The Choctawhatchee River is 141 miles of magic. You might think that sounds whacko, and you’re probably right. But I am just naïve enough to believe in magic.
The Choctawhatchee’s headwaters start as two separate forks, located in Barbour and Henry County, Alabama. The river then flows southward, snaking its way through Geneva County, lulling itself past the Florida line, finally emptying into the Choctawhatchee Bay of my youth.
The water undergoes many changes on its journey to the Sunshine State. Even the color of the river changes slightly as it slices through mud, clay and silt.
In some places the water is olive green. In other places the water can look more reddish, like iced tea. By the time the water spills into the 129 square miles of brackish bay, the water is almost silvery blue.
When I was a young sap, old men used to say the Choctawhatchee River was different from other tributaries. Not only is the water staggeringly clean, the river also contains some of
the oldest fish known to man. Among these species is the Gulf sturgeon, a frightening armored fish that traces its origins back to the Triassic Period, shortly after the birth of Willie Nelson.
These are wicked fish, known to jump right out of the water and assault fishermen. I know of a man who was knocked out of his boat and injured by a whopping sturgeon while he was eating a liver wurst sandwich.
So there is a special element that is unnamable about the Choctawhatchee. Using a fishing rod, I have spent entire summers trying to figure out what this unnamable charm is, but I have no answer except to say that, yes, it’s magic.
Which brings me to a recent example of this particular magic. A few days ago, near Hartford, Alabama (pop. 2,624), something happened.
A kayaker was paddling along the river and saw something stuck in the…