Tag Archives: the wildlife journalist

Marty Stouffer of “Wild America” (Podcast)

My radio program “Moore Outdoors” allows me to be able to interview all kinds of experts on wildlife.

By far one of the greatest interview subject is Marty Stouffer of “Wild America” fame.

The now syndicated show (last 25 years) originally aired on PBS and set records for viewership. Here’s some info on Stouffer from Wikipedia.

 Along with his brother Mark, Stouffer also produced the TV series of John Denver specials for ABC in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Another half-dozen one-hour Specials for the National Geographic Society were also produced during that same time period. Stouffer’s special “The Predators” was narrated by Robert Redford and his special “The Man Who Loved Bears” was narrated by Will Geer and Henry Fonda.

By the mid-1970s, Stouffer had compiled several full-length specials that aired on television as prime time network documentaries. At that time, he approached the programming managers at the PBS about a half-hour-long wildlife series. PBS signed for the rights to broadcast Stouffer’s series Wild America in 1981. The series almost immediately became one of the most popular aired by PBS, renowned for its unflinching portrayal of nature, as well as its extensive use of unique film techniques such as extreme slow motion, close-ups and time-lapses through the seasons of the year.

Stouffer’s stories, incorporating dramatic “facts of life,” and told simply in his home-spun style, won the hearts of a loyal audience. It was one of PBS’s most highly rated regular series, never leaving the Top Ten, and in more than one year, it was the Number One highest rated regular series to air on the network.

It remains the most-broadcast Series which has ever aired on Public Television. At the time, it was common for producers to limit the number of broadcasts to 4 airings over a period of 3 years. Stouffer saw no good reason for that limitation and he was the first producer to offer unlimited broadcasts of the series by the network. Many of the 260 PBS stations chose to broadcast the programs multiple times each day throughout the weeks. In some weeks, according to Nielsen ratings, it was viewed by more than 450 million viewers.

In total, the Wild America episodes have been viewed untold billions of times by hundreds of millions of viewers. Wild America has become the strongest, most popular and most recognized brand in existence on the subject of North American wildlife and nature. 

Listen here to our discussion bears, wildlife programing and all things “Wild America”.

Chester Moore, Jr.

The Biggest Threat in the Woods Pt. 4 (Be Aware)

It was a perfect setup for the mission.

That mission was to try out our new night vision goggles and to record night wildlife sounds in the stunningly beautiful mountains near Willow Creek, Ca.

When I tell you this was in the middle of nowhere it might be hard for you to imagine just how far unless you’ve been to that part of the world.

My father and I were running late and pulled up a few minutes after the sun set. We planned on setting up camp and staying through the night.

As Dad started taking out the equipment I walked over to a good viewing spot to look down into the valley with the night vision goggles. There was a full moon and if anything came into the clearings below we should get a glimpse, I thought.

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The author’s greatest concern in the woods is not predatory wildlife. It is predatory people.

Then I saw it.

A beam of light shot up toward our position.

“Dad did you see that?,” I asked as I pulled off the goggles.

“What?”

“A light beam just shined toward us,” I replied.

“I didn’t see it.”

Neither did I now that the goggles were off.

I put them back on and a few seconds later I could see the light beam moving up toward us.

I took them off and couldn’t see the light.

Immediately I knew that someone was below traveling with night vision goggles and using an infrared light only visible with night vision goggles.

I had been warned this area was a favorite of drug traffickers so it didn’t take long to put two and two together.

Just as I shouted for Dad to throw the gear back in the SUV, headlights of a vehicle turned out about 3/4 mile ahead of us.

We were on one side of a logging road that cut across a mountain. This was on the other side of the mountain road.

Someone had been signaled.

We shoved in the gear and sped out of there but by the time we hit the road so did the truck from the other side. And they were headed straight for us.

At one point I was going 80 down the mountain and they were just a few feet away-literally  an arms length from hitting us. I knew that was their goal.

We had disturbed some sort of illicit activity.

After what seemed like forever we got to the base of the mountain on one of the main roads going toward Willow Creek and as soon as we turned back toward that little city they turned back up the mountain.

