“Say a prayer for the common foot soldier…”
Dateline: Between Shinning Seas
There is more to us,
than where the Atlantic Ocean touches,
than where the Pacific Ocean touches,
there is us,
here in the middle.
More to us, than tornadoes.
More to us than bowls of dust.
More to us than grapes with wrath.
There is us.
Those in the middle.
Those who till the amber waves.
Those who plant the fruit on the plain.
The folks who live and work in the middle of America,
the place that lifts up both coasts.
“…spare a thought for his back breaking work…”
I’m in dead center America.
It may not be geographically the center of this country, but if you want to know where this country’s heart is … look here.
Hard working people made of the stock of faith, family and country.
Working stiffs show up, shut up, punch in, do your job, go home, build this country, build backbone in those to which we will hand it off.
The reality of this country is not the freaks you see on TV, the reality of this country are the working stiffs who deliver the TV, who sell you the TV, who string the cable to your house, or climb up on your roof to connect you to the stars above.
It is the unseen, the behind the scene of America, that interests me, the regular folks, of blue or no collar, of punching in and working OT, of two-weeks vacation, of grocery coupons and coaching Little League.
People, like these two angler dudes.
Elite Angler, Cliff Prince, and …
B.A.S.S. Nation Western Region Winner, Andy Bravence.
One owns a Port-A-Potty business…
One works more than a mile underground.
“…spare a part for his wife and his children…”
A DIRE NEED.
That’s the name of Cliff Prince’s Port-A-Potty service. But before we get into that, meet Cliff.
He’s 43 years old, married to Kelley, two children, 11-year-old Gracie and her 8-year-old brother, Syler.
Born, raised and lives in Palatka, Fla.
“I live on one side of the river, Big Show (Elite Angler Terry Scroggins) lives on the other side.”
Cliff’s father, Lofton, worked construction for 38 years, his mother, Jessie was a dog groomer.
“My parents bent over backwards working, and it was all for their children.”
Before owning A DIRE NEED Cliff worked in a plant making paper tubes.
“On Friday they would come up to you and tell you that you have to work OT on Saturday and blow up your weekend.”
It wasn’t Cliff’s dream to own a Port-A-Potty business, he is still figuring things out about the business like storage.
“Yeah I have about 100 of the units (owner speak for Port-A-Pottys) sitting on my front lawn right now.
“Another 100 or so are out … working. It is a 24/7 job, you have to constantly keep up with the cleaning because they sit out there on construction sites just cooking in the hot Florida sun.”
I look over at Kelley to see her nose all wrinkled up, like how you get when you drive by a dead skunk in the road.
“The units on the farms are the worse … when he is off with the Elites at tournaments I have to service (owner speak for clean) them, and it was so bad I called him up and said, “Done! I’m done!”
Cliff looks at her and smiles, then turns to me and with an uplifting of his shoulders and eyebrows gives the universal husband signal of, “A huh, that was me, yep.”
Cliff made the Bassmaster Classic Tournament in his rookie year on the tour, I told him, “dude if you are just happy to be here, you won’t be here long … won’t never lift that Classic Iron.”
“I come from a long line of, as you say, lunch-pail types. I have worked hard to get here, and I’m going to work even harder to win this thing.”
Show up, shut up, punch in, do your job, see your name hanging in the rafters, and kiss the trophy when you are done.
“…who burn the fires and who still till the earth…”
“Dude, even if I win the Bassmaster Classic, I have to be back to work and punch in on Wednesday.”
I will bow down to that quote for the rest of my life.
For you out there who think America has lost its strength, its way, its desire, meet B.A.S.S Nation Western Region winner, Andy Bravence, Mine Superintendent-Shaft Development.
Andy works 7,000 FEET beneath YOUR FEET.
That’s 1.3 MILES under the dirt.
“I’m a tramp miner, a hard rock miner and we are working on the 4th largest undeveloped copper deposit in the world.”
Andy’s lifelong friend, Judge (“my father was a lawyer and comedian”) Bellamak, a Realtor in the Phoenix area says, “Andy is being modest man. When the mining company wanted to dig a hole in the earth more than a mile deep, spend over a BILLION dollars doing it, they put Andy there in charge of it.”
Andy just looked down at the floor while Judge was talking, clearly Andy was not about to brag about what he does, or who he is.
So I will tell you.
The dude is 52 years old, high school graduate, lives in Globe, Az., married to Lynette for 20 years, 3 step children, 10 grandchilden, 2 great grandchildren. Fished his first Federation tournament in 1989, “been hooked ever since.”
Cut and paste this next quote…print it out and hand it to your kids or to those who have spent a lifetime with their hand out.
“My wife and I, we lived in a single wide trailer for 7 years, 7 YEARS with both of us working jobs saving money so that we could buy a house and I could fish some.”
And a year or so ago they bought that house.
Andy dude, you are out there working on your tackle, but I just lifted a bottle of Cream Soda in a toast to you buddy.
Quick as to what this dude does for a living, works 10-11 hour days, on call every other weekend, it takes a month to go 250 feet through “junk rock,” to drill out the round hole into the earth that is 28ft in diameter, “then we lower a 5 story steel cage building down into the hole.”
“The copper deposit is bigger than all of downtown Tulsa, it is basically a mountain of copper underground. The deposit is at the 3,000 foot level under the ground but we have dug down to 7,000 feet so that we can get underneath the deposit, then bring her down to us.”
Down there where he works is 175 degrees.
“The closer you get to the center of the earth the hotter it gets,” but we pump in air conditioning to knock it down to around 89-90 degrees.”
I have been asked how do I define a “working stiff?” Fair enough. This is part of the definition …
… after the interview I asked Andy for his business card, he dug in his wallet, and then handed me a card, and told me this:
“Back a few years ago, the company gave me a box of 250 cards, and you should know that the card I just handed to you, with that I now have just 248 of those business cards left.”
And that dudes, is an exact definition of,
a working stiff…
“…raise your glass to the hard working people.”
Salt Of The Earth
The Rolling Stones
…with Lunch Pail Tales,
“Maybe I'm a man…”
Dateline: Star Stuff
If you’ve got cigars, light them.
If you’ve got beer, pop the top.
Pull the cork on your wine bottle, get into your after-work sweats, ‘cause I’m going to tell you a true story that happened to me … one that even I don’t understand.
It’s about a moment in time, two moments in time that may have changed the rest of my life.
…the rest of my life.
If I somehow get my mind around it.
Going to be a lot of people out there who will believe it and know why it happened.
Going to be many out there who won’t.
I’m just freakin’ amazed …
Back this puppy up a bit, give ya’ll some insight into what I’m fixin' to write.
