The Wild Side.July 22,2012

The drill sergeant at Fort Bragg was the first person I ever heard utter the words “chicken salad” and not talking about putting that fantastic concoction between two pieces of bread, or better yet, a croissant.

That morning Sgt. Dokes (never really knew his first name) all 6-foot-5 of him, said in his deepest voice, “Reee-cruit, I’m trying to make chicken salad here.”

It was evident he was a religious man. Nobody in second platoon, Co. E ever heard him say a four-letter word (unusual for a DI) in the entire nine weeks he was taking 18-to-24 year olds, whipping us into shape, making us like taking our first steps into the service of our country and making them (us) like OD green.

OK, so another drill instructor might have prefaced “chicken salad” with “chicken feathers” or some other such word that fit the situation during what turned out to be a 100 push-up and four-mile-run day.

Every time somebody mentions turning lemons into lemonade or feathers into salad, Sgt. Dokes comes to mind, and something like that surfaced this week when Jeff Bruhl called to report on his bass fishing trip to Venice.

Until that tragedy in Aurora, Colo., on Friday, all the national news anybody has heard during the last month involved the presidential race and the drought that’s affecting what appears to be the entire Midwest.

Breaking news came last week about how commerce north of us along the Mississippi River has been slowed by extra-low water levels. Recreation on the upper reaches of this mighty river is down, too.

That’s the “feathers” part, and it’s where friend and ardent fisherman Camp Matens shook his head after he heard about Bruhl’s trip.

“Louisiana people just make chicken salad,” he said, inferring that folks up north might not have the wherewithal, or don’t know how,or don’t care to learn how, to take bad situations and make them better.

With the Faux Pas Rodeo taking up the back half of next week, it’s not likely any spot near Venice will need the business, but the reports are that the low Mississippi River has sent bass out into the main passes.

Bruhl said Grand Pass, Tiger Pass and Batiste Collette were holding lots of 2-3 pounders and they were there for the taking. And Daniel Loupe has been catching largemouths at Pass a Loutre.

The trick it to go after the bass with spinnerbaits — Bruhl found concentrations around stands of willows; Loupe said grassbeds were the key — then work on the schools with reddish soft-plastic worms, lizards and “creature” (Brush Hogs and crawfish) baits.

Just be careful running the river and the passes. The river is low and there are new sandbars, but the fish are there, the water in the river’s delta is clear and green, and we’re not far from finding sea-run striped bass, largemouths, spotted bass and redfish living in the same water.

Ah, chicken salad.