Had I not been aware that something was wrong and known about the activity in those areas we might have been killed or at least gotten into a very tense situation.

Well, being chased down a mountain is pretty tense isn’t it?

Over the years I have learned a few things about staying safe from people with bad intentions in the woods. Please share this with others. It could save their life.

#1. Bad Vibes: If you feel bad about going into an area don’t go. I am a follower of Christ and believe sometimes this is the Holy Spirit telling me to stay away. You may not believe that but just call it a “gut feeling” and go with it.

#2. Never Alone: As much as I love to be in the distant forest alone with my camera don’t do it. Always bring someone with you and preferably someone who is experienced in the woods. You are far more likely to get hurt by evil people if you are alone.

#3. Pack Heat: If it’s legal where you are then use your Second Amendment right and carry a firearm. Make sure you are trained in its use and be prepared to do what is necessary. Better you defend yourself against a maniac than become a statistic. Also carry a large knife with you. In close quarters it could save your life.

#4. Study the Area: The Internet is a great tool for studying areas. If you find out an area is high drug trafficker area for example avoid it like the plague. Stay away! I have several areas I no longer frequent because of this issue.

#5. Stay Calm: If you do encounter people in the woods who seem uneasy or a bit shifty, stay calm.  Getting angry or showing fear is a good way to trigger someone who has violent tendencies.

#6. Travel Plan: Leave your spouse or close friends a travel plan and let them know points you plan on exploring. Give them a time frame and let them know if you have not returned by a certain time or day to call help.

#7. Strategic Parking: Always park your vehicle facing out of the area you are checking out. You don’t want to have to back up and turn around in a tight spot during a retreat. Also park in a spot in a clear area if possible that you can see from a distance. If someone is waiting on you or has moved into the spot it will give you a chance to assess the situation and prepare.

8. Don’t Try to be a Hero: If you see someone poaching in the woods at night don’t be a hero and try to stop them. They are armed and very likely will use their weapons on you if you try and stop them. Call and report activity local game wardens and get out as quickly as possible.

Seeking wildlife in the forest is one of the most exciting things a person can do but it has its share of dangers. Keep these tips in mind and you should be available to avoid any serious trouble.

Chester Moore, Jr.

 

 

The Biggest Threat in the Woods Pt. 3 (Jason’s Shack)

I could almost hear “Ki Ki Ki Ma Ma Ma” echoing in the forest.

Excitement at the opportunity to be in the woods alone, early in the morning in a remote tract had now turned to…well…fright.

Just ahead of me on a lonely creek bottom was a structure cobbled together with boards, pipes and tarps. It looked eerily familiar to the home of slasher Jason Voorhees on Friday the 13th Pt. 2.

I was not just in the woods but the super deep woods about as far from people as you can get in the eastern third of Texas.

Had I stumbled upon the living quarters of some killer hidden out here? There are instances of people in this region living off the land and never coming out in the region so maybe it was just a hermit.

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The shack of Jason Voorhees from Friday the 13th Pt. 2.

The more likely answer is this was someone’s meth lab-something I have always hoped I would never find.

I did not stick around to investigate.

I was considering turning in what I found but a few days later it became a moot point.

Hurricane Harvey’s epic rains hit Southeast Texas and the nearest homes to the location had 6-8 feet of water in them. This spot would’ve been deeper than that so if Jason did live in there, he had to make a new home.

I haven’t returned to ask him how it turned out.

Chad Meadows encountered something similar when he was a young teen.

“One day me and my cousin got bored so,we grabbed the machete and our bb guns and went off  exploring,” he said.

“This was on a levee in Deweyville, TX. We went down by the river and came across some trees that were clearly cut down with an axe and formed into a 10×10 half walled fort. We found the jackpot or so we thought.”

“During our firefight with the enemy, we saw another fort a couple hundred feet away, but covered in a dingy white canvas tarp. We needed a fallback position so we checked out this new, smaller fort. We thought we had stumbled on a hunter’s camp. The second place had a bunch of barrels and pots and copper tubing. We didn’t know what it was but it was hidden so we decided to get out of there,” Meadows said.

