urban waterways

4

THE HOMELESS HOUSE-BUILDER

James met Keith about five years ago in Houston – they’ve been best buds ever since. 

Keith survived a spell of homelessness. While getting back on his feet, he traveled to New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, in 2005, to build housing for families displaced by the deadly storm. 

“Being able to help people, making sure they have somewhere to live, that was the best thing I’ve done in my life,” said Keith, who has continued in the construction business as a framer and carpenter.

The friends share a love for fishing. Over the years, they’ve pegged some of the best deep-water catfish pools along Buffalo Bayou and White Oak Bayou in historic Downtown Houston. 

One of the best spots is by an old Confederate railroad bridge and nearby Union Army jail. Keith and James said they’ve reeled in 20-pound catfish, alligator gar, soft-shell turtle and even eel. 

James earned bragging rights on Oct. 22 by snagging the first catch of the day – a 20-inch-long channel catfish.

“Ya, Bubba!” Keith yelled as he abandoned his own reel to grab a net and help his friend pull in the catch. 

Keith secured the fish to a holding line and advised James on how much slack to give when tying it to a wall anchor just about the waterline. Keith said he’s swam in those waters and knows their depths. 

The men waited patiently for debris in the urban waterway to pass by before recasting their lines. They noticed a bright yellow softball and a purple condom bobbing among the drift of leaf litter and weeds. 

Some friends like to needle each other to help pass the time. Keith and James, however, exchange words of kindness and encouragement. They answer each other’s questions with “Yes, sir,” “No, sir,” and a smile. 

~Michael Duke 

A Venice canal reflects the summer sky in this Autochrome picture from 1927. Photographer Hans Hildenbrand became famous for the color pictures he made around Europe during World War I.

Winter is a good time to find ducks. Many of them switch habitats in the winter, leaving secluded ponds or arctic refuges for bays, lakes, and even urban waterways. Here’s a hooded merganser (Lophodytes cucullatus) from today. Females have ruddy heads, but males have these amazing black and white crests that they can raise and lower at will. They use them for weird courtship displays. Every time I see a bird do a funny mating dance, I think about their dinosaur relatives doing the same but on an absurdly large scale…