Palatka Hangin'

Check out the look on Elite rookie Brandon Palaniuk's face. I'm used to that look; Brandon's not used to me yet. If you think you know this kid, I'm going to shock you.

Dig this: Brandon was born in 1987. Now check this out ... according to the Beloit College Mindset List ... Brandon has never been ALIVE with "America's Funniest Home Video's" NOT being on TV. For half the dude's life a guy named George Bush has been president.

Brandon has never known a world without home computers, digital cameras, voicemail, or a Starbucks.

Freaky, huh? OK, I'll give you a minute to go dialing AARP ... so Brandon is standing behind that sign giving me that look all because I asked him just one question, this one give or take some memory issues, "So dude, how many alligators you got up there in Rathdrum, Idaho?"

I've been watching the Animal Planet for years now and I'm pretty sure they never have gone to Idaho looking for 'gators, but I thought, just to be on the safe side, I would ask Brandon since he is the only one I've ever met from Rathdrum, Idaho.

Brandon mumbled something about, "None," at which time I told him, "Ah, you might want to look at that sign in front of you." Which he did and then he gave me that look when I said, "You ain't in Idaho no more, son."

So he's standing there looking at me like a Shih Tzu looks at a stray mutt, what with all that never-being-alive-without-cable-TV-and-645-channels-of-nothing-on-TV wisdom all them late 1980's hotshots have, when all of a sudden Aaron Marten pulls up to the ramping up and down thing with Brandon's even younger sister, Bri, in his boat and Aaron yells out at me, "db you should have seen the huge alligator we saw during practice dude ... must have been like 20-feet long."

At which point the all of 21-year-old-sister Bri shakes her head, yes.

Told you, Brandon dude, don't know about up there in Idaho, but down here you up to you arse in ...

Lobster

I'm not a lobster kind of guy, I mean the melted butter is OK, but when I take Barb out for a lobster dinner I always order my lobster like this, "Steak, medium rare, please."

Got to tell you in my exhaustive 00000.0017-second research I found out that most people in America up until about the mid-18th century pretty much ordered their lobster dinner just like I do in whatever this century is now called.

Then around 18th Century something, some person invents this little hammer thing that when you pick it up and smack the lobster and crack it open out pours a BILLION dollar industry based on crawling creepy looking things.

If steak had claws I'd be a non-claw vegetarian. Possibly.

But today around noon I'm over in the service yard and suddenly out of Mercury service truck comes a box of LIVE LOBSTERS. Lower units, OK, Maine Lobsters, not so much.

So I ask Scotty the Merc guy, "What's with this stuff ..." and as I'm saying that behind me, Lee from the Skeeter boat service truck comes up and open a box of filets ... STEAK!

I just look at Papa, as Lee is called, and he being my exact age, born WAY before 1987, he knows exactly what my look means ... "BJ Haseotas sent them to us."

Back in December I did a story with Byron "BJ" and his wife, Tiffany about their little newborn daughter, Evi, who at the time spent most of her life in Children's Hospital Boston.

This season Byron applied for and got a hardship exemption so he could stay home and help take care of Evi. Byron will fish the Elites next year as part of an automatic qualification when an is granted.

So as I'm standing looking at the lobsters I call BJ and ask him, "What gives?"

"db, last year the service crew were my guardian angels, I'm all thumbs when it comes to fixing things, and they are the ones who got me through the season. I wanted to thank them for last year, but I'm not there fishing so I thought I would just send them a surprise."

As the lobsters boiled, and the filets sizzled, I asked BJ about Evi.

"db, she is doing good, we have our ups and downs. She is still in the hospital, but they took the breathing tube out of her throat 2 weeks ago and now she is breathing with just the help of a small oxygen tube under her nose. I'm so pumped, she is holding her own."

Lee Robertson added this as I was leaving, "We are very thankful for what BJ did for us, but db, truthfully, we are even more thankful Evi is doing better, she's always in our prayers."

Louie

I believe the universe sent us dogs as the example of what loyalty, happiness, and unconditional love can be about.

As a human, and a dog lover, I think the saying, "Going to the dogs," is a step up from the way people treat each other.

I consider my 401K to be my nest egg of bail money. When I retire I plan to be arrested often as I drive the db/bb/rv right through puppy mills freeing the puppies in as many states as I can drive to ... puppy mill owners my google countdown clock to retirement says that at this moment you have 1,234 days or 29,572 hours, 15 mins and 32 seconds before I come for you. Fair warning.

So I'm saddened to let you know that a little bit of unconditional love, in the name of Louie, left this planet yesterday, May 15th.

Louie, was the loved pet of Steve and Julia Kennedy. I first met him as he was wading in the water of a launch ramp while wearing an Auburn sweater.

I unfortunately at that first meeting had a faded red sweatshirt on, something a little to close to Crimson for Louie's liking, but in a year or two, possibly three, he stopped barking at me and we became friends once he figured out that The University Of Buffalo athletic department was not much of a threat.

I miss Louie, and know that when our own fluff of unconditional love, Riley, goes away, I will never be the same without him around.

RIP Louie, thanks for all the sniffs.

--db

Don Barone is an award-winning outdoors writer and a member of the New England Outdoor Writers Association and the Outdoor Writers Guild of the U.K. You can reach db at www.donbaroneoutdoors.com.

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