So, off the duo went.

When they got a few feet away a “wildman” with what he described as a ZZ Top beard came running and yelling and waving a shotgun.

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If you see a guy dressed anywhere remotely like Jason here from Friday the 13th Pt. 2-run! Whether he’s in the woods or on a porch rocking like the author saw many years ago its probably not a good situation.

“We took off. I remember him firing the gun and I could hear the pellets peppering the trees around us. We weren’t hit but we were scared. We didn’t tell our parents because my uncle would have gone after the man. A few days later, their dog came up missing, only to be found dead just in the woods near where we set off on our adventure,” Meadow said.

The moral of the story? If you find rickety structures in the woods get out. Quickly.

Chance are its someone hiding out or hiding something in the remoteness of the forest.

However my imagination and the amount of times I viewed the second Friday the 13th as a kid won’t rule out a slasher with a white sack over his head.

Plus there is the time I was driving down a remote road not too far from this location and saw a guy in overalls rocking on a porch with a sack over his head. When I came back through a couple of hours later he was still there.

I hope I never encounter him in the woods.

I know Jason is a fictional character but this guys outfit was too close of a match to the iconic movie slasher for my comfort and this was in July, not on Halloween.

Creepy, huh?

Chester Moore, Jr.

The Biggest Threat in the Woods Pt. 2 (Southern Comfort)

The 1981 cult classic Southern Comfort details a group of National Guardsmen led by Powers Boothe who come across Cajuns in the vast Atchafala Basin swamp that don’t take too kindly to outsiders.

When Southeast Texas outdoors lover Todd Haney was 15 years old he encountered something similar along the lonesome Sabine River corridor.

“My encounter was something that could have come right out of that movie,” Haney said.

“I had put a trotline out in the backwaters on the Louisiana side of the Sabine. I was around 15 years old.  After a few weeks the river started to drop out so I went to take the line up and move out to the river. The line was about a mile from the river through a narrow channel.”

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Powers Boothe and Keith Carradine in Southern Comfort.

“When I got about 3/4 of the way in, I noticed a camp on a ridge consisting of a tent and some typical camping supplies, but no one in sight. I didn’t think much of it other than it’s a remote area only accessible by boat. When I came out of the channel into a larger backwater cypress swamp where the line was, I saw a boat pulled up to the bank about a hundred yards to the right. Still not very concerned because I was just going to be in there a few minutes, just long enough to take up the line I preceded to take up the line.”

That’s when things got scary.

“I got about half of the hooks off the line when I heard the sound of a person walking in the leaves on the bank in front of me. And with a heavy Cajun accent, speaks.

“What are you doing back here?”

Haney was alone with his pit bull terrier Babe who went everywhere with him and a Marlin .22.

“I’m taking this line up that I put here about two weeks ago,” Haney replied.

The man with the Cajun accent had a different idea.

That’s my line. You better the the (fill in the blank) out of here or I am going to blow that (fill in the blank again) boat out from under you.”

He could see the man about 50 yards away and he was  holding what looked like a shotgun in his hands.

“I said ‘OK’ but reached down and grabbed my knife and cut the line in two door spite,” Haney said.

“As I eased out of the cypress swamp I saw another man now standing near the boat that I saw earlier. Thinking back, those were direct threats to my life in the exchange of words. It’s been 34 years ago now, and I can’t remember exactly what all was said but I knew they weren’t joking.”

Turns out a pair of brothers from nearby had shot someone a few years earlier and in hindsight Haney thinks he encountered them.

“I had just watched Southern Comfort a year earlier. I never thought I would live it.”

Chester Moore, Jr.

 

The biggest threat in the woods (Pt. 1)

People often ask me what I think is the biggest threat in the woods.

And they are shocked when I don’t answer bear, mountain lion, rattlesnake or wild boar.

My answer is always the same: humans.

There is no greater danger on the planet than the human being and for several reasons I will discuss, they are by far the greatest threat in the woods.

I am not one of these anti-human wildlife lovers.

