Just a Story-- a simple man and his lifes toll-

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Just a Story-- a simple man and his lifes toll-

Postby DLHO » Tue Oct 16, 2012 7:25 pm

The morning came like any other, steel gray sky and not a breath of air. Getting the gear together was a mindless effort after this many trips. How Henry wished that today would be a high liner day, the past few trips had not panned out and if things did not change out soon he would not be able to keep this up! He did so love the Sea and it was with a heavy heart that he hade made this promise to himself, today would have to be the break and if it was as bleak as the last 10 or so trips then he would have to take the job he was offered at the bakery. Delivering bread at the break of day to the many local stores would indeed pay the bills but not feed his soul.

The tubs of trawl were carefully wound and set in the back of the truck, and the days food was bunked into the top of the last tub. A stop at the coffee shop and the bait locker would be all that was left. Henry was slower than normal at the bait locker- careful to select the best of the half frozen, half rotted mackerel that would be his delihlias on the end of his string of 100 hooks. He saw others loading there gear, and setting off as the seagulls wound around searching for slipped scraps and the occasional half a donut.

With a somber feel he set the last trawl in the stern of the Leviathan, the bait was set a side and the old one lunge engine was massaged to life. Thump a thump and thump a thump - silver smoke danced into the still morning air. Henry dawned his foul weather gear, lit a cigarette and cast of the bow and stern line. Advanced the engine and caught it between strokes and slid her into forward. The soft chine of the old Swampscott dory just parted the ebbing tide. The gulls were trailing behind as the Leviathan slid past the day boards and into the jetty. How the air changed as he was now facing the Northeast, the heavy sea air filled his lungs and mixed with the stale tobacco. Henry coughed deeply and felt a heavy weight in his chest. He had been feeling it for a while, some times it bothered him, more often he shook it off to old age.

The swells in the jetty were making up as he closed in on the open sea. The forecast for the day was to be calm seas and little to no wind, a bluebird day if ever there was one. The swells at the end of the jetty were mounting and the engine had to be advanced to conquer the deep blue mounds that we impeeding Henry from his journey . He rounded the end of the North side of the jetty and just as he always had checked his compass and set his course. The other small fishing vessels had by now scatted to the four winds, they had much newer and powerful engines and most were crewed with at least two young strong hands and a salty skipper. Henry always went out alone, he enjoyed the quite of the sea and found that he could comfortably relay upon himself rather then teach or feel unsteady with a still untested hand. His set course took him along the front of the long beachhead and the many summer homes that dot the fragile barrier. How he missed the days when only small fish shacks were seen on the beachside and the drawn out sand was left to natures kind hand to tend to it. Not the man made breakers and walls set aside only to benefit the few, the wealthy.

The salt from the short hard spray clung to Henrys face, he tried not to brush it aside as if he started he would never stop- instead we would focus on the slow driven rhythms of the engine. He would try and adjust his heart beat to be at the same pace, as if he and the Levitation were indeed one. The suns crimson rays were slicing into the gun metal sky and setting long thin rays of life onto the ocean. Henry eased the vessel into the warmth hoping to dry his corned face. How the suns presence made him feel like he was not alone, to be met with a constant companion on days like this and the past many trips had been his only solace. The deep cold sea now meeting the radiant top water set the blue fish to a feeding frenzy. Small bait fish, menhanin, were now schooled at the top of the water column by the tiger like blue fish, slashing and gorging themselves on a cloud of bait fish. The terns were next, circling, diving, striking at the wounded and confused. It was instantious the uncertainty of the world the menhandin had come to know. And with the turn of the helm Henry plowed the Levitation through thru massacre. Knowing that he just temporally slowed the carnage.

Henry was on a course to a small ledge in the distance, it was a fisheries he has used many years before with good success. He had not fished it of late as the seas were not contusive to work in the hollows of the deep ledges safely, but today’s forecast indicated fair winds and calm seas. He changed his course and was now heading due east, the sea spay was making up on the tattered hull of the old Leviation, the worn battleship gray paint was thin in spots and the rail was polished to a warm patina from the heavy salted trawl that had rode up and over a thousand times or more.

Henry stood tall in the stern sheets with his shoulders square to the sea, his well worn oilskins did there best to keep him dry, but the thread bear spots allowed the weather to dig at Henry and over time those digs had become wounds.

The ledges were in plain sight and the one lunge engine was backed down, and as she did, she sputtered and cough. She slipped in-between stokes and nearly stalled. Henry rushed to advance her and her life was spared. The ledges were imposing as the small vessel eased in the hollow of the two, it was a deep run on both sides but the hollow was a under water platue that held the ground fish Henrys sought. The sea on the back side was a calm a a mill pond, not a ripple, not a stir, almost too calm Henry thought to himself.

