Essays, Stories, Adventures, Dreams
Chronicles of a Footloose Forester
By Dick Pellek
There he was in my dream, Tom Hanks. He was representing Princeton in the Annual Ivy League Billfish Tournament. That is to say, he was Princeton’s fisherman who was responsible for selecting the bait, baiting the hook, landing the billfish, and making some decisions about what would be done with all of the fish caught that day.
The other Ivy League fishermen would try to match the length and weight of their billfish in the annual tournament, in hopes of exercising the privilege of deciding what to do with the combined catch. Nobody remembers who came in second, except the runner-up Ivy Leaguer who would be razzed because the winner was a guy from the Garden State. The cheerleaders from Brown University were sure that their guy would win, since the tournament itself was being held off the coast of Providence, Rhode Island—their home waters.
When Tom Hanks won, he announced that his fish would be immediately filleted and at least 8 fresh fillets would go to each of his competitors, all of whom held a single lottery ticket that cost them the price of 5 fully-funded scholarships for minorities to their elite schools. Hanks then directed that the remaining fish be assigned to the village chief who would gather them up for distribution in his village. It was the custom in the region, and Tom Hanks was part of that ritual.
The latest dream of the Footloose Forester mixed annual billfish tournaments and village chiefs into the blend of a latent chronicle that was based on some factual memories. There is actually an annual billfish tournament off the coast of Mombasa, Kenya each year, at about Thanksgiving time. Perhaps that is why his dream appeared when it did. The Footloose Forester, his Bengal Tiger wife, and two other families were fortunate to be there on the beach to see the billfish being weighed and hung on the wire stringer (there were already 6-8) before being judged. And although we did not know the details of what happened to all the fish, the sharing of a valuable food source was a custom there. There were other delightful events during that special holiday.
Marlin, one of several kinds of billfish
The host and owner of the resort that hosted the 3-day tournament made his grand entrance by jumping out of an airplane and landing on the beach just adjacent to the seaside entrance to his beach resort complex. We had to talk to him about arranging a scuba diving trip the next day, and it was pure coincidence that his recently opened parachute was spread in the middle of the tiny lobby when we showed up. Not only was he a parachutist, he also managed the scuba diving franchise and was the dive master who personally escorted us to his training tank on the property. Before allowing us to dive, we had to produce scuba certification certificates and he wanted to review and test our skills. The Bengal Tiger had misplaced her PADI scuba certificate and he was unwilling to let her dive without it, but relented when she passed the safety routines inside his training tank. Footloose Forester also had to go through the review procedures, including taking off his mask under water and clearing it by blowing bubbles through his nose before putting it back on. In retrospect, such checks are a good thing.
It was Thanksgiving time and it was special. Footloose Forester provided the turkey for sharing and one other family contributed a large, cooked red snapper. We all agreed that the snapper was the best item on the menu.
The Bengal Tiger arrived in the Mombasa area by overnight train, a trip she had wanted to make with her friend. Her soulmate, the Footloose Forester, drove our Montero Sport 4x4 through grasslands, open range, and cactus-studded sandy wastes to Mombasa to pick her up in the morning. Life was always an adventure with the Bengal Tiger.
Back to Tom Hanks in the dream, and to another true-life link about sharing food with others. Djaya, a park guard in Ujung Kulon National Park in Indonesia, had captured a stranded billfish in a shallow inlet some three miles from his hut. He put the heavy billfish on his shoulders and returned home via the jungle trail to share the upcoming feast with his neighbors. Whenever we went fishing as a group, we always shared the catch with others.
About the author
Billfish is a generic term to indicate that group of gamefish that includes black marlin, blue marlin, swordfish, and sailfish; among others.