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Izaak Walton Lake Simmons family photo
Janis Cross
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Izaak Walton Lake

Izaak Walton was a club park named after the 17th-century English angler-conservationist who wrote the literary classic "The Compleat Angler".

It was built at an abandoned strip coal mine that was filled with water. Every so many years the lake would be drained and cleaned of debris. It had a sand beach, a small water raft and a huge structure built in the lake with a high diving board. On the grounds there was a picnic area, playground sets, an open-air dinning hall and a bathhouse.

Pee Wee and a friend, Mr. Stanfield, built the dinning hall and bathhouse in exchange for a membership to the club. They also built one of the three cabins at Izaak Walton Club lake. The two families alternated time spent at the cabin until Claude finally bought his buddy's share.

The club members stocked the lake with fish. When the lake would freeze over, they would cut trees and position them on the ice. When the ice defrosted, the trees would sink to the bottom and provide "homes" for the fish. Small minnows would school around swimmers and nip at moles on their skin.

Claude would seine the shallows of the lake for minnows for fish bait. Whether it was minnows or worms, Claude almost always caught fish. He used a rod and reel when fishing from a boat, which he conned someone into rowing while he fished! Or with a bamboo pole from the dock.

Emma McClaire Gulley tells a story about visiting the lake at Aunt Nannie's. Emma and Almeta were in the rowboat, with Uncle Claude who was "teaching" her how to row the boat. In the course of the long day she got sunburn all down the front of her. During the night she woke up with a severe burn and blisters and Aunt Nannie poured canned cream all over her. Because it was too painful to sit in a car, they had to get the hearse from town to take Emma back to her house.

Uncle Claude used to tell Emma that he was going to get a bunch of crawdads and let them loose in her bedroom. When she was healing from the sunburn and was itching, she thought he did it and they'd crawled up in her bed.

Janis Cross recalls that Izaac Walton had a lot more critters than just fish! Across the lake, to the right of the cabin was Cotton Silkwood's, the caretaker, house. Janis recalls a time when playing in his backyard, watching a praying mantis catch food and groom herself. One day Claude was hoeing dirt in a cornfield next to Cotton's yard (digging for worms?) and Janis was playing near by, when a Blue Racer snake chased after her. Claude killed it with a hoe. At the beach, Janis stepped on a nest of sand bees and was stung on the bottom of her foot. Another time she stuck her toe in a sand pile that was propping the bathouse door open and a leech attached itself to her big toe.

Small lizards were always seen sunning themselves on the wood walkway from the cabin. Nannie used to warn not to go into the woods because there were lizards as big as logs! Her way of making sure the children didn't wander too far. Or was it?

At a family reunion, Janis recounted a childhood story of catching a pink-fleshed colored creature on a hook while fishing at the dock. It so frightened her that she shook it off the hook and ran away. When Claude heard the tale from his eleven year old "granddaughter", he dimissed the critter as a turtle. Janis was sure that it was not a turtle but never mentioned the incident again. Almeta, listening to the story blanched, and begain to tell a story of her own.

To the right of the cabin was a farm. Almeta recalls that, as a child of about eleven, she saw a pink-fleshed colored creature in the mud banks at the edge of the farm property. Because she was playing in an area that she was told not to, she never mentioned what she had seen. Twenty years later, mother and daughter shared a story of the Monster of Izaak Walton!!!
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Photo taken at USA
Izaak Walton Lake

Claude John Simmons

Mini-biography
Born: Sep 18, 1884
Died: unknown
Also in this photo: Claude John Simmons  ·  Nancy Hanks Marrs