The Mad Fishicist

A fly rodding, sheep stalking, moose calling, guitar trying, bird watching, fly tying, Katie loving stay-at-home-dad.

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Location: Alaska, United States

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Man Saves Own Life...Again

"Then he took up the oar with the knife lashed to it. He lifted it as lightly as he could because his hands rebelled at the pain. Then he opened and closed them on it lightly to loosen them. He closed them firmly so they would take the pain now and would not flinch and watched the sharks come. He could see their wide, flattened, shovel-pointed heads now and their white-tipped wide pectoral fins. They were hateful sharks, bad smelling, scavengers as well as killers, and when they were hungry they would bite at an oar or the rudder of a boat. It was these sharks that would cut the turtles' legs and flippers off when the turtles were asleep on the surface, and they would hit a man in the water, even if the man had no smell of fish blood nor of fish slime on him."
-Ernest Hemingway, The Old Man and the Sea

Once when he was fishing for yellow fin tuna off the coast of Baja California, my grandfather's small skiff was capsized by a great white shark, and he floated in the water with a whole shiver of the precambrians for hours before finally getting his boat upright so he could row back to the safety of the harbor.

I think.

He faced death more times and in more ways than many people have faced life.

I think.

Anyway, the veracity of the story is not the point. What matters is that we believe it could have happened. I've only met one man who could have lived a life as close to the edge as he tells it. I think he's always known that his toughness was never in question.
The shark story is only one in Grandpa's canon of which he is the main character and hero. The stories have become part of my canon as well.

It probably didn't happen the way I remember he remembers it. It's probably not even close. But tell that to the preschooler who crawled into his grandfather's lap to hear a story after everyone else had gone to bed. Or the kid on a camping trip in the desert who was just learning that the wilderness was his world, too. Or the teenager watching his seventy-two-year-old grandfather split wood on a searing summer day (the man could swing an axe). Tell it to the young man listening to his uncles tell the same epics, if slightly different, with all the hyperbole and overstatement they inherited from their father.

Tell it to the young father practicing the stories because his daughter is just about the right age to start forming a canon of her own.

In other words, the story is true.


Blogger Belle Etoile said...

That's one of the things I first discovered about your Grandpa - he sure can tell you a story!

Thursday, February 22, 2007 5:36:00 AM  
Blogger realityjunkie said...

That is beautiful TMF. You made me cry.

Thursday, February 22, 2007 7:30:00 AM  
Blogger The Chindo said...

And each time his "cannon" fires one across my bow, I'm likely to believe every word.

Thursday, February 22, 2007 7:38:00 AM  
Blogger auntibeck said...

This is so beautiful and wonderful TMF. Thank you, thank you for honoring your grandfather as you have--all of you. What a blessing...

Thursday, February 22, 2007 7:44:00 AM  
Blogger realityjunkie said...

Such a nice tribute on Grammy's birthday.

Thursday, February 22, 2007 12:27:00 PM  
Anonymous Randy said...


I too had a Grandpa with many grand tales, and their legacy is always remembered.


Friday, February 23, 2007 6:11:00 AM  
Blogger coolskool said...

You made me cry too! We all love Grampy's stories, I love to see my kids sitting there listening to every word of his stories and believing them.

Friday, February 23, 2007 9:33:00 AM  
Blogger matt_stansberry said...

Great story man. I'm looking into the same thing w/ my gramps. He used to tell me stories about the jungle when I was a kid. Always wanted to go thre with him. We made it as far as Costa Rica. Good times.

Friday, February 23, 2007 7:40:00 PM  

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