THE OLD MAN AND THE SEA
by: Eddie Trapp
In 1952, Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea was published. The main character in the book was an elderly Cuban fisherman named Santiago. In his early years he was one of the best fishermen but fell upon a heap of bad luck. Didn’t catch a big fish to sell for eighty something days. One day he paddled out into the Gulf and hooked a huge marlin. Since he couldn’t match its strength he decided to just let it run until it gave out. For two days and nights it drug the tiny boat and Santiago was exhausted. The third day the fish gave up and Santiago was able to pull it close to the boat and kill it with his harpoon. Tied it to his boat and paddled for land. Soon, sharks were attracted to the carcass and began to strip off the meat. Santiago managed to kill five of them but basically only had the head and backbone of the large marlin when he landed. Gone was his hope of making a lot of money when he sold the fish. His only compensation was the honor of catching the big marlin estimated by the other fishermen to be eighteen feet long.
On our early June trip to Galveston we fished from shore at San Luis Pass, wading out to cast our lines then coming back to sit in the shade of big umbrellas. After a twenty minute battle I caught a fightin’ jack crevalle that was forty inches long. In less than an hour Carol fought and landed a thirty nine incher. I teased her about my fish being larger. She just looked at me and said, “It ain’t over yet.”
The next day we unloaded Junior’s twelve foot kayak. It’s an ocean kayak with more of a flat deck than regular kayaks with the hole you get down in. Imagine sitting on top of a floating ironing board. Shucks, I guess nobody less than fifty years old knows what an ironing board is. I paddled out a quarter mile and anchored down. Caught mainly gaff top catfish and sharks up to three feet long. Your heart gets to pumping extra sometimes when those sharks jump on board around your feet before you can get hold of them to release them. The wind was up, causing some pretty big waves called swells, or rollers. I had my head down so much while unhooking fish that I started getting sea sick. It ain’t funny. Almost did some chumming before getting back to shore.
Now it was Carol’s turn. She got in the kayak and headed out, also catching lots of sharks and gaff tops. After being out over an hour she began paddling closer to shore but tried one more spot where she hung something big. Her rod bent double as the fish drug the kayak toward the toll bridge that runs over the pass. Tide was coming in and helped the fish move toward the bridge. If it went under the bridge there was a good chance the line would be cut on some of the bridge supports. As the fish neared the bridge it was getting a little tired and Carol was able to sit on the rod, paddle the kayak and keep the fish back. Junior was waving and trying to get Carol to cut the line before the tide and fish carried her way off to the north in West Bay. I told him there was no way she would ever turn that fish loose.
After rasslin’ with the fish for about an hour, it gave up. Carol again sat on the rod, dragging the big jack crevalle beside the boat while paddling with the two ended paddle. All during her struggle I was thinking about Hemingway’s Santiago. She was so far northwest of us at times we couldn’t see her as she passed in front of a bridge support. Then we would see a tiny speck as she moved out in the open. Junior and I waded out as far as we could as she returned and pulled the kayak on in. Her exhaustion couldn’t overpower a big grin. The tape measure showed the jack to be forty one inches long, beating mine by one inch. All I could do was shake my head when she said, “I told you it wasn’t over.” Maybe we can go back in July.
As I get up in my years I appreciate old folk’s jokes more. Sometimes though “it ain’t funny.” At the East Delta School Reunion recently the graduating classes were having their pictures made. They called for all the 1942 graduates to come forward and the picture was taken. Then they called for the 1943 graduates and so on. There would only be three or four in some of the pictures. As the photographers called for one of the classes in the Forties, I forget what year it was, only one person came to the front. The photographers asked if that was all for that year. David Nabors hollered out, “Naw, wait a minute. Two of ‘ums still trying to get up.” Everybody really laughed. I’ve always had a saying, “We’ll all be old someday, if we live long enough.”
Do you have trouble understanding what is sometimes said in a movie? There’s been quite a bit of discussion about the History Channel’s Hatfields and McCoys. Let’s use it as an example. Several have told me they would have to rewind it a few times to figure out what was said. Seems like they mumble too much. My hearing is in no way perfect but I have no trouble understanding regular television programs. Seems like being in a movie gives the actors a permit to mumble.
You may have to get someone to explain this one. A man at the Olympics was carrying a long pole. A television reporter asked him if he was a pole vaulter. He answered, “No, I am a German. But how did you know my name was Walter.”