American Pie: Chatting Up a Lower Delta Legend

This article is from the winter edition of Mobile Baykeeper’s print quarterly, CURRENTS. The magazine is mailed to active members who have given more than $50 in the past year. To get on the magazine’s mailing list, donate here.

by Nick Williams | Photos and video by Caine O’Rear

The proprietor of Cloverleaf Landing, Lucy “Pie” Hollings, or “Miss Pie,” is a living legend and a pillar of the local river-folk community. A good or bad word about you from Pie can make or break a hunter or angler’s reputation. And even if you don’t personally know her, failing to at least know of her while proclaiming to be a sportsman is akin to joining a Mardi Gras society and not knowing who Joe Cain was. 

With this in mind, I was thoroughly relieved when Miss Pie agreed to sit down with me for an interview. 

Miss Pie, I’ve been launching at your place since I was a little kid. You’ve been here on Tensaw River for as long as anybody I know can remember. How long exactly have you been here? 

I’ve been here since I was nine months old. And in two weeks, I’ll be 77. 

Has the boat ramp always been there? 

Oh, no. My daddy made it into a ramp when I was a teenager. Used to, you couldn’t get all the way down to the water. 

Tell me about your daddy. 

Well, he bought this place when he was 16 years old. And he paid 50 cents an acre for it. It was about 200 acres total. It’s not that much now. He sold some of it later on. 

Goodness! I wish my daddy could buy 200 acres of Baldwin County waterfront for $100. I’d loan him the money! 

Ain’t that the truth, though! But back then, that was an awful lot of money. 

Miss Pie in front of Cloverleaf Launch.

Speaking of daddies and boat launches, Miss Phyllis down there at Buzbee’s has been here a while too. She grew up down there. I was really happy that she took the place over when her daddy died. 

Yeah, me and Phyllis are kinda friends. Her brother, before he passed, anytime he got in trouble on the water he’d get somebody to bring him to me. And I’d take him on down back to his daddy’s place. Same thing with Mack McKenna, you know, down on the Causeway. If anything happened to him, he’d say, “Take me to Cloverleaf.” 

Your place really is the hub down on the Lower Delta. I worked for a while with George Roberts, and all of his stories started with, “So we launched out at Pie’s place …” 

Oh yes. A lot of people have been launching here for years and years. We’re in a good place. This is right in the middle of the Delta. You can get anywhere easily from here. 

I know a lot of people launch at Cloverleaf to run trot- lines and limb lines, and I’ve got a buddy who runs jugs up there at your place. Did you ever run lines yourself?

I used to. I had a little friend named Kenny, and me and him used to run lines up until I had to have knee surgery three years ago. I had surgery twice in the same knee and, you know, it’ll make you scared to get in a boat. Plus, Kenny passed away about three months after that. So I don’t go anymore. 

Kenny, he stayed with you for a while if I remember correctly. Seems like I remember him being there back when I was a kid.

He stayed there with me for about 24 years, yes. He got in a bad way, you know. And I told him, “Come down here with me, and we’ll hunt and fish … anything you wanna do we’ll do.” And we did. But he wound up with cancer. Mouth cancer, you know? And I took care of him for a while, and then it wound up in his throat and that’s what killed him. But me and him ran trotlines for a while together, and before he came here I ran them by myself. 

How’d you run your lines? 

It’s easy! You stick you a pole down in the water, and you tie your line to it, and you run it out a ways and then anchor it down. You’ve got to use something heavy, like a tire rim or something, because the water’s kind of swift down here. Then you come back and put your hooks on, and bait it. We used cut mullet down here, and I’ll tell you another bait that’s good: freshwater drum. He makes a good bait. 

What was the biggest catfish y’all ever caught that way? 

The biggest was a blue cat. I think he weighed about 50 pounds. And on limb lines, I think the biggest was a flathead. He was a little smaller, maybe 45. But the biggest one I’ve ever seen was 105 pounds. A friend of mine, Neil Scott, he caught that one. But he could catch catfish, you know? If he told you he was gonna go out and catch 300 pounds of catfish that night, he was going to catch 300 pounds of catfish. 

Did you ever do much deer or hog hunting? 

I used to. Me and Kenny used to go hunting all the time. One day he took me out and put me in a stand, and Kenny would always say, “Now, don’t shoot the biggest hog!” because you’ve got to get them back to the boat, you know? Well, one day I had five hogs come out, and I shot the smallest one, and he weighed 250 pounds! 

