Part 2 : Adventure
Adventure: an unusual and exciting, typically hazardous, experience or activity. (Another definition: daring and exciting activity calling for enterprise and enthusiasm.)
Frank lived for adventure and every day was just that if you were with him. If you went riding in the woods with him, you’d better take food and water because you never knew how long you would be gone or what unusual or exciting activity you would experience.
Sometimes it was bland stuff like photographing some animal or insect in the wild, or getting stuck in a bog he tried to navigate with his four- wheel-drive truck.
Other times it was down right nail-biting.
One time we went for a ride in the woods on a weekend afternoon. He was home on R&R from his job in Saudi Arabia and wanted to see some Florida greenery. We had our oldest daughter with us. She was four years old at the time, and I was expecting our son.
As usual, during our ride we talked about animal habitats and behavior patterns. I learned a lot. He liked catching the animals with his bare hands and looking them over before he let them go. If a sow pig crossed the road with her babies, he’d stop, catch one, scratch its little belly, and let us pet it before sending it back to its mama.
On this particular trip, though I was not aware of it until after the fact, he was looking for a particular animal. A friend of his had been having trouble with thieves stealing tools out of the back of his truck. He asked Frank for advice on an anti-theft device. Frank had the perfect solution and it slithered into the middle of the road that day right in front of our truck.
Frank stopped, got out, and walked circles around the 5 foot diamondback rattler. He broke a piece from a large dead limb nearby and used it to help him catch her. ( I am not sure how he knew it was a female, but he said, “she.”)
Once he caught her, one hand gripped just behind her head and the other supporting her large body, he told me to bring him the empty feed sack from the back of the truck. As I said before, I was expecting and our young daughter was in the seat with me. So I slid off the truck seat, shut the truck door behind me securely to keep her inside, got the feed sack, and threw it toward him. I didn’t want to be within twenty feet of that thing.
Frank looked at me oddly, as if to say “Why’d you do that?” He then held the snake toward me and said, “If I let her go now, she will bite me. Pick up the sack, hold it open, and I will put her in it. When I pull my hands out, close the sack.” He never broke a sweat, and spoke with confidence. His whole demeanor said,”I’m in control here.”
I did as instructed, and he took the bagged snake from me. Then I began to breathe again. I got back in the truck and my whole body turned to jelly. When he got in the truck, I told him the next time he did that, she could just bite him. He’d better never put me in that position again!
He laughed and said I wasn’t adventurous enough.
I believe being married to him proved I was adventurous enough.
I knew that he knew a whole lot more than I did about animal behavior and … I learned to trust him. He got bit a few times by different types of animals, but nothing dangerous or poisonous. He gave respect when it was due.
He took the snake to his friend, who used it as a theft deterrent. I never heard if the thief lived.
I’m concerned life may be dull now.
How do I live, really live …
without you, Frank?
I am a teacher by profession. My Frank was a teacher by nature. Anyone who cared to learn, and hung around for a bit, would get lessons about hunting, fishing, adventure, romance, and life.
Let me talk a little about hunting and fishing first.
Frank taught folks how to select the proper gun for the hunting they were doing. Obviously, one would never harvest a mess of squirrels and a white-tail buck with the same caliber rifle. It could be done, but it is better done with the appropriate rifle to maximize the harvest while minimizing animal suffering.
(Yes, a mess is what a group of dead squirrels is called. If you ever had to clean them, you’d understand the term.)
He taught folks how to shoot a gun, or rig a rod and reel, sharpen a knife, dress the kill or clean the catch, cut it up, and even cook it. He figured they knew how to do the eating. Though for children, he did teach them how to pick the meat from the bones. Especially certain kinds of bony fish.
He also taught folks how to catch fish. The method depended on what type of fish they were after. Around here it was usually mullet, redfish, or flounder.