I love wildlife but I love people too, in fact even more than wildlife.

Me and my wife Lisa work with children who are abused, terminally ill and suffering loss. We love those children dearly but a great part of why we have so many children to work with is because of the dark side of humanity.

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The wood are the author’s favorite place but he is well aware of their dangers. (Public Domain Photos)

The same evil that would guide someone to harm a child will influence someone to kill, rape or maim in the desolate setting of the forest.

Isolation has always been a playing ground for the wicked.

Evil people like to do their deeds under the cover of darkness, in the shadows and sometimes in the woods.

This is why I never enter the woods unarmed. Never.

You see as a journalist I have been privy to numerous stories of danger, death and chaos in the woods through talking with game wardens, hunters, hikers, fishermen and rural ranchers and farmers.

Strange and dark things sometimes happen out there and this series is designed to raise awareness so that you will be more prepared on your next wilderness excursion.

I used to set game cameras in an isolated high spot in a tract of marsh that was just past the city limits but that people rarely visited.

One day I am making my way back toward the vehicle and I hear gunfire.

Then it comes again and again and again.

As I sneak onto a high spot to get a glimpse I see about a dozen young men gathered near my truck and a couple of them are shooting pistols into the air. They are all drinking and there are several motorcycles and a couple of cars.

I started to wait them out but I figured the drunker they got the more dangerous the situation might become.

I also recognized this was very likely a gang situation because several of them had on the same vest and I better handle myself right or I might not make it out of here. Darkness was closing in.

I waited until they sort of backed away from my truck and walked straight in. I waved as I came up and they just looked at me.

Several spoke words in Spanish I didn’t understand but the tone wasn’t exactly friendly. One of them approached me and spoke in English and asked what I was doing.

I told him I was getting my truck and going home. He stood and looked at me for a second. Neither one of us blinked.

I then opened the door of my truck, laid the .45 I had in my jacket on the seat and backed out of there.

As I left the gunfire started again.

I thanked God it was shooting in the air and not at me.

A couple of weeks later the police shut off access to this area due to a bunch of crimes occurring including someone fishing nearby getting shot.

That’s just one crazy encounter I have had in the wild.

We are about to take a trip into dark territory. Please share these blogs on your social media and with friends.

It’s important we are aware, alert and focused when we enter the woods. There are dangers out there and most of them walk on two legs.

Chester Moore, Jr.

 

 

 

Enter the Animal Underground

I once walked into the mouth of an old railroad tunnel.

Covered in vines and decaying it looked a bit ominous, even from a distance.

Many years previous trains would cut through as they winded through the limestone encrusted hills of the Edwards Plateau in Central Texas.

Now the tunnel is home to more than a million of Mexican free tail baits.

Passing by during the day or even walking nearby one would never know of their presence unless they maybe caught a sniff of the guano (bat dung).

But at night, these bats exit the tunnel and travel into the darkness in pursuit of insects and they return before dawn.

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In the 1800s, a network of safe houses and secret routes called the “Underground Railroad” saw thousands of African American slaves find their way to freedom out of states where slavery was legal.

Thinking about the tunnel reminded me there is an underground network of sorts for animals, paths in which they can travel without the system taking notice.

The animals themselves of course are not aware of it although by sheer instinct they use it to their advantage.

It is a mindset in the culture of wildlife viewing, academia, media coverage and the hunting and fishing community that things with wildlife are supposed to go “by the book” and anything challenging the official narrative is ignored outright assailed.

In 2002, I spent a day in the field in the Pearl River Wildlife Management Area in Louisiana with researchers David Luneau and Martian Lammertink in search of the ivory-billed woodpecker, a species at the time considered extinct. Zeiss Sports Optics sponsored a truly rare look at a species often reported but believed long gone.

We never saw any ivory bills but I saw two men intent on at least searching out what could be an incredibly important find.

In 2004, Luneau obtained a video in Arkansas that the US Fish and Wildlife Service itself considers to be an ivory bill-a previously though extinct bird.

It goes along with other recordings and research suggesting there are a few ivory bills out there.  However, the official narrative is the species is still lost.