The vessel was left in neutral with a line looped to the helm, to make sure she stayed on a true course, Henry got to chopping and baiting the trawls, small stiff chunks that were now almost brittle were laced onto the 100 odd hooks. The small trawl anchor was set and with a flitching stick Henry carefully set the trawl. Much care was taken here, Henry had see older more experienced fisherman get drug over board by getting followed in the nest of trawls and hooks. And as Henry was alone he was sure to not had this same fate. The engine was set at headway speed and the line on the helm set in a gentle arc. And slowly and surely the first trawl was set. The water were was 120 feet which is perfect for the haddock and cod he was hunting for, the plateau was not long but wide so his next set was to be almost parallel to the first.

The vessel was now noticeably lighter and more unstable as the weight from the trawls and anchors had deepened her. Henry was pleased with both sets and went to the far edge of the ledge to try his hand at hand lining, he had a wooden framed wound with tarred cod line and tied to the bitted end was Newfoundland cod jigger. A device used in the jigging of ground fish, it is a long thin lead body shaped crudely like a bait fish with two very sharp and deadly hooks set into it on opposing sides. It was dropped over the rail and jigged up and down with great power, the fish never hit the lure but instead were follow hooked in the gills or side. It was a way to increase the pay of the day as he let his deep water set do there bidding.

The hand lining produced a few hake and a small tommy cod and a rock fish that Henry would keep for the making of poor mans shrimp cocktail. His back was tiring and the cod line he had wound around his hand had numbed the sensations. His mind wandered to the old days of fishing and the ways and men all past before him. How he missed those voyages to Sable and Phippiniees but alas he is now here in his small dory scraping bottom to make a living. The time was drifting by and Henrys thoughts still were not of this day, or of this year. He tried to arch his back to relive the stress and pain that was digging into him, and as he did and great burst from his lungs exploded and the deepest and hardest cough he has ever experienced bellowed to the surface. He was caught off guard and it tossed him back into the stern of the Levitation, the mucus he spewed was laced with a deep maroon, and he spat it to the rail and it mixed with the crisp red of the cut bait fish. He was shaken a bit by how violent he was coughing and he could not seem to settle it out, at the same time the one lunge engine was slipping back and almost stalling again. Henry advanced her and it did not take, he tried to stand and set the advance again. But she was sputtering, His mind now on the small one lung engine that was seeming loosing its will to live, distracted him just long enough to not see he had drifted to the far edge of the ledge.

The place in any sea were deep water and shoal water meet can bring many things, bait, fish, fowl and almost always a confused sea. Henrys small dory was now caught in a series of rouge waves that tore themselves from the power of deep and shallow water meeting. The engine gave its last gasp and the large wave broke hard on the beam of the old levitation, she rolled hard, with little weight to stick her down and now no helm. The vessel rolled up and into the far edge of the ledge.

Henry was still fighting to regain from the cough that had seemingly set this into motion. He was tossed into the foaming sea, and its ice cold grip shocked and confused him. The extra lines and gear that was just so neatly stored in the aft of the vessel were now coiled and entrapping him. He felt the sting of the sea as it poured with out mercy into his thick black rubber boots. The weight of the icy abyss was making it next to impossible for him to gain toward the crystal blue surface.
Henry tried to find his bait knife that was lashed to his foul weather gear, he was entangled deeper in the mess of unkempt lines and hooks. His lungs that once stung from the tobacco and air were now slowly filling with a salty soup. The deep trench that lay under the ledge was pulling on him and all the many wounds and digs that had made him who he was were now allowing him to sink deeper and deeper. His mind now on high alter could see the edge of the ledge. His effort to reach it was null, and the sea was now filling him, he was becoming part of that in which he loved.

Henrys panic in the lines and the deep echoless sea suddenly halted! He drew what he believed was his last human breath, the sea had enveloped him and as he slid deeper and deeper. As he reached the bottom he saw the small trawl anchor he had set no more than a few hours before. His eyes now wide and clear, his mind crisp and alert. He found the two trawls he set were fat with cod and haddock, not a hook was unclaimed. The small bait fish darted and seemed to welcome him. His hands now numb and stiff, he know knew and accepted his fate, he was and always will be a fisherman! And with that he felt peace in the knowledge that he would never had to deliver bread, or be known as anything less. How lucky he felt as the last of any connection to the land escaped his lifeless body, not to suffer the fate of the cancers and the disgrace of failure. A fisherman he was and all ways will be!!!














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DLHO
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Re: Just a Story-- a simple man and his lifes toll-

Postby JCraig12 » Tue Oct 16, 2012 7:39 pm

Great story!!
2014 season
Duck- 24
Geese- 13
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Re: Just a Story-- a simple man and his lifes toll-

Postby Maineduckhunter » Wed Oct 17, 2012 6:24 pm

Interesting read, just wasn't ready or expecting an ending such as that.
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Re: Just a Story-- a simple man and his lifes toll-

Postby Mike M. » Sat Oct 20, 2012 8:28 pm

That was a great story Donald. You are a great writer. As I was reading, I could envision the whole thing happening. Thanks for sharing.
A serious reduction in the population of black ducks would mean the end of waterfowl hunting for the majority of the New England sportsmen.

Rachel Carson, 1947
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