This was supposed to be a story, a funny story of all that I’ve been through in the last 5 weeks post-brain surgery.
Me and my friends at Wired2Fish.com discussed a story that would tell you folks that I’m ok, and I’m baaaack!
With some funny stuffed throwed in. Like this:
W2F: “db you on a lot of pills…”
Me: “Dude I’m on so many hormone pills that I was reading the Victoria Secret Catalog, FOR MYSELF…been looking sort of lovingly at Barb’s Purple Pump shoes as well…”
W2F: “db has your sense of taste come back yet…”
Me: “Dude, not even close. I can’t taste a thing so I started eating fruit and yogurt and other healthy stuff while it won’t hurt. Trust me, not going to waste a donut now.”
That’s what you were supposed to get, but in-between me talking to W2F, and writing this, something happened.
Something that shook me to my core.
Something that has made me question, everything.
And that’s the story you’re goin’ get.
“…maybe I'm a lonely man…”
Five weeks ago a team of surgeons went about removing a brain tumor that had formed around my Pituitary Gland. The team consisted of a Neurosurgeon, An Ear, Nose and Throat Doctor and an Endocrinologist.
Highly trained folks who have done this stuff many times before.
To get to the tumor they went up through my nose, my sinuses and up to the base of my skull, which they bored through to get “to the promised land” as my ENT Doc told me.
The surgery, done on 12/12/12, took about 3 hours and according to the brain doc, “went perfect.”
I had surgery on Wednesday and went home on Friday…a total of 55 hours in the hospital for Brain Surgery.
Because some of the tumor had grown into my optic nerve and surrounded my carotid artery, they left some of the tumor in, not wanting to risk taking it out manually, rather instead using radiation to get at it.
Before I left the hospital they took a CAT scan of my head to see just exactly where the tumor left behind was, and from that they proceeded to tell me that I would need treatment from something called a “CyberKnife.”
Last week my wife, Barb, and I met with the Radiological Oncologist who told us about what was being planned…I was to have an MRI with contrast stuff shot into my arms, then he would meet with the Neurosurgeon they would map out the “plan of attack” and on February 6th I would begin the radiation treatment.
I was assured it would be done one week before I have to leave to cover the Bassmaster Classic.
Making the Classic was all I cared about, so I signed the papers and the process began.
Then came last Tuesday (2/15/13) night…the absolute worst night since surgery, maybe my worst night EVER.
Ever since surgery up my nose, my nose has been massively stuffed up, brutally stuffed up, and Tuesday night I woke up barely able to breathe through it.
As I laid in bed my head felt like it was about to split open…my eyes hurt, my temples hurt…I can take a lot of pain, but this was beyond reason.
Tears ran down my cheeks, it actually hurt so much I starting quietly sobbing, and then I did something I never thought I would ever do.
Prayed for myself.
And here’s the exact prayer I said:
“Please stop … please stop this … don’t know if there is a God … don’t know who runs this universe thing, but please stop this pain … if you want me to keep writing about how Love is the secret of the universe, I can’t do it like this … please, please stop it, I can’t take it anymore.”
Then I reached over to the nightstand and took a handful of pain pills and basically knocked myself out (don’t do that at home).
“…who's in the middle of something…”
Most wouldn’t call that much of a prayer.
As a writer looking at it, I think it borders more on a pleading or bargaining with the heavens.
But from a person who hasn’t said a prayer, hasn’t recognized a God since First Communion, all those above who might have heard it would be shocked enough to give it prayerhood.
Wednesday morning, while still pretty groggy from the several pain meds still floating through my system, I had pretty much forgot my nighttime coming to Jesus moment, mainly just happy Barb was home for the day, a “snow day” as her school was closed due to a storm.
I was sitting in the living room, Barb was in the kitchen when the phone rang…she was closest to it so she answered it: “Don…it’s for you…”
As I came into the kitchen to get it Barb told me, “It’s your Neurosurgeon…” and watched as in front of my eyes the color drained out of her face.
Normally his office staff calls me, this time the doc himself was on the phone … it wasn’t going to be good news.
“Don ... I have something amazing to tell you. I’ve cancelled the CyberKnife treatment.”
“Why what’s wrong…”
“Nothing is wrong, surprisingly when we looked at the MRI, when we looked at where the tumors were left from surgery … they … they weren’t there.”
I didn’t say anything.
“The tumors in your head are gone. there’s no need for the CyberKnife. Come see me in 6 months, and we’ll do another MRI to make sure they don’t come back, but right now, you are tumor free.”
“How could that be; how do you think it happened?”
“I have no idea, they were there, and now they are not.”
“…that he doesn't really understand…”
So as I write this, the tumors that were left in my head, are gone.
Gone without treatment.
There is a CAT scan taken the day after surgery that showed them.
There is an MRI taken 5 weeks after surgery that doesn’t show them.
I’m sure there are any number of scientific answers to where and why.
But to me, there will always be only one answer, the prayer I said through my tears.
But to me there will always be only one answer, the prayers you said for me.
But to me there will always be only one answer, all the positive energy that came my way was more powerful than any CyberKnife.
What if FAITH … is actually matter, particles of something, like light. And those particles did come my way.
And why … would they.
I will never forget that moment on the phone when the doc told me I was “tumor free” and the first thought that came into my mind was exactly this, “Thank you for listening to my prayer.”
Folks, right this moment I am tumor free and no one can really explain why, it was there and now it is not.
I’m sure the docs will someday explain it to me, and I will sit there and graciously listen, but I already know the answer,
and I hope you do as well,
the answer is in the prayer I said that night,
the answer, is Love.
And if I didn’t wholly believe that before, if I was only playing lip service to the universe before,
the universe proved its point,
when it kissed my forehead,
and the tumors disappeared.
“…maybe I'm amazed at the way
I really need you.”
Maybe I’m Amazed
“People say I'm crazy doing what I'm doing
well they give me all kinds of warnings to save me from ruin…”
DATELINE: LAST CAMP…WNY
Reality and me, have never been friends.
What if you saw things not as they are, but what they could be.
What if your brain doesn’t grasp, can’t.
What if…if was the starting point of your thoughts.
If that is your brain…you know of what John Lennon sings,
people say you’re crazy.
Most of my life I have been told…no…can’t…that won’t work. And to be honest, most times those yelling at me have been right. They have all went on to have big homes, big cars, big bank accounts.
And I have not.
I was once told by one of my several thousand bosses, “It’s up to you, what would you rather have, big money, or big dreams, you pick.”