Many don’t want to touch the topic with a 10 foot pole.

Ivorybills?!

Did they ever exist anyway?

That’s what many act like.

And its this very lack of “official” interest that allows such species to hide in the shadows beyond the attention of those who can verify and perhaps save certain ones.

Most scientists tow the line on mysterious wildlife because their careers are centered on grants and anything outside the norm might rock the financial boat too much.

The hunting and fishing community dodges controversial wildlife topics for fear of government intervention especially in relation to the Endangered Species Act.

Amateur naturalists are quick to skip over the mysterious for fear of public ridicule and loss of access to property.

And the media doesn’t really care unless they can spin it into the next viral story, often shaming those who are dare to question things or belittling the off the wall topics altogether.

I am too curious to ignore the stories that require stepping into the shadows. I crave the opportunity to pursue mysteries of the wildlife kind-controversial or not.

Growing up in the 80s, the intro to syndicated horror anthology series Tales from the Darkside used to terrify me.

That is terrify me enough to watch.

Man lives in the sunlit world of what he believes to be reality. But… there is, unseen by most, an underworld, a place that is just as real, but not as brightly lit… a Darkside. (Series Intro)

I won’t call the animal underground a “dark side” in terms of evil but it certainly not as brightly lit as what most see.

Maybe it’s time to light a candle.

Chester Moore, Jr.

 

 

 

 

 

The dream began long ago…

A couple of days ago I came across a project called “I am Somebody” from fourth grade.

It was an exercise in challenging us to state who we are and who we wanted to become in life.

I don’t remember this project and I have not seen it since I did it back in 1984 but what I found in it reminded me that a dream of working with wildlife that became a vision later in life started long ago.

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When asked to draw a picture or cut out and paste of picture of what I wanted to be when I grew up I chosen article from National Geographic showing a researcher with a leopard seal.

I would like to be a scientist because I would like to maybe find a way to stop water pollution or discover a new animal. I would like to be a wildlife biologist.

I ended up studying journalist in school and later zoology and have since I was in high school pursued wildlife journalism. It’s amazing a little boy with a big dream got to live it in a little different way.

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The assignment also had a section called “If I Were…”

If I were an animal I would like to be a grizzly bear so I could be the strongest animal in the forest.

Not much has changed on that front although I would probably tell you a jaguar for the answer now-the strongest cat in the forest.

The reason for this post is to inspire you to follow the vision you have for your life. My advice is to seek God, receive revelation on your life and pursue that with everything you have.

I am no one special but I have been able to do many special things in regards to wildlife. There is no reason you can’t do the same thing.

I plan on doing many more special things with wildlife in the next 25 years and beyond and want to inspire you to seek out your WILDEST dreams.

I will probably never become a grizzly but I just might get an up close and personal photo one of one of these magnificent creatures.

Yeah, that sounds fun…

Chester Moore, Jr.

 

Snow leopard de-listing. What’s the real story?

Recently I received news that one of the most mysterious and beautiful creatures on the planet was being taken off the endangered species list.

I am talking about the snow leopard.

Listing and delisting a species can come with a lot of confusion as subjects like this one deal with everything from extremely difficult population analysis to its interpretation.

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Public Domain Photo

In this special case I turned to someone I trust and respect my friend from the other side of the world Dr. Natalie Schmitt who as you will see is doing some great work that will benefit snow leopards and other wild felines.

Here is the transcript of the questions I sent her and as always she answered with great detail and honesty.

Chester Moore, Jr.

 Do you feel the delisting of the snow leopard is justified?

I think the decision by the (International Union for the Conservation of Nature) IUCN assessment team to downgrade the snow leopard’s conservation status from ‘endangered’ to ‘vulnerable’ is justified as the species needed to meet very specific criteria to maintain that status.

A continuation of the ‘endangered’ classification for the snow leopard would have required two criteria to be met, 1.) a population consisting of less than 2,500 adults, and 2.) a rate of decline exceeding 20 percent over 16 years. The expert assessor team (consisting of five respected international experts), using the best information available, determined that the snow leopard currently meets neither criteria.

