This story was taken from a diary of Winnie Mae Best Highsmith, my grandmother. She was only 17 when this wacky fishing expedition to the White River Bottoms took place on November 5, 1912. According to a brief newspaper account, 13 people made the trip, most of them from the Best, Crawford, Judge and Highsmith families of Judsonia. We’re not sure whether Grandmother abbreviated their names to save space or to protect their identities.
We’re going to the bottoms Tue. a.m.
Nov. 5, 1912Charlie [Highsmith] and George walked a piece and had too much buttermilk [spirits?] and got lost and we had to stop and wait. We ate dinner at decon place and we got to our camping place about 4 o’clock. We put up the tent and fixed the beds and ate supper and just about dark, it began raining. We built a big fire and all sat on our seats around the fire with coats around us and umbrellas over us. The rest were in tents very interested in some of George’s big stories.
About 9 o’clock a gasoline launch passed and Aunt L. and F. ran out to see it and fell down the riverbank. So we settled down and George put on a sheet and started out behind us to scare us and fell down the riverbank and hurt himself.
Later that night we fell asleep in the tent and the men fell asleep in the wagon. Just as we nearly got to sleep the lantern in the tent exploded and Clyde jumped up and threw it out of the tent.
Then it began to rain hard and the wind blew hard and it began raining harder and harder. It ran under the tent and we had to get up and roll the bed clothing up in one corner. We called the men and like to never have gotten them up but finally Charles and Frank got up. We had to hold the tent down to keep it from blowing away. We didn’t get much sleep the rest of the night.
The next morning they all left, leaving Mother and I at the camp and we stayed and cooked dinner. That morning George, Lizzie and I went horseback riding and went to a turnip patch and got some turnips. We came back to the tent and the man that owned the patch was there and was having hell.
That evening George went hunting and got lost about 2:30 and did not come in until 8 o’clock. We were so scared we didn’t eat much. Mr. Will and F. walked clear to the mouth of the Red River and finally came home to the tent.
We slept well that night, not getting up until late the next a.m. and all but Charlie, Clyde, Mother and I went across the river hunting. We stayed there and cooked dinner. We didn’t have any soda, so Charles and I got on a horse and went three and a half miles after some. They came to dinner about 1 and we just sat around the fire and ate nuts that horseback riding.
That night we sat up late cooking turnips for dinner the next day. The next day, we packed the wagons and started home. We ate dinner on Overflow Creek about 8 miles from home. We got home about dark.
It is curious that my grandmother failed to record the grand finale of this ill-fated trip: According to the newspaper account, on the way back home the party got into a nest of yellowjackets “and the ladies did not wait nor need assistance out of the wagon.” Winnie Mae was the daughter of Felix B. Best of Judsonia, born September 3, 1895. She married Charles E. Highsmith at Judsonia and together had one son, Charles G. Highsmith Jr., with whom she was living at Gary, Indiana, when she died April 13, 1954. Her husband Charles was one of seven children of Charles Marion Highsmith and Emma Elizabeth Highsmith, who married at Hot Springs in 1890.