I took dreams,
“People say I'm lazy dreaming my life away
well they give me all kinds of advice designed to enlighten me
when I tell them that I'm doing fine watching shadows on the wall…”
Turns out, he was right, and I was wrong … that dream led to foreclosure…damn near bankruptcy … several years of dealing with court cases and expensive lawyers.
In the end, we won in court, got a big settlement that pretty much went to all the attorneys, but for years after … I kept my dreams to myself.
I was a dream hider, afraid to dream out loud.
So in truth, no matter what the court papers said … said I won … in truth, I lost.
“… ah, people asking questions lost in confusion
well I tell them there's no problem, only solutions …
well they shake their heads and they look at me as if I've lost my mind …”
For the past almost 20 years now, I have spent more than 100 days a year on the road.
This year, 161 days, last year, 140 days, the year before, 150 days,
In the last three years I have spent more than an entire year on the road … plus 80-some days.
Time lost to my family that I will never get back. Travel time that beats you up mentally, physically, emotionally.
Time I hate.
Time I love.
I love doing stories, but coming off the road, ends that.
But while doing all that driving, doing all that flying … I been dreaming again. And if you are going to dream, dream big, if you are going to win, win big, if you are going to fail, fail big.
Life is big.
And this is the dream…Last Camp.
Stories done not one the road … but on my front porch … my dock … around my fireplace.
Bring the stories to me, not the other way around.
Barb calls it, “Writing Camp,” which I like, but for me, it will be my final story, final stories.
My Last Camp.
“…well they shake their heads and they look at me as if I've lost my mind…”
And possibly my Last Camp, will be where my First Camp began…Buffalo, New York
Western New York.
Last Camp: WNY
Could be going back home, and here’s why.
Western New York sits on two inland oceans, with a magical river in-between.
When I bring some of the best anglers in the world to Last Camp to tell me their stories, to tell me about their adventures, to tell me about the romance for being inside the outside … you want to offer them some of the best fishing in the world.
And forget what you hear about Buffalo, about WNY … hear this, remember this … it is an outdoor paradise here … ESPECIALLY… if you fish.
Don’t believe me … check this out:
Buffalo sits on the shores of the 10th LARGEST LAKE ON THE PLANET…9,940 Sq miles of sweetwater. It is 241 miles long, 57 miles wide at its biggest bulge with an average depth of 62 feet.
Almost 4,000 years old it is filled with Steelhead (what some call Rainbow Trout), Walleye, Bass both Large and Small of mouths, Trout and Salmon.
Lake Ontario, north of Buffalo, but still in WNY is the 14TH LARGEST LAKE ON THE PLANET…7,340 Sq. miles…average depth 283 feet with a max depth over 800 feet. And like its big sister lake to the south it’s filled with Bass, Salmon and Walleye.
But for me, the magic is in the water between the lakes.
The sweetwater below Niagara Falls … the Lower Niagara River.
Don’t believe me…here’s how the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation describes the Lower Niagara River, “Truly one of NYS finest trout, salmon, fisheries, also offering tremendous overall fishing diversity.”
The lower Niagara is 14 miles long, from the bottom of the falls to Lake Ontario and can be fished 12 months a year. That’s right, ALL YEAR LONG.
And you can fish for … Chinook Salmon, Walleye, Lake Trout, Brown Trout, Steelhead, Large/Smallmouth Bass, Muskie.
So it is at home, where we will begin The Search, For Last Camp.
With the lower Niagara … Lake Ontario being a focal point.
After this search we will move to the Finger Lakes area of New York State … and then … to what has become my second home … The South … specifically Alabama … and the lakes of the great Alabama Lakes Trail.
And the stories of adventure, zest, and love of being inside the outside told at,
“…no longer riding on the merry-go-round
I just had to let it go
I just had to let it go.”
Watching The Wheels
"I'm gonna live forever…"
Will, we remember, you.
On March 12, 2012, the population of the planet we live on clicked over 7 BILLION people.
Will, the planet, remember you.
Will the next 7 Billion who come after us, say your name.
Will the town you live in remember what street you lived on.
Will they name a street after you.
Will any one you don't know today, know of you tomorrow.
Can, we, live forever, even after, we are gone.
Who, will know us, when we are gone. Think about that, how many BILLIONS of names, BILLIONS of us, who came, who went, and who we know nothing of.
A planet populated mostly by the, invisible.
And I'm not talking ancient history here, look at the history books of our recent history, back a couple of hundred years ago when this country was founded in 1776.
The history books speaks of the "Founding Fathers" which some take to be the dudes who signed the Declaration of Independence … 56 guys.
Some say the "Founding Fathers" were just seven: John Adams, Ben Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and George Washington.
Dig deeper into the history books, bet you can't come up with another couple hundred names from our recent past, the past that started us all.
Everyone else, invisible.
But none of those known guys dumped the tea in the harbor.
None of those known guys fired the shot heard round the world.
The nameless … 2.5 MILLION people who lived in the 13 colonies of America at the same as the guys who get all the press.
Dudes … those 2.5 million … that's us. You, and me -- history's grunts.
We remember the Astronauts, but not those who build the rockets they sit a top. We see one footprint on the moon, but not the thousands on the path that lead to it.
But how, do we, the 6.9-billion-something unknown grunts on the planet, how do we get remembered.
How do we leave a footprint that says, "Hey, I been here too."
What do we need to do so you remember our names.
I think I know.
Just Win Baby.
Just Win Baby, and you will,
"It is why I am here…period."
It was snowing outside.
Worcester, Mass. January or February of 2012 … can't remember for sure, forgot my notes back at home.
It was a BASS University thing at a fishing show.
Was about 45 minutes from my house, so I drove up to see Mike Iaconelli and some of the guys.
One of those guys … David Walker.
Didn't know much about him, knew he won a tournament last year, his first year back after a stint in the FLW.
Seemed to be a nice guy, face friendly, vanilla-like.
I did an interview with him and to be honest, would have thrown it away had he not said this, "It is why I am here…period."
And his face turned to fire.
His lips got all skinny like.
His foot started tapping and jumping.
He white knuckled that sentence, his hands folded on his lap gripped harder with every word he said.
"It made me sick to sit home and watch the Bassmaster Classic on TV and NOT BE IN IT." The caps are his, not mine.
Truth in writing columns … I loved that fire in him … you punch in to win…but on my reporter's notebook paper, this is what I wrote,
"…I'm gonna cross that river…"
Fast forward five or six months to yesterday, registration day for the B.A.S.S Elite Tournament in La Crosse, Wisconsin and the Mississippi River.
David Walker is now in 2nd place in the Angler of the Year contest. I have gotten to know him better and we have become friends.
