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Excerpt from
The Florida Boys on the Suwannee River

By John Paul Jones, Jr.
Adapted for purposes of the test

The Florida boys, Johnny, Doug, and Chuck, built a houseboat out of cypress lumber from an abandoned house at the mouth of the Suwannee River. When they were finished, they named her the Lazy Bones and launched her on a warm summer day. As they headed down the river at five miles an hour, the Lazy Bones left a broad, yellow wake that curled like a large sea serpent in the sunlight. The banks of the river were like two high green fences, so thick was the hardwood forest that crowded down to the river's edge. All was quiet except the sound of the outboard motor.

For a while the boys were quiet, too. They were awed by the wild beauty of the new world they had entered. But the natural excitement of youth could not be contained for long, and soon all three were singing Way Down Upon the Suwannee River at the top of their lungs.

As they moved down the river, it narrowed and twisted like a black snake and flowed toward the Gulf of Mexico. Occasionally, a bright yellow sandbar could be seen a few feet beneath the boat, and large fish swirled in the dark churning water ahead of the boat.

Just before sundown, Chuck and Doug decided to try their hand at bass fishing. The boys had brought along an aluminum canoe, strapped to the top of the Lazy Bones' cabin. Johnny said he would begin preparations for supper.

They put the canoe into the water and let it drift along the left bank, slightly offshore, and began casting near the bank, among the cypress knees and hyacinths. The hyacinth is a water plant with a beautiful purple flower that grows so rapidly that it has to be cleaned from the river constantly. This is done to keep the small streams flowing into the river open for fishermen.

Within an hour, using an underwater spoon, the boys had caught three nice bass.

"Just for fun," said Doug, "I think I'll try a small fish for bait." He put a hook and shiner on his line and began popping it slowly in a quiet pool at the edge of the river.

"You won't catch anything with that," said Chuck disgustedly.

Doug didn't say anything. He reeled in the shiner and made another high, looping cast. Suddenly, out of the dark woods an owl swooped down and grabbed the fish in its claws just before it hit the water. The boys were so startled they just sat frozen while the owl started flying off. Doug's reel began to sing as though a whale were on the end of the line.

Doug began to reel in, checking the flight of the large bird. Apparently, the owl was hungry. A real battle began.

Chuck grabbed a paddle, and when he thought the owl was near enough, swung wildly. His swing was so strong that he promptly toppled into the river.

That left Doug with an owl to fight and his companion to rescue. He put his rod between his knees and grabbed the other paddle to go after Chuck. Of course, the owl, having a slack line, promptly flew off into a tree at the edge of the river still clutching the bait. Doug reeled the line sharply, the hook came loose from the shiner, and the owl ate his shiner lunch.

When the canoe reached Chuck, he climbed in while Doug held the canoe steady.

"Where'd the owl go?" he asked, as soon as he could get his breath.

"Over there in that tree," said Doug, with some disgust. "He's laughing at us."

After the excitement of the owl adventure, the boys decided to give up fishing for the day and soon were back at the boat where they told Johnny all about the strange occurrence.

"Well, the big question is, did you get any fish for supper?" Johnny asked.

The two boys brought out their catch of bass and proceeded to fix them for the evening meal. That night they dined on freshly caught bass, grits, hushpuppies and canned peaches and talked about the day's owl adventure.

Excerpt from
Jones, John Paul. The Florida Boys on the Suwannee River. Fort White, FL: North Florida Publishing Co., 1998.

First Question

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4th Grade Reading Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test
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