About this same time I met a fellow in the neighbor and for some reason, I don’t recall why, but we did not hit it off so good. While at another boy’s house he showed up and it was on. I figured I’d be safer if I was in my own yard. That is after I pushed him down and ran, which really didn’t make it any better, he got up and was coming after me. That is until he met the clothesline. I ducked and it caught him in the throat and it just knocked the wind right out of him. Anyway, I made it to my yard and was safe for now. Howevery, that's not the end of that story. It was not long before he showed up at my yard, and the fight was on. I’d been thinkin’ about what to do, because I knew he was pissed. Come to think of it he was pissed when I met him. The war continued and me and him fought like cats and dogs all around my yard. We fought till we could not fight any more. Finally, after all that he called me friend, and I called him friend, and we were truly best of friends up until he was killed at age 54. I knew him as Bobby Sapp for most of that time. Later he found out when he went into the service his real name was William Robert Heveder.
Anyway, once we became friends, we’d hang out at my fort and it was thier that he saw all of my critters and he got the idea he would raise rabbits and get rich also. And raise rabbits he did. I never saw so many rabbits in one place in my life. You got to know that his backyard was real small compared to what I had for yard. We actually had two lots and so I had one lot for all of my stuff. But…Bobby didn't think about that. Those rabbits dug holes all over his yard and into all the neighbors yards. They even dug holes all the way to the street. Them was some diggin’ rabbits. Day after day all these baby rabbits would come out of those holes and there was hundreds of them. Needless to say, Rubye, his mom, was not as easy as my mom, because once she started clearing out rabbits she didn’t stop till they were all gone. She had heard enough from all the neighbors and trying to hang up clothes on the line was next to impossible without stepping of rabbits. Well, Bobby didn’t become rich selling rabbits. I’m not really sure what Rubye did with all them rabbits. Time marches on….
The fish business continued to grow. So much so that it meant kiddy pools all over the yard. You have to imagine the chicken pen in the yard. The pigeon coop and a dog house I built where Polly and Molly stayed. Actually, they built their nest in the gable roof part of the dog house. I put some screen wire in there so that the nest would stay in place and not fall in on Sandy. I also built myself a fort or a club house with a pool and sun deck. It was really pretty cool. It is amazing at the stuff you can find if you just go lookin’ for it. I also found some plastic and some tar roofing paper. So, in the front of my club house I dug a square hole and lined it with the tar paper and then the plastic so it would hold water. Well, not at first. See, I had to put it in in sections and that meant a seam. After thinking about it some I had it! I took the plastic pieces and folded the seam part into several folds and then I used some of mom’s clothes pins to hold the folds together. Ok, well, it held water. My pool was complete, even with rocks and some other landscaping. I was making money with the fish and cutting grass and whatever else I could think of. So, as I looked out of my fort I could see all the pools full of fish. I’d trade some of them to the pet store for fish food. Life was good!! I’d lay on my sun deck and think about life. What was next? By now I’m thinkin’ I’m a wealthy guy, but my Mom on the other hand was thinkin’ about how to get rid of all this junk. Time marches on…
It wasn’t long before I found a black kitten. Her name was Blackie. It sounded right at the time. I had a Cushman Eagle motor scooter at that time. I would put Blackie around my neck and ride all over the place and she'd never move. It really amazed people that that cat would just lay around my neck and ride with the wind blowing in our faces. I took that cat everywhere. To the store and on fishing trips and even Sandy didn’t seem to mind us having her along. Sometimes I’d take Polly or Molly on my shoulder and Blackie around my neck and Sandy would run along beside us as we toured the planet. What a site. I’d take them to the big woods and we’d set up camp. I’d catch minnows and crawfish for us to eat. I had made grill out of bricks and a piece of wire I had found to grill the fresh caught crawfish and minnows. Yum I can still taste’um. Sandy and Blackie really like my cookin’. They’d eat’um right up. Of course Polly or Molly didn’t care for it much. They would eat the bread I had snuck out of the house. I even brought some home and grilled them outside on my grill. Mom didn’t seem to mind and I am not sure if she had even seen me do it. However, by now mom had just learned to live with all the things I did.
One day as I was fishing and some snakes came swimming out of the culvert. Water moccasins, of course I did not know what they were at the time, but my mind was racing now. How could I catch them? I had it! The pole I was using to fish with. I eased down close to the edge and took my pole and started hitting the water with it. It was hard enough to knock them out or at least stun them enough to pick them up. I had a bucket with me for the fish so I put them in the bucket and took them home. Not a good idea. However, it seemed like it at the time. Once home I needed a place to put them, right? I made a cage from wood and some old wire. There were a few snakes. I don’t recall how many now. Once they were in the cage I placed them in the yard on some blocks. My mom was horrified when she got home. “You have to get rid of them," she said angrily.
So, I told her I would do it first thing tomorrow after school. Well, when I got home the snakes were all gone. It seems they can get through some pretty small holes. I looked and I looked, but no snakes could I find. Mom was really not happy when she heard that there were water moccasins loose around the house somewhere. And no one would go in or out unless they we running. This went on for a few days until we figured it was safe again. And I never brought any more snakes home.