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Dr. Natalie Schmitt

Although recent studies suggest that snow leopard numbers are likely higher than previously thought, the assessment team took an exceptionally precautionary approach, including using the lowest widely accepted global population size (4,000) when determining if the ‘endangered’ threshold could be met.

Although we still have only very crude estimates of snow leopard abundance based on sightings, camera trap recordings and interviews with local people, more accurate estimates are likely to not have any impact on the conservation status according to the expert team. However, my personal concern is that the decision has been made prematurely before broader-scale surveys are conducted with more accurate counting methods, to know for certain. In fact, in the full report on the snow leopard, the IUCN noted that population numbers could be partly speculative, given the difficulties in collecting accurate data on the elusive species across its full range from Afghanistan through to China.

What has been the main contributing factor to an increase in population?

Conservation efforts have been pinnacle in helping to prevent snow leopard extinction, particularly efforts to stop poaching and cutting off illegal trafficking routes however, as far as we are aware, the population is still decreasing, just not as rapidly as we once thought.

What are some negatives that could come from de-listing the snow leopard?

The biggest concern about the recent downlisting is that the lower status may weaken conservation efforts in range countries and the ability of local governments to stop the major threats to their survival. Some funding sources are also restricted to Endangered or Critically Endangered species, so there may be less funding opportunities for the species.

Tell us about your invention for tracking species like the snow leopard?

This invention has become the biggest life sacrifice for me, because I believe in its value so much! With the help of biomedical experts from McMaster University, the Centre for Molecular Dynamics in Nepal and Panthera, we aim to develop a simple, inexpensive, accurate, sensitive and portable DNA detection kit that can be used by non-experts for the rapid detection of species from the evidence they leave behind.

Through the identification of animals from their droppings we can gain an accurate estimate of population abundance, and the kit will be particularly useful for the detection of rare and elusive species where scats are difficult to identify morphologically. The portability and affordability of the kit will also make it easier for detecting species inhabiting challenging terrain, and in developing countries where conservation funding is limited. Once identified, those samples can then be taken back to the lab for further analysis of diet and disease.

The kit can also be used by customs officers to rapidly identify the remains of illegally trafficked species such as skins and bone. It is the lack of ability to be able to distinguish between legal and illegal wildlife products that represents the biggest issue in the enforcement and prosecution of wildlife trafficking. By improving our frontline detection methods we can identify poaching hotspots and trafficking routes, determine the geographic origin and age of the product, as well as assist law enforcement officers to prevent future crimes.

Finally, the simple design will allow the detection kit to be used by non-experts such as local communities and for citizen science initiatives. The usability of the kit will help local people to be directly involved in identifying and mitigating threats to wildlife, thereby expanding conservation outcomes.

We’ve already made significant headway and with the support of people and organisations who believe in the value of this idea too, we’ll get there.

To subscribe to regular updates on the project and to make a donation, please visit https://www.natscatsdna.com/

What are the greatest challenges for the species moving forward?

Despite the IUCN downlisting of the species, snow leopards are still considered at high risk of extinction from habitat loss and degradation from mining and infrastructure development, declines in prey populations and poaching for the illegal wildlife trade. It is so important that we don’t become complacent in our efforts to preserve this important apex predator.

The snow leopard plays a crucial part in maintaining the health of the Himalayan ecosystem.

A bear named Gigi

It was called Tiger Bar and Grill.

Besides the booze, the draw was a pair of Bengal tigers sitting on a small slab across from the bar.

It is hard to imagine that at some point, this was considered a good idea but it had been open for several years and by the amount of bottles in the trash can outside, they had a few patrons.

Our mission was to rescue a young black bear illegally imported into Texas and being kept in the bar.

The author at age 21 with his cousin Frank Moore giving “Gigi” her last Twinkie of the night. (Photo by Gerald Burleigh)

A game warden had contacted Monique Woodard of the Exotic Cat & Wildlife Refuge in Kirbyville, TX to see if she would take the bear and she got my frequent cohort and wildlife photographer Gerald Burleigh and I to come along.

