Monday, March 6, 2017

- On A Personal Note

It's been a little over a year since the untimely death of my oldest friend from a highly aggressive form of lymphoma. He was as close as a brother to me, and was a kind hearted man who always had a warm smile for everyone, even people he didn't care for. He wasn't duplicitous, quite the contrary. He just preferred to separate the acts of the man, from the man themselves. He wasn't very religious but the "hate the sin not the sinner" concept had been fully internalized by him.

This is very likely why he was able to put up with me so well, for so long.

His birthday would have been next week. And this time of year I find I think of him a lot. Some of you who know me may recall a story I tell sometimes about an afternoon that he and I spent fishing on the Myakka river in Florida.

The river is tidal near the mouth, and on this day the incoming tide was pushing us slowly upstream around the bends and curves in the river, even though the small outboard at his end of the boat was silent.

We rounded a slow bend, and there, sitting on a sandbar that jutted into the river slightly, was the largest gator either of us had ever seen. I couldn't tell you it's exact length but it was enormous. Easily within spitting distance of a world record. It could have easily swallowed his largish golden retriever whole. When a gator gets that big it doesn't move for anyone, or anything if it doesn't want to, and it didn't. It sat there motionless about 70 feet away, watching us slowly approach.

I was sitting close to the nose of the boat, the closest point to the gator, and when we got about 50 feet from the prehistoric looking creature, I started to get nervous. Had we done nothing I would have probably passed within 10 feet of the gator's nose. "Um Skeet?" I said "You think maybe we can do something about this?" pointing at the silent outboard. "Yeah, that might help huh?" He said. What I didn't know was that he had discreetly turned the choke on the motor all the way on, so while he yanked at the cord all it did was gurgle and grumble. The tide kept pushing us closer. When we got within 40 feet of the monster, I began to abandon my position in the front of the boat, moving toward him in a slurry of fishing line, and awkwardly waving arms.

"Dude... this could get really serious here in a second!" I said. And when we were no more than about 30 feet from the sandar, and it became perfectly clear to me that this thing was longer than the small boat we were sitting in, he flashed me that big smile, flipped the choke, and with his next pull the motor coughed to life, stopping our progress and pulling us away toward the opposing bank.

"Very F***ing funny." I said as he chuckled. "Hey" he said "I was just as nervous as you were but I figured I could get away while he was eating you." We both laughed, at the ridiculousness of it. We both knew he'd sooner leap into the things mouth to distract it than let it have me. But he'd have to shove me out of the way to do it because I'd have been trying to do the same for him.

"That's a big goddamned gator." I said. "Yeah" he said "very big."

Anyway, just a slightly dull fishing story. Not unlike the stories men have told for millennia. A quiet sunny afternoon, a good friend, and a big gator.

This story from the sun reminded me of it, and is the reason you're all putting up with it now.

This photo was also taken on that very same Myakka river, not far from where my story took place.

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