A little more about my childhood and I’ll move to fish and water quality. I traded my BB pistol for a squirrel and I named him Chipper. I usually kept him in a cage on the back porch in a little room that I had claimed as my domain. It was just off the area of my mom’s washroom. One day I was in my little room and had Chipper out and playing with him. Mom was washing clothes and all was well with the world. Until! Chipper decided he would venture out of my room. As you know, squirrels have toenails and can climb very quickly. The floor in my area was wood, but the washroom was tile. Chipper was ok walking on the tile, however, when I went to get him he made a mad dash towards mom and the washing machine. If you have this pictured in your mind now you can see him trying to get a grip on that tile floor. It was not happening….but his next move sent my mom in a dancing gig I’ll never forget. Chipper had ran up her dress on her naked leg and believe me it was a site to see. It seemed like a long time and my mom must have thought a booger had got a hold of her. Well, it wasn’t long enough for me to get out of there. She soon came to her right mind and out the door Chipper and I went. I had to move him to the garage when I already had a zoo. The sad thing was Chipper got out one day and a dog from down the street killed him... Up next, my cat Blackie.
My dog Sandy and I were best buds. He and I were always together. He was a blond cocker spaniel. We spent almost every waking moment together.
A few blocks from the house I lived in in Florida was a big patch of woods. This area was such a cool place. Sandy and I spent lots of time exploring the woods. There was a large ditch that ran through the woods. Of course it was full of fish. There was a big culvert running under the old dirt road that led to the woods. The minnows used this as their refuge. So, one day I was fishing for crawfish with some bacon. For those of you that don't know, once the bacon is in the water for a while it becomes stringy. And I noticed that the minnows would nibble at it, but because it weighted to the bottom where the crawfish were they could not eat it. Light bulb Moment!!! What if I removed the weight. Bacon floats, alright, I figured I’d let it float into the culvert where the big ones were. That was when I was able to catch them. I’d let them suck on the ragged bacon for a few seconds and once it was down the mouth, I would then snatch them right out of there. Happy days.
It was then the snakes showed up...
To be continued...
By now my pigeon collection had grown. A black pigeon, named Polly and a white pigeon, named Molly was the original two I started with. I built them a little house and before long they were laying eggs and presto baby pigeons. Pigeons lay two eggs at a time, as a rule. They really never left the place for long. I would put corn as feed on the roof of the house. Which made sense at the time. Then I came home from school one day to find they had friends over for dinner. So, I’d put more feed up there for the friends. Well, a few days later I came home and there were even more friends on the roof. Kind of sounds like a welfare state starting to develop, right? You know the more I fed them the more kept showing up. My mom was really about to lose it now. Because, there were now hundreds of pigeons on the roof and poop everywhere. Well, needless to say I had to put an end to that. I stopped feeding and they soon stopped coming. Sound familiar? However, mom may have wished I’d kept the pigeons cause the next thing I captured and brought home were snakes. To be continued...
This love of animals soon branched out into pigeons, chickens, ducks, a goat, some snakes, and other wild animals me and my dog could catch. Even though we lived in the city and we had very little money since my father had died when I was 10 and my mom worked for 50 cents an hour to feed and clothe me and my sister. I soon figured how to support my interest. As I said, my mom had the pet stores interested and as I was cutting grass my imagination kicked in and I'd be looking for things that others would throw away. I brought home old bags of concrete, mostly hard, but there was enough good to make a concrete pond. I got busy re-routing a water-line under the house to this new pond right beside my bedroom window. Happy days, I soon found out there is good news and bad news with owning a pond. Especially, one so close to the house. And It was not long until I had it full of fish of all kinds. Amazing what nature has out there for a 11 year old boy. I earned enough money to buy some chicken wire to build a pen for my Banana chickens, my ducks, and other things I could pen up. Before long I had lots of chickens. I recall one day while in the chicken pen that my babies were less today than yesterday. (Hmm) I thought to myself. In the middle of the chicken yard was a large bush. If you recall, I mentioned I had ducks. Mallards ducks. One male one female. On this particular day I was about to discover the mystery of my missing chicks. While feeding them, I heard a baby chicks chirp in an unusual way and then it became a muffled chirp and then nothing. As I walked around the large bush I saw the feet of the baby chick going down the throat of one of the ducks. Yep, they were swallowing them whole. So, I sold them to a fellow who, like me, wanted to start a city farm. Happy days again. I had solved the problem of my missing chicks.
As a small boy being raised in Florida I found myself infatuated with all the fish and minnows in the canals and ditches. I soon figured out a way to catch them. It was not long before I have every canning jar and every washtub my mother had full of fish. I recall her coming home one day from work and wringing her hands at all the fish I had in everything that would hold water.
Little did I know then that this would be the beginning of a love for fish.
It wasn’t long after that needed more places to hold the fish. So, I started cutting grass so I could buy kiddy pools to hold all the fish. In Florida at the time the ditches were full all different kinds of live bearers. Meaning the babies were born alive instead of coming from an egg. However, I soon realized their method of birth control was to eat the babies. In egg layers they ate the eggs. So, I needed to save all of the babies from the other fish in my holding ponds. "What oh what could I do?" So, I went back to the ditches and watched what was happening. There were babies there. But why? The one big difference, refuse. So, I pulled some of the water grasses and took them back home and placed them in my holding ponds. Of course it grew thicker and before I knew it, I was having lots of babies. My mother, at her wits end, decided to call around to some of the bait stores and some of the pet stores and tried to sell these millions of fish I had accumulated.
And that was the beginning of what is today’s Misty Mountain.
Roy Underwood was born in 1947 Jacksonville, Florida. He is a devoted patriot who served during Vietnam and later ran for both Congress and State Representative. Roy is currently Founder and CEO of Misty Mountain Inc. A family run business since 1993 that specializes in the sale of fish and pond products, as well as home and office water and air purification systems.