Naked Jesus imposter wasn't exactly right fish in Texas hatchery pond

July 31, 1991|By Ray Sasser | Ray Sasser,Dallas Morning News

DALLAS -- Bill Bowling knew there was something fishy going on when he spotted the naked man near a pond at the A.E. Wood State Fish Hatchery in San Marcos, Texas.

When Bowling, the hatchery manager, asked the guy what he was doing, the man said he was Jesus and he had just fallen to earth. Bowling figured the visitation had something to do with the previous day's solar eclipse and, while he didn't want to offend the man who claimed to be Jesus, he told him he would have to leave.

That's when Bowling knew for sure this "Jesus" was an impostor. The man jumped into the hatchery pond. Sure enough, he sank up to his neck. If the naked man had walked across the surface of the pond, Bowling might have called Billy Graham. Instead, he called the police.

It was apparently a slow day for San Marcos police officers. Quite a few of them responded to the call of "Jesus" holed up in the hatchery pond. Chuck Nash noticed the parade of police cars from his car dealership window near I-35. Nash was interested in police activity at the fish hatchery, since he is chairman of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission.

So Nash drove out to the hatchery, where he saw about eight policemen standing around debating the best way to get the Jesus impostor out of the pond. They were fearful of using stun guns in the water and weren't crazy about the idea of wading in after the guy, who was now chanting in some unrecognizable language.

Nash, of course, was disappointed to learn that the man wasn't really Jesus. He would have requested a miracle to create enough fish from one pond to stock all Texas waters.

Bowling finally decided to drain the pond. Hatchery ponds are set up so all the water drains to one end, trapping the fish in a concrete enclosure where they can be easily handled.

That's when one of the policemen recognized the Jesus impostor as a mental case with a history of similar activities, called him by name and told him to come out of the pond or suffer grave consequences. "Oh, OK," said the man, emerging from the pond.

The state hatchery crew, their work week made considerably livelier by the episode, filled out a standard pond report and a stocking report that listed the state mental hospital as the stocking destination.

The following week, TP&W received a letter from the Jesus impostor asking that trespassing charges be dropped. The man, a University of Texas student, said he was suffering from a bout with a poisonous mushroom and did not know what he was doing.

The day after the Jesus impostor was fished out of the hatchery pond, two days after the solar eclipse, a woman visitor drove into the hatchery complex, stopped her car and a six-foot boa constrictor fell out from under the car. The woman had no idea where the snake came from.

At least the reptile made no claims about being the serpent from the Garden of Eden.

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