Mary Cabaniss White


Contributed by Jackye Penney

The Houston Chronicle
August 1942

The author of this article was Mydell Compton Kilgore. She was the daughter of Felix and Bruce Compton, and the wife of C.P. Kilgore of Dew. Mydell, her parents and her grandmother, Mrs. Evans went on the trip to Yellowstone along with the AH and Mary White Family when she was a child (1923.)

(Caption under photo)
One cane pole plus one can of bait plus one creek equals fish to "Aunt Mary" White--at 75, she's the champ.

Dew, Texas, Aug. 16. --Paradise for rugged "Aunt Mary" White of Dew consists simply of this: One old cane pole, plenty of crawfish bait, just any creek, and someone to take fishing.

For over half a century the 75 year-old woman has fished at every opportunity. She has worked hard and has reared nine children, yet she has always found time to cast a hook in some small stream.

One cane pole plus one can of bait plus one creek equals fish to "Aunt Mary" White--at 75, she's the champ.Never using expensive rods and reels, Mrs. White has often answered inquiries of "Havin' any luck?" with a string of 50 fish a day. With worms, or crawfish bait, she has caught many several-pound drums, perch, pike and trout in streams where any catch was a prize. 

Aunt Mary's family bows to her ability as a "fisherwoman." Her nine children, 30 grandchildren and 22 great-grandchildren may try their hands, but she can outfish them all. 

Mrs. White has caught thousands of fish in her lifetime, she estimates, just for the fun of it. "If they were all stacked in one pile,"  she said, "they would fill the largest room of any house." Then she laughed, "but my folks tell me not to brag."

Love of fishing came from her father, Aunt Mary said. He fished so much that his wife complained. After early successes, she chose her outdoor interest as a lifetime hobby.

Fazed By Nothing.

People who fish with Aunt Mary may expect anything, her family points out. Until a few years ago, she led many frightened fishermen over logs across deep creeks. Stories are told of her crossing streams by walking on logs already, knee-deep under water. 

Once she kept on fishing during a storm in Arkansas. "Wind swept through the pine trees," the white-haired woman related, "limbs were falling thick all around, but I went home with a string of fish."

Aunt Mary always fishes until dark regardless of wind, rain and mosquitoes. The mosquitoes she simply blows away, she said. She demonstrated with a quick puff from each side of her mouth. 

The only time Aunt Mary ever strayed from her "plain fishing" was 18 years ago this summer on a trip to Yellowstone Park. In Wyoming she borrowed a tourist's rod and reel and caught nothing but sorry fish, she recalled. She had rather have her own cane pole, a hook and a lead sinker with not even a cork.

Catch 'Em Any Time.

Mrs. White disagrees with her uncle, Jess Cabaniss, who used to say, "wind from the east, fish bite the least; wind from the south, blow bait from the mouth; wind from the west, fish bite the best; wind from the north, no bites at all." She can catch 'em any time, she said.

She does not believe in spitting on her hook for luch. "And holding your mouth right has nothing to do with it," she asserted.

"I go down to the creek," Aunt Mary declared, "with the belief that God will give me the strength and knowledge to catch fish, and he does." Her favorite part of the Bible is the story of Christ guiding the fisherman.

Still fishing at every chance, Mrs. White has found that the way to remain active is just the determination to keep going.

Always Worked Hard.

She has kept going for these 75 years. She not only has reared a large family, but also has cooked syrup, tied oats and pulled fodder. Aunt Mary has built rail fences and hauled freight. She has picked cotton and even ginned it. 

Sixteen years of married life in Arkansas saw Aunt Mary's best fishing and her hardest work. It was then that she and a negro woman ginned cotton. They drove two teams of horses to levers that furnished the gin power. When her feet became so tired from continuous walking that she could hardly move on, her job had just begun. It was then time to put the cotton into the press and finally see two bales produced in a day.

Aunt Mary would enjoy telling you all about her life. But the sun is shining. The air is still. She had rather take you fishing.