He may have a vanilla outside, but inside, there is fire. And the flames are getting high.
"Of course I want to win the AOY … that's a huge achievement …"
David doesn't add the "But," I do.
"I think AOY is great, but no one remembers who gets named the NFL's MVP after a year or two, but they always remember who hoists the Lombardi Trophy … who wins the Super Bowl."
David is diplomatic, says nothing.
I'm baiting him.
"Win AOY, you done then."
He looks at me like the friend with a wet towel in his hand, you are friends, but you know the snap of the towel is still going to come.
I'm pushing because I don't want some canned answer … I want the answer I know he carries inside of him.
"It's where I need to be … I'm driven to make sure I get this done. I've practiced more in the last two days, fished dark to dark … 16 hours up here in Wisconsin."
Snap goes the towel.
"To win a championship in a sport is a rarity … rare air … I'm here for that rarity … I have put so much of myself into this, the quest to be the Bassmaster Classic Champion, my whole family has put so much into it, to win the Classic, there is nothing else I can find myself doing but to work to win The Classic."
"db, I will not rest until my name hangs in those rafters above the Bassmaster Classic stage."
"…I'm gonna catch tomorrow now…"
"If you don't win the pinnacle event of your sport, you will always have an empty feeling."
Denny Brauer knows of that empty feeling.
"I had won everything there was to win in the sport except the Bassmaster Classic…it was a huge monkey on my back…it haunted me, haunted me."
Until he won it in 1998.
Denny Brauer is also a friend of mine, I know him, and to bait him this is exactly what I have to say….
"db…that banner up there in the rafter…that's rarified air up there, you need to respect it, it's an honor because for as long as B.A.S.S. is around, for as long as there is a Classic, my name will be up there forever."
I told Denny about David's drive to also have his name up in the banners, "So what do you…."
"It's not, if, for David, but when. He's going to do it, it's just a matter of time, he's got a great work ethic and knows what it will take."
"…but he has to learn HOW to win the Classic. He's got to learn crowd control, those fishing near him, how to select the right area and how to fish it right…manage the Classic and you can win the Classic."
"…his name will be hanging up there, you wait. He's wired right."
Then came this, and I didn't even have to snap the towel.
"db we are remodeling our house right now, building a bar and behind that bar I'm building a very special case with lights in it…it's the case, center stage, that I'm building to hold the Bassmaster Classic trophy…"
Denny puts down the bait thing he is thinking of using in this tournament, and with his index finger begins to paw the carpet in his boat as he sits on the front deck talking to me.
"…when I retire I plan to pop me some cold ones and just look at it and smile…"
To my left, Shirley his wife, smiles.
"…my grandson, he loves to fish, when he sees that trophy, he knows what it means…knows what it took…how much it means to me…my grandson…my family…they know what it means."
It means, immortality.
For after you are gone Denny, whenever your grandson looks in that case, whenever he stands on the floor of the Classic and looks to the rafters, you will be in his heart.
And the hearts of his children…and all the hearts that follow those.
It means Denny, you just,
"When this old world is blown assunder,
And all the stars fall from the sky,
Remember someone really loves you.
We'll live forever you and I."
"Gave me knowledge of myself…"
Dateline: Back!The film reel plays on my bedroom ceiling.It plays in the dark; it plays when my eyes are closed. It runs in a loop, seared into the neurons in my brain.I see it while I'm cruising the interstate between events.You can start the film by just a word you may use in a conversation, and while I'm looking at you, in my head, the movie reels play on.And on.And …
"… showed me visions, showed me nightmares …"
I've always thought in competition, words such as "play" and "game" are only for those who don't compete.When I fire up the laptop, when you put your boat up on plane, I'm not sure about you, but I'm not "playing" nothing.What I'm doing, what you are doing isn't some dumb arse "game."I stopped "playing games" when I packed up my toys and my mother threw them away.He Got Game … whoopy-do … I got … AllAin't no "Game" buddy.Ain't no "play."When I compete, I'm all in.No playin'.No toys.Bring it.
"… gave me dreams that never end …"
And …Done brung it.Got whooped-arsed.Laid out, flayed like a deer in the bed of a pick-up truck, roasted like a pig on a stick.Oink-oink.And the Emmy goes to … not you fool; that guy over there, the one smiling, and not that fake arse smile you got on your face.You lose.Lose …You … Me.The loser in the mirror, the loser who comes home not with the statute in my hands, but only the rolled up program from the show.And the bedroom ceiling becomes a movie screen.And your closed eyelids become a movie screen.And the movie runs.Runs …And the title plays and plays … and plays.And the title is … … LOSER.
"…showed me light out of the tunnel
I learn nothing when I win.I learn everything when I suck.Hand me a statue, I say thanks.Hand me my head, though, that's an education.I remember the wins, of course, but I never, never, ever forget the losses.Ever.And if you forget the losses, unpack your toys, because you just playin'."Don't know if I will ever forget it, forget my performance in the 2002 Bassmaster Classic."He was sitting all by himself, at a tiny table, in a small crowded media room. Conversations were echoing all around him, yet he sat in silence.Sat, with the 2002 Classic playing in his head."I feel bad, real bad about my performance in 2002. I went back to my home, which you know db was only about an hour from the Classic lake, went back home, sat on my couch, sat with my family, and knew … knew I was done. Blew it."His name is Jamie Horton, and he is a big stick on the lakes in these parts.At 45, he is the newest rookie on the Bassmaster Elite tour. An Alabama guy, with a wrapped truck that says, "Roll Tide."A decade ago he was in the Bassmaster Classic, and to this day he still remembers it, haunts him … when he looks into his rear-view mirror … 2002 is all he sees."Never done thought I would ever be back, that it would ever happen again. Every mistake I made in 2002, I've put a lot of thought into it …"And he drifts off, looks down to the floor, watches the movie reel playing at his feet.And Two-Oh ...… Oh-TwoIs the title.
when there was darkness all around instead…"
"…gave me days of deep devotions…"
"I'm taking 2002 and using that to prepare myself for 2012. Gonna fix it."Ask Jamie if this is a "Game.""Ain't going to care none now who's fishing next to me."Ask Jamie if he is "Playing.""I go to my spot, don't never see nobody now."Even during our interview I know, KNOW, the 2002 movie is playing in his head."Not looking past the start, going to enjoy the start, going to be real happy to be back, proud to be back, proud to be an Elite."And he looks up from the floor, straight into my eyes."Going to take it day by day, just go fishin', day by day, 'bout 2010 I knew I could come back, knew that someday I would be once again sitting here, felt it. Focused. Been focusing on it."I didn't say a word, just sat and watched as the movie in his head, slowly, started to fade away."I…I'm…this time db…I ready."Ready, for a new movie to begin."Game," not to those in it."Play," not to those doing it.Not to those who hate to lose more than they love to win.Not to those with the movie…… playing within.
