gonzales Fire Dept on Orice Roth Rd. starting at 7 p.m. A meal served and special speaker will be in attendance.

Wednesday Evening Bass Tourney: Every Wednesday at Canal Bank from 5 p.m. until dark. Fee $40/boat, one time registration fee of $40 going toward the Classic Tournament. Weekly event through spring, summer. Call Canal Bank for information 225-695-9074.

Friday Night Bass Tourney: Every Friday night at False River 7 p.m.-midnight. Launch at La Express in Jarreau. Fee $40/boat (two-angler boats; pay at store before launching). Weekly event through spring, summer. Call Storm Randall 225-937-0489.

Spring Squirrel Season: May 4 thru May 26, is open statewide on private lands only. Daily bag limit 3, possession limit 9. Open on some state Wildlife Management Areas but closed on all federal lands.

Anything Outdoors Helping Kids Frog Rodeo: Postponed until June 15 due to high water. Save the date!!

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