Storms, fishing and a lesson from Blacky

Published 7:44 am Friday, February 12, 2016

When I was a child our family frequently traveled from Virginia to a small community near Panama City, Fla., to visit our grandparents. Blacky, my grandfather, owned a fishing house on West Bay and most mornings would either escort fishermen or go shrimping for bait sold in his store.

Around noon Blacky would return with a happy fishing party and a boat full of fish. The younger children, including me were usually stuck hanging around waiting for the adults to come home.

But for me, things were looking up. Blacky asked me to accompany him in the morning to go shrimping for bait. No one else: just me. I was thrilled and couldn’t help bragging to all the other children. My older cousin, however, didn’t seem envious at all. In fact, he thought it was funny, gave me a knowing look and warned me this trip would not be the thrill ride I was anticipating.

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That night, I carefully prearranged my clothes to be ready when Blacky came. I could hardly sleep, imagining the excitement of being in the same boat with the greatest fisherman of all time. What life changing lessons would I learn? I passed the long night picturing the mountainous piles of shrimp and fish we would haul in. I practiced my best modest smile while acknowledging the envious looks from the other kids.

Just before dawn, Blacky shook me awake and gently asked: “Are you ready for an adventure?”

“You bet, Grandpa!” I replied, leaping out of bed and quickly putting on my clothes. My cousin’s warning was quickly forgotten.

Within a few minutes we were in the boat heading toward West Bay. Blacky pointed out the buoys floating in the water that were really channel markers to guide boats and ships. “Stay close to those buoys,” he shouted over the noise of the outboard motor, “and they will guide you home.”

After a while, he maneuvered away from the buoys to the right place between deep water and shore. Quickly he gathered nets scattered and showed me how to throw them. Then, I guided the boat as he instructed to steer in an ever-widening circle.

After the boat made three or four lazy circles, Blacky motioned to stop. We began pulling in the now heavy net and neatly arranged it on the deck. At first we saw nothing but seaweed and an occasional crab but it wasn’t long before we began seeing shrimp — lots and lots of shrimp. The work was hard but seeing all those shrimp and working beside my grandpa made it all worthwhile.

We moved the boat to another spot, threw the nets out and once again I guided the boat in ever widening circles. “You’re doing great!” grandpa said.

Blacky promptly fell asleep — not just a polite snooze, mind you, but a deep sleep filled with snorts and wheezes. Try as I might there was no waking my grandpa. Now what? I was in deep water as well as deep trouble and help seemed many miles away. Now, I was beginning to understand my cousin’s warning: “So, you’re the new victim,” he said. “You’ll be sorry!”

A similar situation happened to the disciples as they traveled with Jesus: One day Jesus said to his disciples, “Let’s cross over to the other side of the lake.” The disciples were expecting a joy ride, but they were greeted by a fierce storm. Their guide and protector, Jesus was asleep. They were obviously afraid and in grave danger; they desperately needed help.

REV. LARRY E. DAVIES can be reached at