"…showed me things I cannot see."
"Tore Down a la Rimbaud"
"…Somewhere beyond the sea…"
Dateline: My Sea
I am the grandson of a mermaid.
Because I am the grandson of a mermaid, I have my own sea. All to me, this sea.
It is to this place that I go home. My sea.
Only I know where my sea is, and today I will tell you where this sea of me is at.
My sea, is upstairs in my attic.
My sea, is in an old Mayflower moving box.
A beat up brown and green box, duct taped sides, water marks on the bottom.
The name of my sea is marked on the side of the box.
The name of my sea is….Gram.
Theresa "Tess" Robbins.
"…she's there watching for me…"
Like Sir Paul, with Mary, in times of trouble, Tess comes to me. Today, for some unknown reason, troubled as I was, I climbed upstairs and sat on the ceiling floor boards and went back to my sea.
Tess, was born on June 22, 1897, in Canada. I am in my veins part Canadian … and mermaid.
She left me on August 13th, 1986, left me physically, has never left me emotionally.
On my block where I was born and lived until I was about 10 or so, Montrose Avenue, I told all my friends that my Gramma was a mermaid. The result being that some of my friends were no longer allowed to play with me … my first slap of discrimination … being that I was the only Grandson of a Mermaid.
On my block at least.
The proof I had of my Mermaid heritage is that for years my Gramma would take me down to the foot of Niagara Street, hold me up so I could see over the rock wall, and she would point to the river, the Niagara River and whisper on a breeze of lilac into my ear: "Donnie, that's where I'm from – right there."
Right there, being the Niagara River.
Where Mermaids lived. You know, under the Peace Bridge over there.
So today, dealing with troubled waters, I went up to sit on the side of my sea, and wait for my Mermaid.
But instead, came my Grandfather, also from Canada, an alleged First Nation Canadian, meaning of being a Seneca Nation Descendant, who was born in 1885, 1886 or 1887. Depended on when you asked.
And as I was sitting there looking through his stuff, including my very first tackle box, a beat up green thing that he gave me. I came across the crumbling bill for his funeral expense.
The bill came to $67.50 and Gram put down $10.
And at the bottom of the bill I saw the date that Grampa died.
It was in 1957.
January 27th, 1957.
Fifty-five years ago.
"…if I could fly like birds on high…"
Gramps – Clayton Robbins – was the greatest angler on the planet. I'm sure it helped being married to a Mermaid and all, but I can tell you this right now with my hand on a bible – my Grampa could out fish KVD in a heartbeat.
In less than a heartbeat.
And Grampa taught me everything I know about how to fish which, since he is gone now, makes me the greatest angler on the planet who could out fish KVD in less than a heartbeat as well.
That is as long as both KVD and I could fish with the same exact bait that Grampa used, and taught me to use.
That bait being, semi alive and smelly.
That bait being the butt end of the Cuban cigar that Grampa had just finished smoking and chewing.
My Grandfather – Clayton Robbins – was the best butt end of a cigar for bait angler that there ever was.
We would sit on the breaker wall, he would finish the cigar that was constantly in his mouth, knock the embers off on a rock next to him, carefully thread the hook through the cigar leaves, and drop shot it into the water right in front of us.
And within moments there was always a fish, that I would never touch, on the rocks below my Keds.
Sometimes there would be a fish there before Grampa got his next cigar lit, or had taken another sip of the bottle of his "medicine."
It was here, on the breaker wall of the Niagara River where I asked my Grampa this question, "Grampa is this the spot where you hooked Gram, was she the first Mermaid you ever caught."
"Are cigars good Mermaid baits?"
"…then straight to her arms…"
Once Grampa stopped coughing, a cough relieved by several chugs of his "medicine," he asked me why I thought "Tess" was a mermaid. I told him she took me here often, held me up and pointed at the water and whispered in my ear, "that's where I come from Donnie, right there."
At which Grampa turned slight to his right, away from me and looked over his shoulder and then turned back and stared at me for a few seconds.
Grampa then put down his pole, picked me up, just like Gram did, and pointed just like Gram did, and just as I did when Gram did it, I started looking for Mermaids, except Grampa said this into my ear.
"Donnie, you see that gas station over there (I did so I shook my head yes). Donnie that's CANADA. That's where Tess and I are from – CANADA – not the Niagara River."
And then, "Your Grandmother is not a Mermaid, she is Canadian."
Fifty-seven years to the day that he died – Clayton – my Grandfather once again held me in his arms and whispered the truth into my ear.
One child's Mermaid, is another man's Canadian.
Which is exactly what I needed to hear. Thanks Grampa for coming back.
With the faint smell of the secret Niagara River Havana bait hovering near the box of my sea, I put all the documents back and went back downstairs.
And took Barb's dog Riley for a walk in the rain.
And during the walk with the cold rain and saltwater streaming down my face, at Riley's favorite fire hydrant I told Riley, "You know dude, my Grandmother was a Mermaid …"
At which the dog looked up at me, mid sniff of the hydrant, where I leaned a little closer and said to him
" … but Grampa? No. He … he was a Canadian."
"…I'd go sailin'."
Beyond The Sea
"He stands like a statue,
becomes part of the machine …"
Dateline: Christmas 2011
For Christmas, all I want, is to be of Ted Williams.
I want to see the stitches, when the universe throws the pitch.
For Christmas, all I want, is to be of Mozart.
I don't want to hear the music, I want to see the notes in the air.
For Christmas, all I want, is to be of Van Gogh.
I want all of life, in a palette in my hand.
I don't want to be them, Ted, Mozart, Van Gogh … I want to be what it is that makes them.
I want … their gift – a gift so precious it can't be wrapped, so rare it can't even be given.
Dear Santa: I have been almost good all year, did some of what most people asked me to do, showered even when only slightly stinky, didn't steal anything that my family would miss, said please and thank you when I really didn't care, didn't kick no cats.
So Santa could you bring me, db, who used to be that kid Donnie Barone who you brought all the coal … Dear Santa I'm only asking you for one thing. I've “growed” up; just one thing I want. I hope you have it in that bag of yours. I'll leave you cookies and several Margaritas if you say you will bring it to me … please Santa … all I want this Christmas … and every Christmas I have left … please bring me just this …
Go ahead, try and wrap that.
Ted Williams once told someone I know, when he hit the ball, he could smell the smoke of the ball hitting the bat.
Please Santa, bring me … me.