For mullet, his favorite method was a cast net. He’d sometimes take the boat, but more often he’d just wade down the creeks at Shired Island, off the sandy point. He could throw a cast net while standing in waist-deep water and it would open perfectly. He put his catch in a mesh bag tied to his waist and they would flow along in his wake. He usually caught enough to give away twenty or so and still have enough for our supper.
If he wanted to catch a redfish, a rod and reel was his tool of choice. He enjoyed the boat for this kind of fishing. The largest he ever caught was forty inches, nose to tail. He had to release him because the limit is twenty-seven inches. He pretty much tried to abide by the rules. (Don’t laugh. I said he tried.) As he got older and wiser, he tried harder.
Floundering : the act of wading in a creek, spotting a flounder after you bumped into him with your feet, and harvesting said flounder. When Frank went after flounder, it was with a light and a gig at night. Before our children were born, I went with him sometimes. He taught me how to shuffle my feet properly.
He had the pole with the light on the end of it down in the water. It was pitch black otherwise. No moon. He said it was easier to see the flounder lying on the creek bed on a moonless night.
When he spotted one, he gigged it and put it on the stringer. Just like with mullet, the fish would trail along behind him. Yep, right where I was, holding onto the washtub floating in a truck-tire inner tube carrying the floundering necessities. Every now and then one of those slimy things would touch my bare leg ( I had on knee-length shorts). I’d yelp and try to get up under Frank. He didn’t like that too much. It hindered his floundering.
Another couple went with him one time and she had the same slimy experience, except she reacted differently. The noise she made and the way she climbed up his back, he said later, kind of reminded him of a spider monkey. Her husband was not as tall as Frank. He stood and watched his wife with amazement.
When Frank got home and told me about it, I told him she was just trying to get out of the water. I could empathize. He appreciated me more after that.
After our children got old enough, Frank took each one of them floundering. They were smart enough to wear blue jeans and Frank’s floundering was a lot more fun for him and them.
So many memories… So many stories to tell.
Enough for now.
I love you and miss you, Frank. You taught me so much.
“Take these,” the dentist said. “It’ll take the edge off.”
I replied with a smile, “I want to be able to walk out of here.”
He said with assurance, ” Oh, of course, no worries. This is a very small dose. Just takes the edge off.”
I was not relaxed as I sat in the new-to-me dentist’s chair. He noticed, so I told him a little about my calamitous dental past.
One dentist gave me four shots of something I react adversely to before he read my file. The guys in the ambulance were nice. They wanted to know what year it was, who the president was, and even asked about my kids. They seemed a little concerned though, when I knew I had kids, but couldn’t recall how many or their ages. I told my husband to tell them, but he just looked at me.
I once had to have a root canal done with a mild anesthesia because they didn’t have anything that wouldn’t make my heart race. The dentist told my husband I was one tough lady. He agreed.
One time I had an extraction and almost choked on the gauze packing, so I took it out and developed a dry socket. Tylenol 4 took the edge off the pain and all sense of reality. (I didn’t tell this dentist the last part. Maybe I should have.)
I continued to plead my case… I am easy to treat, my body is sensitive. Children’s Motrin gets rid of a migraine.
After all that, he still felt this dose was best, so I swallowed the two white tablets with the little cup of water his assistant gave me.
Ten minutes later, drunk as a skunk, I could hardly walk to the restroom. When I returned, the dentist marveled at how quickly the meds had worked. I knew the “relax mode” was not even close to its fullness.
He prepared my tooth to be worked on, hooked my finger to a monitor, and turned on some smooth jazz for my enjoyment.
The last thing I remember was hearing the drill fire up.
The next morning, I woke up at home in my bed, fully clothed. When I sat up, my head felt like it was about to explode. I settled back, which eased the throbbing in my head, and thought about my situation. I remembered being at the dentist’s office and the drill beginning it’s work on my tooth, but not much else.
Soon my daughter came into my room to see how I was feeling. I had a lot of questions.
She told me the dentist had to put me in the car. When he asked how long our trip home would be, she replied, “About an hour.”
“She’ll be awake by then.”
