Hill Family Has Fond Memories Of Outings At Wildcat Brake
WATER VALLEY – A sign erected in 2008 dedicating the Wildlife Management Area at Wildcat Brake to the late Dean Hill was rededicated last Wednesday after vandalism and weathering prompted repairs.
Tommy Hill and Jerry Hill, brothers of Wayland Dean Hill, Sr., and his son, Wayland Dean Hill, Jr., also enjoyed the opportunity to share a few memories from their family’s deep outdoor roots during the informal ceremony. The dedication in 2008 was prompted by the efforts of Dean Hill and the Otoucalofa Sportsmen’s Club’s commitment to conservation in the area.
“We lived just up the road here, Wayland recalled. “Dad did a lot of work down here, he planted a lot of food plots and planted a lot of trees. They put up a lot of wood duck boxes, him and Stoney and Eddie Magee.”
As a kid, Wayland enjoyed hunting and fishing outings with his father, known as Dean, and recalled a fishing trip when he was about five or six years old when they got stuck coming out of the bottom that night. His father pulled out the manual choke to keep the truck running and used a pole for leverage at the rear of the truck.
The younger Hill’s job was to let off the clutch to engage the wheels as his father lifted the back of the truck and to press it when they got out. He said the first few attempts the truck almost came out, but he mashed the clutch a little too soon.
“I was afraid it was going to get going too fast, so back in the hole we went,” Wayland recalled. “We did that a couple of times. As bad as I am sure he wanted to tell me don’t hit the clutch again, he didn’t. He said we are going to get this done and we finally got it out. We spent a lot of time down here duck hunting and fishing.”
Wayland recalled his uncles also spent a lot of hours hunting and fishing in the area.
“Tommy spent no telling how many hours at Wildcat Brake, I bet he fished around every tree,” Wayland joked. The fishing trips included hand grabbling for catfish, another family tradition.
“Wayland even caught a turtle down here,” Tommy added about a family story etched in their memories. After sticking a cane and his hand in the log a couple of times, Tommy explained he had decided there was something in the log other than a big catfish.
“I ran a stick in there and that turtle hit that stick,” Tommy added.
“But I said Tommy, that log is completely submerged. Can’t nothing live in there but a fish,” Wayland continued. “Tommy said ‘that’s right’ and stuck his hand back in there. He came out and said ‘that ain’t no fish.’”
They were eventually able to wrestle the big loggerhead out of the log without losing any fingers. Tommy noted that he had caught a big catfish in the log a day earlier, and speculated the turtle was in there eating the fish eggs.
The stories continued, during another outing a cottonmouth almost bit one of the brothers while they were back in the lake grabbling. But the close calls never slowed them down.
“I just went to the next log,” Tommy recalled.
The sign restoration was coordinated by Tony Chandler, an outdoor enthusiast who lives nearby. Chandler reached out to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for permission and contacted local artist Bill Warren to paint and repair the small metal sign with Dean’s picture that is attached to the larger wood sign.
Enid Lake Manager Mike Robinson also assisted with the work on the sign and attended the rededication.
The crew also explained “Wildcat Brake” got its name from a colorful character who lived up the hill from the brake. Clarence E. Wilbourn, better known as “Wildcat” or just “Cat” to his close friends, served as constable in Beat 3 for as long as anybody could remember. The Hills recalled his family farmed the bottomland around Yocona River before the lake was constructed.
Wildcat was also a well-known politician who loved to speak at the political rallies, whether he had competition or not. His campaign promises were legendary. One of his favorites was his vow that if re-elected he was going to run all the mosquitoes out of Beat 3. He was also ahead of his time on economic development for the county as a whole. He once promised to give everyone in Yalobusha County a job… if they wanted one… by moving the water from above Enid Dam to below it. His plan was to give out buckets and let folks dip the water out of the lake and pour it down the other side.
Looking out for the farmers was on his mind, too. Cat promised to outlaw the boll weevil in all of Yalobusha County. And, he was going to stop all those airplanes from flying over because they were scaring the cows. Then, as now, transportation was a major concern. Since blacktopping the roads wasn’t keeping the potholes under control, “Wildcat” came up with the solution of blackbottoming the roads.
(Editor’s Note: Information for this article about Wildcat Wilbourn was originally shared from Jack Gurner, who wrote about memories of Wilbourn in the Herald in 2007.)