My job was to dart the bear if it got belligerent so we could put it in the crate to ride to Kirbyville in the back of my truck. Gerald was thereto document the day with his unique style of photography.

The tigers despite being in a small area looked healthy but the bear on the other hand was quite scruffy. Weighing about 80 pounds, she was probably around six months old and despite her small size she could have taken out all of us. Bears are extremely powerful.

We walked up to the enclosure and the bear stood up on its hind legs.

Before risking darting the animal, we put the extra large pet porter next to the door of the cage and Monique reached into her bag and pulled out a Twinkie.

Gigi getting a drink in her new enclosure (Photo by Gerald Burleigh)

She held it up to the nose of the bear which at this point was standing at the door and she had me open it. She then threw the Twinkie into the porter and the bear went right in.

Easy enough.

On the way home, somewhere around Baytown on Interstate 10, the bear which at this point had been named “Gigi” pounded on the bed of my truck.

We pulled over to see what was wrong and Monique said she was hungry so she gave her a few more Twinkies from the box.

This happened three more times before getting to Kirbyville where she had the very last Twinkie in her big new enclosure.

Gigi was a real treat and ended up being a big draw to the refuge and a gigantic blessing to our lives.

Chester Moore, Jr.

Into the Abyss…

Time stood still as I sank into the abyss.

For a moment, it seemed as if I were in a bizarre, fever-induced nightmare, descending deeper and deeper into murky blackness.

Life and death hung in the balance as I struggled to make it toward the light above but my captor was powerful. Effort seemed futile as it pulled with unbelievable strength until suddenly something gave and I broke free.

Rocketing to the surface toward the boat I was pulled from, I gave everything to get back in.

A huge beast with razor sharp teeth had just taken me on a trip into 40 degree, 50-foot deep water. Drowning, hypothermia and bleeding to death were all likely scenarios but an even stronger force led me to the light.

Back in 1997, I was running a trotline in a deep hole in the Sabine River. My cousin Frank Moore and I had trotlines about 200 yards apart and had been catching a few blue catfish.

This was in the middle of winter and we were targeting huge blue catfish. In previous days I had several large hooks straightened and had visions of 75-pound blues in my mind.

As I went to check my line, I noticed most it was not parallel to the shore but drifting out across the deep, instead of on the edge. The line had been cut (or so I thought).

Immediately not so kind words flowed through my mouth to whoever cut the line but then as I started to pull it in something happened.

The line moved!

Photo by Chester Moore, Jr.

I pulled in a little more and felt great weight at the end of the line and soon realized I had a seven-foot long alligator garfish on my line. In the Moore family, gar trump blue cats any day of the week so I was excited and even more so when I saw the huge gar barely moving.

Gar will often drown on trotlines (seriously) and this one looked a little worse for the wear so I though it would be easy pickings.

I pulled the line up to the beast, hooked my gaff under the only soft spot on the fish, which is directly below the jaw. I jammed it in there good to make sure it would hold and to see how lively the fish was. It literally did not budge. The fish was alive but did not seem lively.

I then took a deep breath, mustered up all the strength I had since this was a 200-pound class fish and heaved the gar into the boat. That is when the big fish woke up.

It pulled back with full force and all of a sudden I found myself headed down into 30 feet of water with the gar. In an instant I realized one of the other hooks on the trotline had caught in my shoe and I was now attached to 200 pounds of toothy fury.

I had just enough time to take a breath and went under.

All I could focus on was getting back to the surface and toward the light. I am not sure how deep I went but according to my cousin who was just down the shore from me, I did not stay under very long. A 200-pound gar and a 200-pound young man snapped the lead on the line but the hook amazingly remained in my shoe as a reminder I was very near death.

Bringing the line into the boat was a mistake on my part. Nearly a fatal one. They should always be checked on the side of the boat.

More philosophically, thinking back to that moment enveloped in a  cold darkness and looking up to the light would foreshadow what would happen in my life in years to come.

There was much more living to do. I just had to reach to the light-the Light of the World to be set free.

Chester Moore, Jr.