Bring me, what it is that I'm here to do, bring me my place under the tree that is the universe around me.
Please Santa, bring me, the smoke of the baseball.
All I want … is to fit.
Show me, where the universe wants me.
Where have you hid my Zest.
I believe, all of us, have a place, here. You know that is true, I haven't had Tequila in days, you know that no matter what it is you do, that every once in awhile, for a fleeting moment … everything lines up right.
It's a gift from the universe that says, "You know what dude, watch this."
And suddenly … you fit.
You feel like you are finally moving through space as you should be, and you can see yourself doing it. It's like the universe is actually YouTube, and there you are.
I believe that moment, from where ever, or whomever it comes from, is the greatest gift we are ever given.
It is a glimpse into your soul.
"… even on my favorite table
he can beat my best ..."
There are those amongst us – Williams … Mozart … Van Gogh – for whom, it is more than just a glimpse; they have found where they fit.
It could be your mechanic who knows what is wrong with your car before you get out of it.
It could be that teacher who transcends teaching by connecting with you and who stays with you all your life.
And it could be a parent, whose place on this planet was to love and nurture you, and who became your soul.
And it could be, a skinny guy in a fishing tournament jersey.
Someone, named KVD.
"I didn't buy KVD's jersey because he is a hero to me, I bought it because he is an INSPIRATION to me."
It's not wanting to be the person in the jersey, it's about wanting to know how he does what it is he does, how it is that KVD has managed to fit in where he should be, on this planet.
"I want to learn from them," said Bill Leong, a 49-year-old computer technology guy who lives in Massachusetts and who bought the KVD jersey in an auction to raise money for Tackle The Storm Foundation.
Bill, bought several signed Bassmaster Elite jerseys over the past couple of months, I never asked him why. I was curious, but once his bids cleared Ebay and Paypal, frankly I moved on to putting up the next jersey for auction.
I moved on, until I got this email:
I know what these jerseys mean to the Tackle the Storm Foundation, but I wanted to let you know what these jerseys mean to me.
I am a first generation American. Both of my parents immigrated to America from China when they were young. They had no influences or anyone to look up to and made their way through society the best they could. The U.S. was a different place back then. Neither of them went to college when they were young as they had to work.
My mom was a housewife, and my dad went into the military after he became a U.S. citizen. When he came out of the military, he leveraged the skills he had learned and went to work for IBM as an engineer and retired after more than 30 years at this one company.
They raised four kids and lived in suburbia. During summer vacations, my dad often dropped me off at a pond close to his work so I could go fishing during the work week. He would stop by at lunch, fish and eat lunch with me. He would fish with me during the weekends. During those times, he shared his values with me - the American dream, hard day's work for a hard day's pay, go to college, etc.
My dad is my hero and will always be my hero and at the top of the list.
I realize that today's world is different, and the work environment is more complex. With the media and technology, you can truly have heroes above and beyond family and follow everything they do. Through the years I have tried to draw inspiration from others that I admire.
Similarly, when I look at jerseys of athletes I admire, I think about what makes them who they are and at the top of their games. With KVD, it is the preparation, planning and confidence. With Ike, it is never give up, etc. All of the jerseys I have purchased from you have different meanings to me.
Hopefully you can see that this is more than just hero worship and is based on what parallels I can make in my life. Anyway, just thought I would pass that along to you so you understand the why versus how.
To me, it is the most eloquent explanation I have ever read of why someone would buy sports, or any, memorabilia.
It's my books on my library shelf.
It's my Aunt Erma.
Aunt Erma was the first adult in my life who didn't call me stupid. Aunt Erma bought me the first book I ever owned that had more words than pictures.
Tom Swift and His Jetmarine
To this day, I still have the book. It is my … KVD Jersey.
"…I must have played them all.
but I ain't seen nothing like him…
Bill met KVD a while back, and at the meeting Bill gave KVD a gift:
I gave KVD a rare autographed photo from the original negative of Ted Williams many years ago and tried to explain how similar he was to Joe DiMaggio and Ted Williams and how he has helped me to be who I am - similar to how my dad and Ted had helped in the past. I often wonder if he understood what I meant by giving it to him and the importance as I am sure he, like other athletes, receives a ton of things from fans and I only had a few minutes to speak to him.
Guess what Bill … KVD gets it.
"I remember meeting and talking with him, and yeah I get lots of things,” VanDam said. “That photograph, however, was so special to me, I don't even have it out where anything can happen to it. He gave it to me rolled up in a tube, and that's exactly how it is today – tucked safe away. That will be one thing I will always keep.”
I told Kevin about how Bill once attended a lecture he gave, not so much to learn about how to fish, but about Kevin's constant desire to excel.
Bill told me KVD reminds him of the people profiled in the Sundance Channel's TV Series, Iconoclasts. Just like those people, KVD is a creative visionary who transcends the sport.
I ran that by KVD and there was pretty much just silence from the other end of the cell phone.
I am sort of new in talking to KVD, I've been leaving him alone, the dude gets enough press, doesn't need me following him around. We say "hey" back and forth, and then I go hang around with my good friend Skeet.
I would watch him, and he would look at me, as an eagle does a mouse. I won't say who is the eagle, and who is the mouse, but to know the eagle, you must know the mouse.
So for about 5 years now I just sort of stood back and watched. Watched this KVD, not for how he fishes, don't really care, but why he fishes. If you talk to KVD, and you only talk of the "how," you have pretty much missed the whole point.
The whole dude.
So as either, the mouse, or the eagle, I finally had a conversation with KVD, and I began it simply like this, "You can't not do what you do, can you?"
I knew the answer before I asked it.
"Never thought of it that way before, but I can tell you this, what I do, I do because it is ingrained in me."
"The catch, or the find?" I said.
"Oh db, it’s definitely the find,” VanDam said. “There is nothing better than going out on a lake, a big lake and finding the fish. For me, that's the biggest thrill. And then it is the challenge of the competition."
I couldn't see him on the other end of the phone, but I know as he spoke, his face got all tight, his pulse sped up as if he was walking and talking on the phone to me, he stopped, and I could hear, feel, his posture blow up all straight like."
The eagle, and the mouse.
"…how do you think he does it
I don't know!
What makes him so good…"
There is something I call The Champion Essence, it is the subtle difference between winners and champions.
It is the difference between hitting the home run and smelling the smoke of the ball and the bat.
I believe winning happens when everything lines up, when you suddenly fit in your place in the universe.
I believe champions can make that fit happen. Make everything line up.
It is because they embody the soul of what it is they do.
KVD is the soul of competitiveness wrapped up in skin and bones.
