I have a ‘Jack’ story to tell

Published 4:28 pm Friday, September 4, 2009

Let me tell you a Jack Wingate story.

It brought it to mind after reading in Wednesday’s Post-Searchlight of Jack celebrating his 80th birthday.

It goes like this.

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Several years ago, a new brother-in-law entered our family. Chess Conway is a fisherman. Chess fishes many Alabama lakes, mostly surrounding Montgomery, and particularly nearby Lake Eufaula. At one time, he had a cabin near the Lake Eufaula, so on Friday he could dash from work and be on the lake post haste for the weekend.

Chess and Faye’s sister were on their way to Bainbridge for a first-time visit a few years ago. When they arrived, Chess said he noticed Lake Seminole signs posted along Highway 84 as they drove in from Dothan.

“Is Lake Seminole near here,” he asked.

“Oh yes,” I said. “It’s one of the most famous bass fishing lakes in the country. Fishermen come from all over the country to participate in bass tournaments here.”

He was aware of it, having fished many an Alabama lake for bass, and owning a stockpile of fishing magazines, which routinely reported on the lake’s bass-fishing successes. Resident expert, of course, was Jack Wingate.

I said, “If you like, we can take a drive and show you the lake, visit Jack Wingate’s fish camp and see how they are bitin.’ It’s not far.”

“Wait a minute,” he said. “Jack Wingate?!?”

“Right,” I said. “Jack Wingate has his fish camp about 10 miles from here.”

“Jack Wingate is here?!?” he exclaimed again.

“Yes, just down the road, not far.”

“Jack Wingate is actually here,?!?” he exclaimed now even more excitedly.

“OK,” I said, “We’ll drive down to the lake, and if Jack is there, I’ll introduce you.”

“Wow,” he exclaimed. “Jack Wingate is actually here. Man, he’s a legend!”

Well, guess what? Jack was there, and I introduced Chess to Jack.

For bass fisherman Chess, it was like being introduced to the most famous movie star on the big screen, the biggest home run hitter of the season, the quarterback who threw the winning touchdown in the dying seconds to win the Super Bowl.

Jack of course was Jack.

They eagerly shook hands, talked fish talk, and for the next hour or so, Jack and Chess conversed as if they had known one another for decades. Fishbuddies.

They talked fishing and more fishing. Then Jack showed him around the restaurant, explained in detail all the historical artifacts decorating the walls and ceiling.

Chess was deeply impressed with the encounter. He got to meet Jack Wingate.

“Wow,”!!! He said as we drove back to Bainbridge. “I got to meet Jack Wingate. I can’t wait to get to work tomorrow and tell all the fellas that I met Jack Wingate.”

Well, I began to think. If we have a legend among us, maybe we should gather legendary Jack Wingate stories and share them. Everybody who fishes has a fish tale to tell, and most likely, many have legendary Jack Wingate as its main topic.

Well, maybe not everybody. Faye doesn’t fish but can tell you of the many times she called Jack and told him she had a busload of Hutto Middle School students studying Georgia history. She asked Jack, “could you join us for a bus ride around your area, and explain the historic sites of that part of Decatur County?”

You betcha he did, many times.

Several years ago, I visited the fish camp, found Jack in front of the store seated in one of the rocking chairs. “Sit down and rock,” he said. “Chew tobacco, spit, and tell lies.”

Somebody bake Jack a cake. Place 80 lighted candles on it. Have the Fowlstown Volunteer Fire Department standing by in the event there’s a back draft. Roast a pig. And have the Bainbridge High School Chorus ready to sing the birthday song.

Happy Birthday, Jack. Many happy returns. Around here we love our legends where we can shake hands and say “WOW!!!

Jim Smith is a former managing editor of The Post-Searchlight, and doesn’t chew tobacco. For comment on this column and to read others, go to www.jimsopinions.com.

Got a Jack Wingate story?

Share your Jack Wingate story with others. Tell a tall tale, a fish tale, or simply a human tale of the legendary Jack Wingate. Send your stories to: Carol Heard, Managing Editor, The Post-Searchlight, P.O. Box 744, Bainbridge, GA 39817. Or e-mail to: carol.heard@thepostsearchlight.com.