So he had dropped me off, and about five minutes later they came out, and before he had got in his treestand himself, I had shot the hog. And so I called him, and I said, “Come get me,” and he thought the mosquitos were biting me! He said, “What’s the matter, skeeters eatin’ ya?” And I said, “No, I shot a hog!” He said, “You ain’t shot no hog.” I said, “Well … there’s one laying on the ground then.” 

So he come and got me and said, “Come on, let’s get you home so I can hunt.” I said, “Help me get my hog!” He still didn’t believe I’d shot that hog! But I finally got him to help me look for him, and when he saw it he said, “God damn, that’s a big ole hog! How’re we supposed to get him in the boat?” And it wasn’t so bad, getting him in the boat, because the water was low so the boat was a little below the bank, you know? So we just rolled him into the boat. But when we got back to the launch … we caught hell getting that thing out of the boat and hung up! 

Two-fifty is a big hog. They get a lot bigger than some people think. 

I know! And they get a lot heavier than you think they are once they’re dead! My brother, he killed one here that weighed 400 pounds. He shot it with a bow, and it took him three arrows to put him down. I don’t know how he got him to the boat. Me and Kenny saw one like that one day. And that hog, he looked like a bear! I told Kenny, “You shoot him, you drag him! I’m not gonna drag him, and I’m not gonna help drag him.” So he decided not to shoot it. We’d have never got that hog back out of there. 

You’ve been down there on the river for longer than anybody I know, and it’s obvious that you’ve done more than just sit there and watch it flow. How has it changed over the years? What’s changed the most? 

The water. The water itself has changed. The creeks have gotten wider in some places, because of the hurricanes and things. You wouldn’t believe how much a hurricane can change the bank. 

Where we used to fish, everything has changed. You have to find new fishing spots because of things like that. 

Which storm caused the biggest change? 

Sally and Zeta. 

Really? I’d have expected you to name a big one, like Ivan or Frederic. 

Sally and Zeta did way more than them. Because they came close together, you know? Sally had the wind, and Zeta had the water. Zeta in particular, she took all the folks’ piers down here. But Sally hit the land, and Zeta hit the water. 

What about the people? Have they changed? 

Well now, the people that come here have mostly always come down here to the ramp. And they’re friendly. The new faces, if they’re not friendly, I make them friendly, you know? Because I talk a lot. That’s just the way I was raised. I was taught to make sure to speak to everybody. If they don’t speak back, that’s fine. But there’s not too many people that come down here that can say I won’t hold a conversation with them. I try to keep an eye on things down here. I may not know their name, but I know their face and I know their truck and their boat. And that’s just because I’ve always paid attention. 


After our interview ended, I had a quiet chuckle. One of my favorite childhood memories of fishing with my dad is the day that, distracted by a phone call, he backed a boat down Miss Pie’s landing without unstrapping it from the trailer and putting the drain plug in. If it hadn’t been for Pie waving and hollering, there’s a good chance we’d have ended up needing to call a tow truck to extract the boat. As it was, the only injury was embarrassment. 

Pie definitely pays attention to her ramp. That’s why myself and many others launch there. It’s the sad truth that in today’s age you run a risk parking your truck somewhere and leaving it for a few hours. I’ve never had issues myself, but I’ve had buddies who came back after a day afield to find trailers stolen, windows busted, converters cut, and batteries missing. But I’ve never heard of that happening at Cloverleaf Landing. Or Hubbard’s. Or Buzbee’s. Or anywhere else where there are good people paying attention to what goes on in the parking lot. 

The simple knowledge that a place is being watched is a strong deterrent to ne’er-do-wells. Criminals don’t like to be watched. And even for the more civically-minded, knowing that folks are looking at you changes the way you behave. I’ve watched people at piers and boat ramps crumple a wrapper in their hands, look around, make eye contact with me, and put the trash in their pocket instead of the ground where I suspect they briefly considered depositing it. 

As a compulsive wanderer on our state’s backroads, I’ve seen what happens to areas where nobody pays attention. Litter accumulates. Then larger trash gets dumped. Street signs get peppered with bullet holes, and bridges get sprayed with graffiti. Hunters, anglers, canoeists, and backpackers get replaced with characters who are “waiting on a friend.” The longer this persists, the harder it becomes to reclaim an area. There are some places where I used to fish or launch my boat that I doubt will ever be attractive recreational places again in my lifetime. 

It’s easy to take people like Pie for granted. Sitting on her porch and talking to people doesn’t seem like much work. But for 77 years, she’s been keeping her stretch of the river safe and clean, and that’s an accomplishment worth aspiring to. 


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