His greatness comes because he is exactly where he should be, he has found how he fits in the universe, and honestly, I think you could take the fish part out of it.
This dude gets all whipped up when competition is on the line, any kind of competition.
I think, and this may be blasphemy in the business, I think you can out fish him, actually I'm pretty sure you can out fish him, but I don't think you can out compete him.
And to me, that's a Champion. That's Kirk Gibson's 1988 Home Run and hobbled trot around the bases.
To me that’s Brett Favre's 399-yard, four-touchdown game the day after his best friend, his father died.
That is, The Miracle on Ice.
By looking at those who have it, we know it is possible.
It is around us, everyday, everywhere.
Zest, is our essence.
KVD has zest for what he does, and it is that zest that makes him a champion.
Dear Santa, leave the damn flat screens in the sled. Bring us Zest!
With Zest, you will fit.
Zest in work.
Zest in life.
Zest in love.
Because when you have Zest, you give Zest.
Ted Williams, Mozart, Van Gogh, and yes, KVD…their zest for what they do makes everyone around them better.
Makes everyone around them, fit in.
And that, is, the gift, of giving.
"…plays by intuition…"
My next story will begin simply.
Will begin with three words.
Will begin with just four words.
It can be no other way.
Simple. Straightforward. To the point.
It will begin like this:
I have cancer.
I don't have cancer.
In the next few days, one word will change my life. In all the words I have written, one word will make all the difference.
And that word is …
"…I'm not half the man I used to be…"
It was in the rainy mist of the B.A.S.S. Northern Open last week on Oneida Lake where I learned I was focusing on the wrong word – cancer – and not the word I needed to be focused on – Love.
As I stood on the beach in the morning fog waiting for launch, I watched as a figure also started walking along the sand.
Watched as the figure walked past the docks.
Watched as the figure walked past the B.A.S.S. workers.
Watched as the figure walked up to me.
The figure was covered head to toe in rain gear, it was only when the figured pulled the rain hood back, that I knew it was a woman.
Middle aged maybe, hard to tell.
Makeup on maybe, hard to tell.
Tears on her cheeks, not so hard to tell.
And when she pulled he hood down, she looked up, and straight into my eyes, and this is exactly what she said, "Don Barone, I love you."
Then she pulled the hood back on and started to walk away. When she did I reached out and gently touched the yellow rubber slicker, and the arm underneath.
"Excuse me, do I know you, who are you."
"Doesn't matter, but I came here to tell you I Love You because you saved my husbands life. He reads you, and he read about your health problems. When he went to his doc to get checked, they found four blocked arteries in his heart …"
I just stood there, not know what to say. I didn't know if I could say anything IF I had something to say.
"… you saved his life."
And with that she walked away back into the mist of Oneida Lake.
And I stood staring at her footsteps in the sand.
And then I walked over to my 4Runner and climbed inside, out of the mist.
And fell apart.
"…there's a shadow hanging over me…"
It is the thought of death, that has brought me life. I do not have a death wish, and I do not have a life wish.
I have a NOW wish. Today. This moment. Now.
And so I write this not for me, not so much for you, not for the stranger who came to me in the mist.
But for the husband of the lady who stood in the cold wet sand and told me of her heart, while fearing for his.
We as stupid old guys need to know this, our health is not just ours, it's their health too.
Mainly THEIR health. For that moment in the sand, I saw that it wasn't only you that had a blocked heart, the woman in the mist had some heart blockage too, from you.
When we don't take care of ourselves, we don't take care of our loved ones either.
I know my wife Barb lies awake nights worrying about me, at some point that will affect her health as well.
And I caused that. Plain and simple.
My NOW wish for the husband of the lady of the mist is this, do not let her walk alone on the sand, take care of yourself, take care of her.
Walk together on the sand, look not at the footsteps of where you have been, but at the sand waiting for you to leave your mark.
I don't know, after tomorrow, what the next beginning sentence it is that I will write. Be it one of three words, or one of four words.
But a sentence, and a story there shall come.
And it will come out of the mist.
And it will be about love.
And it will be about the beach in front of me.
Not the beach I've come from.
But the beach I'm going to.
Where this time my footprints in the sand …
… will not be there alone.
"… oh, yesterday came suddenly …"
It is not the footprints in the sand already left by Elite Angler, Nate Wellman that I care about, it is the footprints facing him, facing the sport, facing us, that worry me.
I've read some stuff about the alleged incident.
I've been asked some stuff about the alleged incident.
As a crime reporter/investigative reporter for over two decades, this is my opinion – I HAVE NONE.
I don't know the facts. Facts are all I care about. Never let emotion into it. Never ask a question I don't know the answer to. Never assume anything. Never buy a shadow of a doubt theory because there is never a shadow of facts theory.
Not going to get into the alleged incident.
Can't, don't know much about it.
But here is what I do know.
"Shoeless" Joe Jackson.
1919 World Series. Chicago Black Sox.
Nate Wellman if you do not know about the above…you need to do some heavy google reading right away.
Especially about "Shoeless" Joe.
Because he, young man, is you.
He did it.
Some said yes.
Some said no.
He said no.
He was kicked out of the sport he loved.
He spent the next 30 years, THIRTY years of his life trying to prove his innocence.
After being banned from baseball, "Shoeless" Joe opened a liquor store down south, and one day one of the most famous outfielders of all time came into his store, but Mr. Jackson never said a word to him.
Finally the outfielder said something like "you don't know who I am," and Shoeless Joe is said to have said back to Ty Cobb, "yeah I know who you are but I didn't think you wanted to know me, most don't …" or something to that effect.
That's your future right now. That's your precedence.
If you don't think so, you are only fooling yourself.
You need to do something, and then we and the sport need to do something as well.
You need to tell the truth.
And then we, with that truth, need to begin to forgive.
That's right, forgive.
The Chicago Black Sox made baseball a better game.
Once the truth comes out on the Steroid Era of MLB … it will be a better game.
And once we forgive, we will be better fans; we will be better people.
Nate, I'm going to give you a little piece of advice after covering the theory of sports for two decades now, especially all the bad parts of sports. I'm going to echo what dozens and dozens of fans have told me over the years, what they scream at the TV sets newscast after newscast …
… JUST TELL THE TRUTH … SAY YOU SCREWED UP … YOU’RE SORRY.
And then move on.
And in time we will.
There is one rule I have never seen quoted. You can throw all the rule books you want at me, count all the pages, and look for all the loopholes, but this rule remains quote less.
Forgive each other.
Nate, the footprints you leave in the sand can be ones filled with questions that will follow you for the rest of your life.
