Steve's Yarns-- All those years growing up
and living in Oklahoma, California, Arizona,
Texas, and Africa..... Ain't done growing up 'til I get over on the other side :-)

Steve Van Nattan








Grandpa Klaber saves the day for Corpus Cristi beaches



These stories are mostly mine, but some involved others in my family and my friends growing up. I shall try to resist the urge to stretch the blanket (or fish) and tell the tales as they really happened.

As a fisherman, I admit I am very mediocre, but I love the feel of being by the water and the challenge of trying to fool a fish into grabbing my bait.

Texas offers some rare fishing opportunities, contrary to what people might think if they see Texas only as miles and miles of sage brush. Texas also is the home of the Guadalupe bass, a rare variety which is easy to catch if your find the right river.

Also, Texas has fantastic coastal waters with shallow bays where a person can kayak out into tidal bays and catch red snapper, Black Drum, and even Tarpin if you fish the channels where the tide rushes in. There is also a great walking pier at Goose Island where night fishing is fun. Take a light to drop over the side to attract the fish. If you fish the shallows of the bay, keep an eye open for alligators.

I need to think of all the weird baits I have used or seen used. Rotten liver, dough balls, cheese, orange seeds, corn and marshmallows, green peas for Chinese croakers, etc


Grandpa caught a shark in Corpus Cristi.

We start out with a tale from Texas of course. Also, I want to give my grandfather, Frank Klaber, first mention due to his fishing prowess.

Frank Klaber owned a hamburger stand on the water front in Corpus Cristi, Texas. That was one of the only businesses Frank ever owned outright. He was well known, from Tampa, Florida to Los Angeles, for his ability to take over management of a corner market of gas station and get it organized and making a profit for the owner. His integrity also went before him.

During his WW I tour of duty in the US Air Force at Kelly Field Air Base near San Antonio, Frank ran the base PX. He set up an arrangement in which Air Force men could join a PX plan in which dividends were paid back to the members at the end of the year. This was the only time, in US Military history, when a Military PX had a plan to pay back anything to the users of the PX. PXs today are privately run, and they are run by rip off artists as to prices, and they sell watered down beer that makes the troops sick as dogs.

Frank and Loi were nomads in the day when there were no RVs. They pulled a "house trailer" behind their car, and they moved frequently along the route from Florida to California. My Mom said she went to 13 schools as she was growing up. My grandpa designed a leveling device to level the trailer and the car. This was before they had officially been invented, and it worked well. He was partial to Chryslers to pull his trailer.

When Frank pulled into a trailer park in some town along the highway, he would set up and then go downtown and check in on gas stations and small markets. He would always come home hired because he was highly sought after by any merchant needing an honest manager. My Mom reported that, during the Great Depression, she did not know how other people suffered because my grandfather Frank could always find someone to hire him.


My great grandfather, Henry Klaber, was Assistant Chief of Police in Okmulgee, Oklahoma. The following story is posted on a historic page online. To give credit where it is due, brothers Ralph and Felix Chapman were both Black Americans, and I want to make sure they are remembered for trying to save my great grandfather's life.

My Grandfather was a boy and was with his father when the arrest was attempted. He had the horrible experience of seeing his Daddy get killed by the Black criminal. I always wondered why my granddad did not have any vengeful feelings about Black people, having seen his Daddy killed that way. Only after reading this account did I understand that my granddaddy also saw two Black Americans die trying to save his Daddy. The story follows:

On Sunday, November 15, 1908, Jimmy Grayson had filed a complaint against a black gunsmith named Newt Decker over an argument about a dayís catch of fish. Chief Klaber and Grayson went to Deckerís house at Second and Creek Street. As the men approached the house, Decker, an expert shot, ran out shooting with guns in both hands. The Chief was shot in the throat and died soon after.

Two brothers, Ralph and Felix Chapman, ran to Chief Klaberís aid, firing at Decker with the fallen officerís gun. Decker shot and killed both brothers then ran back in his house. Other officers responded and the gunfight lasted over an hour with over 500 shots being fired. Okmulgee County Deputy Sheriff Edgar Robinson was also killed with two other officers wounded as well as three bystanders.

The officers finally set the house next to Deckerís on fire. The fire spread to Deckerís house. As Decker came to the door he was shot and fell back inside the house to burn to death. Chief Klaber, 39, was survived by his wife and four children.
Oklahoma Law Enforcement Memorial

Money savvy ran in the family too. Frank's brother Carl bought a swamp in Florida for a quarter an acre, hired a Caterpillar tractor to push out drain channels, and over three years the swamp dried up. He planted oranges and got filthy rich. His only problem was that he paid his help with cash and kept no books. The IRS took umbrage to his business model and fined him a bundle. But, Carl came out ahead I suspect because the IRS believed him and showed mercy when he claimed he was too dumb to keep books. That might or might not have been true, but he sure knew how to drive a red and white Cadillac convertible and shell out the cash for toys he wanted. Franks other brother, Ed, was President of the Federal Reserve Bank of Oklahoma.

During one period of weeks in Corpus Cristi, the porpoises in the bay left for some reason. Porpoises are the deadly enemy of sharks. Porpoises hate sharks, and they swim at their top speed and then come up under a shark and slam into its belly with their hard heads. MORE ON THIS HERE This will soon kill a shark, and the sharks clear out of any area where the porpoises are present. With the porpoises gone, a huge shark came into the bay and began to terrorize swimmers on the beaches. It was actually so bad that the tourist trade was being affected.

So, Frank went looking for a winch. He found a large enough one, and he next came up with a huge hook. The hook could not have been a meat hook from a meat locker. I saw crewmen on a freighter we traveled on off the coast of Africa try that, and the shark absolutely straightened the meat hook and slipped off.

Frank went down to the pier, and he bolted the winch to the dock in some way. He baited the hook with meat and tossed it over into the water. The shark soon came along and took the bait, and he was hooked soundly. There was no need to "play" the shark because Frank used steel cable. He simply cranked the shark in and up out of the water. He had no idea how to lift the shark onto the pier to kill it, so he notified the local businessmen that he had caught the shark..... it was their problem to land it and kill it. They soon got something onto the pier and landed the shark, and several days later the porpoises came back. No more sharks.

I learned something from granddad's story. If you want to be appreciated by people and prosper, get creative, and find ways to solve public problems for people. They will never forget you.

There was no question about whether or not it was legal to fish for the shark. Frank was part Cherokee and had fishing rights anywhere. If you have a problem with sharks, I have just enough Cherokee blood in me to be considered a Native American, so let me know, and I will see if I can catch your shark for you. The rule is that I can only fish out 50% of the sharks in one area, so the other 50% are your problem.