My daughter delighted in telling me of our trip home. “You kept asking if the procedure was over yet and you mumbled a lot. I couldn’t make sense of most of it.” She laughed.
I asked her how she got me up our steps, onto the porch, and into the house.
“You did everything I asked you to. When we got to the steps, I told you to pick up your foot and you did. I had to support you, but you walked.” (I’m glad she is a good daughter who loves her mama and would not take advantage of the moment and make me do some ridiculous stunt. If she did, she’s not telling. )
I don’t remember any of it.
It’s good that my dentist gave me something to take the edge off, you know, dull the nerves a bit. But my definition of the edge is what I was standing on, and fell off of. I spent the next 24 hours climbing back up.
As I consider it, though, in light of my dental past, it was not a bad experience. My tooth is fixed, and I did not experience any serious pain. It’s all good.
Yes, I know about the edge.
Recently I had the distinct privilege of caring for two of my daughter’s six foster children who call me Grandma. Heading into town to have some fun, in the car with me were two year-old Cody and four year-old Hannah.* They are true siblings and both very bright.
Hannah could not see the digital clock on my car dashboard and asked what the time was. I told her it was 9:42. We would get to the mall about the time the stores would open. About ten seconds later, she asked again about the time. I looked and responded again, “9:42,” thinking she didn’t hear me the first time.
She replied, “Do your clock wook?”
I laughed out loud, “Yes, darlin’ it works.”
I realized she had heard me and this precious child’s time frames are different than mine. Ten seconds to her computes to at least a minute or more and in her mind the clock should have changed.
Waiting is not fun. She was ready to get there, get out of the car seat, and enjoy herself in the mall.
How often have I wanted to ask God, “Do your clock wook?”
* not their real names.
Son of the Kenai
Why do you wait,
Watching the children
Of the Lower Forty-eight?
The storm clouds hang heavy
In the afternoon sky.
If it were a clear day
Would you give it a try?
Is the thirty-two degree water
Maybe holding you back?
Or are there too many already
Fishing along the bank?
Many are fishing,
Few are catching.
The reds have not arrived.
The time is not right.
When the sockeye red
Breaches the Kenai’s surface
Because there is
No room below it
In the moving sardine can
Between the banks,
And the rapid flow
Of the run and the river
Keep it going.
This Son of the Kenai
Will step into the fray,
Gather his catch
In under three minutes,
And go home.
I am fairly convinced that this is Fisherman Heaven. Every morning the fisherman gets up, grabs his gear, and heads to the river where millions of fish are clamoring to get upstream. These fish are nice-sized, nine to twelve pounds, and give you a fight to remember.
On the other hand, this may be Fisherman Hell. You can only keep three. If you hook them anywhere but the mouth, you have to let them go. This is particularly difficult if this is the largest fish you have ever caught. You may catch three in under an hour, and then you have to leave so someone else can have your spot. I think that most qualifies it for the category. No fisherman I’ve ever met wants to leave a sweet spot knowing the fish are right there ready to be caught.
Another oxymoronic aspect of this once-a-year fishing bonanza is the collaborative competition going on.
One man said it was “combat fishing.” He was referring to the closeness of the fishermen lining the banks, all vying for that space where the most red salmon are coming through, and the aggravation of tangled lines and lost fish because of the proximity problem. Yes, there are many people lining the river’s edge in chest waders (hip waders sort of defeat the purpose as you are up to your waist in water) wearing fishing vests containing various needed items should you break a line, and carrying the all-important specially-rigged rod and reel combo and dip net. Looks like they are geared for combat.
On the other hand, in spite of the fierceness of the competition, one man will hand off his rod and reel, pick up a dip net and help his competitor land his fish. How refreshing!
Thank-you and congratulations exchanged, collaboration is over, lines are drawn again, and the battle is renewed.
So, if you are bipolar, this will be a piece of cake for you. If not, you may feel a series of mood swings you have never experienced before, should you attempt this adventure.
Don’t say I didn’t warn you…