No doubt the town had been appropriately named, I thought. Looking at the worn and crookedly uncertain pier jutting out into Caddo Lake, no other possibility came to mind.
Gazing around at the eerie trees dripping Spanish moss, whose root-knees were a hazard of boating on the black-water lake, and had been for as long as boats had operated on it, some other names did occur to me, but Cypress and even Hazard I was pretty sure were already taken.
A map of Caddo Lake shows it looking somewhat like a dragon, straddling the state line between Texas and Louisiana. A small lake at the mouth of the dragon, called Black Lake (also Black Bayou), looks like small flaming tongues coming from the mouth of the Caddo-creature.
Bigfoot is said to walk these parts.
Caddo is a hauntingly beautiful place.
No paddlewheel steamers have operated here since the middle 1800’s, but back then the lake was deep enough for steamboat traffic from the Gulf of Mexico to the port of Jefferson, in northeast Texas.
A catfish café on the shore of the lake is operated by Willie Samuels; a dark skinned Louisiana Cajun with a perfect set of pearly white teeth that flash a friendly smile. Ordering a plate of fried catfish, hushpuppies, fries, coleslaw, and pinto beans, I settled back to listen to Willie’s story of how the small town, population one-hundred and fifty at present, got its name.
“Boats ‘us away’s travlin’ up da’ river back ‘n dose days. Yeah, Caddo, she mo’ like a river back ‘den. Go all de way down ta N’Awlins an’ haul iron ore, cotton, an’ all sort a’ stuff up ta’ Jeff’son Port. Migh-tee lake she were, back ‘den.” Soft spoken Willie’s pride was enthusiastically evident.
“Dey say’s de lake, she got ‘ere ‘cause a big ol’ log jam up in da’ Red River. Mebe’ quake cause ‘dat log jam. Ena-ways, de gov’ment done broke up de log jams afta’ de Civil War an’ de lake, she change.”
Willie shook his head, and ran a hand over his tightly curled grey hair before continuing.
“Sometime afta’ dat, boat try put in at da’ pier at Oncert’n, wata’ too low an’ dey gets stuck in da’ mud, cain’t get out. One dem boats full o’ iron ore, sunk clean to da’ bottom. Took weeks ta’ unload dat boat an’ get it back to da’ top so cud keep on down da’ river. Sometime wata’ deep enuf an’ sometime ain’t. Da’ pier got name Oncert’n afta dat, den de town.”
Uncertain was one of the more unusual names I’d heard of for a town, I had to admit, and I thanked Willie for his story.
He had one more tale that he wanted to tell me, and I encouraged him eagerly.
“Speak of Oncert’n, don’ tempt de Lawd, deys say. ‘Bout nine or ten year back, lawya’ fella’ an’ two frens was out on da lake, big storm com’ up. Dey’s warn’d an’ should a’ come in, but dis lawya, dey say, ‘e stood up in da metal boat an’ says ‘Lawd, ‘ere I am. Le’ me ‘ave it!’ Safe ta’ say, de Lawd did jus’ dat!” He’ two frens ‘do, dey ok, but dey says dey bof b’come minista’s afta dat!”
I laughed with Willie, tears rolling down both of our cheeks.
Just then, a crashing noise right outside and a large shadow we thought we saw passing by the window startled both of us, sending a tingle of
uncertainty up our spines. Could it be…?
A fictional story of the naming of the town of Uncertain, Texas. The story of the lawyer in the metal boat was a Darwin Award Candidate and was better told on the Caddo Lake home page of Texas A&M University. Bigfoot, they say, is also a fictional creature…
Read more articles by Patricia Turner or search for articles on the same topic or others.