They Call Him Mr. Bibb
article by Dan Chason
Last month I introduced you to my closest childhood friend, Jon Miller. I promised this month to take that another step forward with our simple theme: Friends are a rare commodity. I said it once and it is worth saying again that most people can count their friends on one hand. My definition of a friend is pretty simple. If I’m stuck in a ditch at 4 a.m. and had one phone call who would I call? And would they respond?
Such is the case with one of my closest buddies. His real name is George B. Franklin, III. But everyone calls him Bibb. His Dad, George B. Franklin, Jr. founded the Franklin and Son’s longstanding business in Richland Parish. Mr. George, who was featured in a column in his honor, was tragically killed in a UTV accident in 2006. It doesn’t seem like 10 years have passed since Mr. George left us, but spend any time around Bibb or his brothers Roy or Fred Scott and it seems like he is still here. Mr. George left his mark on all of us but the strongest brand is carried by his sons. Bibb is no exception. I tell Bibb he looks like his dad every time he dons the “Elmer Fudd” duck hunting hat like his daddy wore. It is uncanny how much he resembles him.
I was introduced to Bibb by Senator Francis Thompson of Delhi. Francis knew me from my television show and told me about a guy that loved to fish as much as I did. It did not hurt that he owned a prime bass fishing hole and gave the both of us an invite. I have to admit that first impressions were hard to pin on Bibb. He showed up in a pair of blue jeans, a snapped up blue denim shirt and a pair of hip boots. Remember now, it is about 120 degrees, and we are fixing to go fishing. Francis explained that Bibb was a rice farmer, and that was his signature. I have to admit the boots were an asset, as I didn’t have to get my own feet wet launching the boats. The thing that did get my attention was when he loaded a tackle box in the boat that had to weigh 300 pounds. He had 7 push button spin cast reels, and each of them had little rings hooked on the end of the line. I had to ask. Bibb quickly explained that he had and loved cats. He never stored anything with a hook on it in fear that his cats would find where he stored his rods. Made sense to me. I tell Bibb he is stuck in the 70s as he only recently gave up his analog flip phone (that stays in his truck….he will not carry a phone). He stays mad at his I-Phone as it is too sensitive to touch and don’t even think about texting or having email. A simple man who lived in simpler times.
We launched two boats with Bibb in one and Francis, my cameraman and me in the other. I had high hopes. We fished for quite a while and were having a really successful day as the bass were hungry. If Bibb came by us once, he came by us 20 times to “see what we were throwing.” Sure enough, they wanted a Wobblehead ,and Bibb soon showed that rice farming wasn’t his only skill. I have never met an angler with such limited equipment (I call them his Mickey Mouse rods) who could catch bigger bass. Every time we go to that private lake, it reminds me of Mr. George, his dad. Mr. George would sit on the levee (where he eventually lost his life) and watch the two of us fish. He would rag his son and cheer me on in a manner that all of us enjoyed. I always look at that lake levee and expect Mr. George to pull up again. But this trip like many more to come would show Bibb to be the big fish man. The guy just has the knack and knows how to catch big bass.
But hunting is another story. Bibb is an absolute gun nut. If you can name a rifle, he probably has it. He and his wife, Shawn, share a gun collection that doesn’t sit on a shelf. They believe in custom rifles, scopes and ammunition as Shawn is a die-hard deer hunter. Bibb on the other hand says, “I’d rather shoot a cow,” when it comes to deer hunting. But he loves to work on the land and stands for friends and Shawn to assure everyone has a good hunt. I remember a couple of years ago, Bibb called me on New Year’s Eve. It was about 7 p.m. and Shawn had shot a good buck. Being his “ox was in a ditch,” I stopped what I had planned and loaded up to go and help track Shawn’s deer. We tracked the deer into the water, where we located it, submerged in a brush top. Luckily, my friend Ragan Cobb had a tracking dog, Patches. Without her we would have never found that deer. After Ragan left, we then had the task of retrieving this deer in about 7 feet of water. All that was visible was the tips of his horns in a brush top. The water temperature was about 40 degrees, and it was cold. There was not a way to get a boat to the deer and many attempts later, we still hadn’t been successful. The next morning we returned, and Bibb came up with a grand idea. He produced the hook and pole from his swimming pool. After taking a cold bath, I was lucky enough to hook the horns and retrieve her trophy. Shawn was ecstatic. It’s a memory I will have for a long time.
Bibb is known, as his father was, to be a giving soul. He has a love of politics, his wife and family but he reserves a place for the less fortunate. I won’t embarrass him and even start talking about the many times I’ve seen him give from the heart to his church, friends or someone he doesn’t even know. I have learned a great deal from Bibb as he is a gifted woodsman and will tell you Eagle Scout tales for hours. But what is not known about Bibb is his ability to sing. Yep, sing. I learned about it in a duck blind, when the ducks weren’t flying one morning. Bibb started talking about his rodeo days and started singing a cowboy tune. He claims that the tradition was a way to calm cattle at night from predators. I have to admit, the tunes did have the tendency to bring on a yawn. That talent has led to many performances to many guests that have shared our blinds at the honey holes we hunt.
I guess my advice on friends is this: Don’t judge a book or a man by his cover. I landed a friend for life the day I met Bibb Franklin. The hip boots and the cowboy tunes are just a bonus.