Only with truth, will come forgiveness, and only forgiveness will wash away the doubt you leave in your footsteps.
You only need to look to "Shoeless" Joe…to know that.
"…oh, I believe in yesterday."
Dateline: Where Wishes Reside
"Ring them bells…"
Ring them bells…for your neighbor in hospice.
Ring them bells…for the family weeping in the waiting room.
Ring them bells…for those kneeling at the grave.
Ring them bells…for the front of the line.
"…for the blind and the deaf…"
Between this morning, and tonight, 1,479 people will die from cancer.
Between every morning and every night, 1,479 people die from cancer. Every hour, 60 of our friends and family, are taken from us by cancer. By the time you finish this column, 15 people will be gone from the front of the line.
"…ring them bells…"
After writing "Angels & Heroes," I got dozens and dozens of emails about the story, well over a hundred or so by now.
Somewhere through the tears of the writers, there were always two words, every email, no matter how long, or short, how poignant, how sad, somewhere within, had these two words:
Wishes for Kevin. And I too have wishes for Kevin.
But you need to know this, Kevin also has wishes.
Wishes for you.
All of us behind him in the line.
"…for all of us…"
Your place in line affects your view. But there is a place in line where your view of life becomes crystal clear. And those who I have known who have stood there and were given a peek all told me they saw and felt the same thing.
The love you make, is the love you take, to the front of the line.
I'll tell you the honest, no BS truth, it tore me up to write that story. There are still the stains of tear drops on my keyboard, but I always try to come away with a little sliver of the person who I pound the keys about, as I have from Kevin.
From Kevin, I took one word, and only one word. A word you don't hear often today, at least not in the way it relates to each and every one of us.
"db, I don't hold my children anymore, I embrace them."
Embrace. I will never see a picture of Kevin without hearing that word. I will never ever again write "Embrace…." this or that, Embrace Learning, Embrace Change…blah. blah, blah…
For Kevin, for the rest of my life, the word Embrace will only be used when loved ones are held in your arms. Kevin, my friend, please know that in a small way you have changed my life forever in showing me that Embrace can only mean, love…as you have for Katherine, Stella and Evelyn.
"…who are left…"
I'm sure he has many, as we all do, but I know of one he specifically told me.
Know your place in line.
Kevin's wish for you…GET MEDICAL CHECKUPS. If you think something doesn't feel right, have it checked out.
Your place in line depends on it.
Regular check-ups will save your life. Don't take better care of your automobile, then you do of yourself.
Ring them bells…for the 1479 who will die today from cancer.
Ring them bells…for the more than 500,000 who will die this year from cancer.
Ring them bells…for the front of the line.
And that you hear those bells, and take care of yourself, with regular check-ups.
So that someday, there will be no reason to…
…ring them bells.
"…oh the lines are long,
and the fighting is strong."
Ring Them Bells
"I've Never Said Why Me,
Angels & Heroes : The Follow-up
"When I find myself in times of trouble…"
Dateline: New Orleans Arena
I have long ago stopped trying to understand. Now, my only hope, is trying to cope.
Humor helps me cope, the arms of my wife helps me cope. The smile of my children helps me cope, rubbing the dog, Riley's belly, helps me cope.
My friends, the anglers and their families of the Bassmaster Elite tour help me cope, especially Kevin and Kerry, Steve and Julie, Sandy and James, Skeet, the service crew, the Martens, Howells, Swindles and dozens of others.
But mainly, I cope by myself in a dark room with my Sennheiser headphones on, music in my ears.
Today, I learned to cope, among thousands.
As I think they did too.
"…Mother Mary comes to me…
"I never saw it coming," Kevin Oldham told me as we sat in the concrete bowels of the New Orleans Arena.
I didn't say this in the story, "Angels & Heroes," because we wanted to keep it as a surprise for Kevin, but all along we had planned to give Kevin the best seat in the house for the Bassmaster Classic Weigh-in.
As the anglers were staging in their trucks and boats behind the stage, Bass officials and the Wired2Fish guys took Kevin to meet Gerald Swindle who was sitting in his boat waiting to take the stage. As told in 'Angels & Heroes," Kevin (a huge BASS Elite angler/Gerald fan) had talked to Gerald about Pancreatic Cancer because Gerald's brother had passed away from the disease.
Then this…Kevin was invited to get into Gerald's boat, and with Gerald, Kevin road through the through the curtain and blue smoke out onto the floor of the arena.
And then when Gerald took his fish out of the Live Well and stepped onto the Bassmaster stage to have the fish weighed….HE TOOK KEVIN WITH HIM.
Kevin: "I'm thinking, you've got to be kidding me, you've got to be kidding me. Man db, I never saw that one coming, never saw it coming."
I asked Kevin a stupid question, and got a profound answer, I asked, what did it feel like.
"It was like everything stopped, I could hear all the people crystal clear, I could see all the people, I could see all the color, all the lights, could hear the music, it was almost like an euphoric moment. It was a good day, db, a good day, a lot of positive energy out there, and it energized me, energized me."
"…speaking words of wisdom…"
April 2010, Kevin was told he had a year to live. If you have a desk calendar you can see April on it right now. Kevin told me that he has no intention to give, and will fight to the end.
But Kevin also sees April on the horizon. And as I patted his knee, more as a comfort to me than to him, he leaned forward as best he could, and said, "I feel unworthy for all this, I'm just a guy fighting cancer, that's all."
Before Kevin came out Bassmaster Host, Dave Mercer told the crowd about Kevin…that he was a Fire Fighter…that he was a huge B.A.S.S. fan…and that he was in very critical shape fighting Pancreatic Cancer.
When the boat came through the theatrical smoke, and Kevin was sitting in it with a huge smile on his face, the audience went crazy, cheering and giving Kevin a standing ovation.
"db, for the first time in my life, I asked myself, why me, why me…"
Why you…because when you stood up in that boat and got out and walked up on the stage and turned around and gave that huge grin, Kevin, you were helping us all cope.
Cancer touches us all, takes love ones from many of us, beats us, beat us, beats us, attacks, attacks, and there you stood, center stage, broken, battered, suffering, but fighting back.
Going toe to toe with the monster that stalks us all, and not giving in.
You, put a face, and a smile, to courage.
Whatever the outcome is my friend, you give us hope.
You, help us cope.
For that we will rise to our feet, and we will cheer, and we will clap, and we will cry, and we will take your spirit for our strength.
From me to you dude, I will hope and I will pray, that one day, you take that stage, cancer free.
You should know that I got many, many comments on your story, but it was one, a simple one, that touched me the most:
"I Love You Kevin!
Why me, you ask.
let it be.
Let It Be