Sunday, February 13, 2005

reports of his demise are

I spend a lot of time in the J.N.'Ding' Darling Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel Island. The birds and reptiles and other critters are thick and fascinating. You can't turn your head without seeing a spectacular display of plumage, a leaping fish, a lumbering gator, sun-drenched subtropical vegetation, a big feast for the senses all. And I see it all while I fish, like I get two hobbies at once.

I've been coming here for years, as do many people, and I tend to eventually run into the same bunch of characters.

One such fellow is a real pistol. In there almost every day, maybe 70 years old, driving a yellow, rusty 20 year old van, puttering around in a canoe with a little motor. He chatters non-stop, with a slight new england accent, swears like a longshoreman, always busy, never seems to stop except to eat a sandwich or drink a beer. Typical of his diatribes.....
"I caught a goddamn trout, and that goddamn thing must've weighed, I don't know, 3 pounds, and goddamned if that thing didn't get the line tangled around my prop. Goddamn!...spent 20 minutes trying to untangle that goddamn thing!"
A character, local color, always friendly, albiet a little selfcentered in his conversations.

Me and Kate were in the refuge yesterday, talking to some other fishermen, some toothless hoosiers who went on about how they were going to the race this weekend (daytona 500) and the locals didn't appreciate when they go to the race and root for the indiana boys and proceeded to yell the first names of a bunch of race car drivers that I can only assume were Nascar drivers from Indiana.
Anyway, they saw the kayak on top of my truck and told us that someone had died in their kayak in the refuge a few days before, an old man in his 70s.
"A kayak or a canoe", I asked. They were sure it was a kayak. "they had search boats all over the bay but they couldn't find him, but finally they had the coast guard out in helicopters and they spotted his body from the air.

I didn't give it much thought, but in the back of my mind I was thinking about my old buddy in his canoe.

We came in the refuge today, and as we passed the gate, asked about it.
She told us it was an old man in a canoe, went out from the boat launch, didn't show up when the park closed but his car was still in the lot so they sent out a search party, eventually found him.

As we drove around the wildlife drive, we wondered, could it be him? We passed all the fishing spots, for two days in a row and hadn't seen him. He was usually in there every day.

Eventually we wound up at the boat launch and inquired, and it wasn't a yellow van, it was a camper, not from New York but from Oregon. They speculated he'd just had a heart attack and died out on the water. Not my cranky friend.

It's funny. I barely know the guy. He's a chatterbox fisherman who has barely ever asked me much other than what I'd been catching, but I was a concerned after him. I hope to see him this week, but I certainly won't mention this.

I've been coming here long enough that I seemed to have outlasted a lot of the people who I used to see...not that I outlived them, just that my habits and fishing spots and times have been consistent for years and years and other people have died, moved, been injured, got too old to be out at night on the pier, lost interest or whatever. As occasional and casual my relationships with these guys has been, it must mean something to me, if only a representing part of my own consistency here. But it must be a click more than that.

2 Comments:

Blogger jenna said...

i am enjoying your entries so much. thanks for doing it! hope the rest of your time there is good and i look forward to seeing you back up in these parts....jenna

9:45 AM  
Blogger jeffrey said...

i went camping in the U.P. a couple of years, and ran into the same old guy both times. from chicago. he said that he made two trips up there every summer. he had a dingy like fishing boat carried on top of his van. with a winch system so he could deal with putting it up there and take it down by himself. his philosopy was that 'you had to have a system for everything'. i've always remembered that remark. it's applicable to many situations, demanding that i must put more effort into a process than i often want to. but having a system makes it easier in the long run.

i wonder if he is still going fishing in the U.P.

3:02 PM  

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