I met Julius – everyone calls him Buddy – Gibson at Prairie Creek Campground on Lake Woodruff in Alabama, one of the Alabama River Lakes. He had just caught a blue catfish he estimated at 30 pounds, the biggest he’d ever caught.
He’s spent his life in Alabama, and even though he’s got a 32-foot trailer – a most impressive rig - he mostly stays in the South, fishing in Alabama, sometimes Mississippi and Geogia. He spent one month in Wears Valley, in the Smokies.
He grew up outside Selma, and asks if we came down for the bridge-crossing reenactment. We say yes, and his face registers neither encouragement nor disapproval. But he wants to say something. He talks about what happened in Selma obliquely, without using words like civil rights, protest, violence or race.
“I was just a kid back then, and not that involved,” he says. “We never thought about it when I was young. We all played together and didn’t say nothing about it.
“I was in the Guard back during Vietnam, and I had a good buddy slept in the bunk above mine. But he couldn’t even come into town for a drink with me, and that didn’t seem right.”
His voice trails off.
“Well, y’all have a safe trip.”