Meet, Joe Croteau, fishing with Rhode Island, lives in MA, “I can stand on my street and put one foot in Rhode Island, one foot in Massachusetts.” Married 44 years to Irene, “I’m an only child,” his son Brian says as he stands behind his dad, “but I have 10 stepbrothers and stepsisters.”
Joe and Irene try to explain it, but I get lost pretty quick.
“I was a commercial fisherman, we built the boat ourselves,” Joe says as head nods back to Brian, “picked up the hull after Hurricane Bob, built the rest of the boat around it.”
Joe and Brian are fishing this tournament together, as they have fished together for years, “His doctor,” Irene starts telling me, “Joe’s doctor said ‘Irene you make sure he fishes that tournament with Brian, you make sure he says…”
That’s all Irene says for a moment, in the next moment she says to me, “He has stage four brain cancer.”
Joe says nothing, just looks at me.
Irene: "He has had cancer three times in the last four years. Began with Prostate Cancer, then Esophageal Cancer, and now Brain Cancer, Glioblastoma.”
Brian: “First he had the Prostate stuff, then he had a hard time swallowing, then this brain tumor.”
I want to stop this interview right now, all of those things strike very close to home for me, Prostate Cancer, Brain Tumor, trouble swallowing.
My hand shakes as I write it.
I hear of his three strokes, three heart attacks, and yet the man sitting opposite from me is smiling at me, “I love to fish.”
Irene: “The docs they adjusted his radiation treatment, did it on a couple of Saturdays so he could be here. He just finished a couple of days ago.”
Joe lifts his hat and shows me the wisps of hair he has left.
Brian: “Fishing is his life, relaxes him, makes him feel good, there is no place he would rather be then here fishing this tournament with me.”
And when Brian stops talking, I get up, step back a couple of feet, and take a photo of the two of them together, it is the only photo like it in this story. I told them I will send it to them after the story runs.
Nine people out of a hundred or so.
All random except for Don the firefighter.
Believe, if you believe.
Wonder, if you wonder.
About the fish.
And what it is about the fish, that brings people together, that makes them feel better,
that brings peace to those who chase it.
Listen to the string section of earth, to the whispers in your soul.
Find the random people in your life, and listen to them.
Talk to the man who picks up your garbage, plows your street, fixes your car, teaches your children, comes through the smoke for you.
You are the chorus of earth, it is your symphony to conduct.
I believe we are more alike than we are different,
looking for answers,
that may in fact,
in the end,
through a fish.
“…let's drink to the salt of the earth.”
Salt of the Earth
The Rolling Stones
Editor's note: You can find the other parts of Pick 9! and other wonderful stories by db here.