“Why can't we get it right…”
Dateline: B.A.S.S. Nation Championship
“I will tell our friends back home, how friendly America is, how nice the people were to us, how they made us feel at home.”
Now some may say I’m some sort of freaked out, smoked out, peaced out long haired hippie leftover from the ‘60’s.
Sure, I’m part that, and for the record, proud of that part.
But I am also this, a 30 year veteran of the hard news trenches all over America and beyond and I have seen and smelled the horrors we can unleash upon one another.
If there is anyone who would hit the handle and flush this country, this planet down the toilet of the universe, it would be me.
I could right now tell you stories of what I have seen out there that would make you puke in your bowl of Fruit Loops.
But I won’t.
I won’t because I have also seen first hand how simply wonderful our species can be.
I have earned the right to be jaded. Earned the right to be a cranky old man.
Earned the right to burn my Homo sapiens membership card.
Except for one tiny thing, through it all, in spite of it all, I somehow, still, believe strongly in…kindness.
Believe that, KIND was stuck on the end of MAN, for a reason.
I believe in all my heart, that what we call, soul, is the kindness we all have within, is the love we all have within.
I have seen the wars, I have seen the killings, I have seen the mayhem, stood in blood, written of the slaughter.
And yet I believe we to be intrinsically,
and the true miracle of this blue rock floating in dark space.
Comes, the Pool Man.
Comes, the Afrikaners.
“…’cause we all live…”
“We in South Africa don’t have a culture of what you call here, Rednecks, from what we saw portrayed in the media we expected everyone here to be eating frogs and squirrels.”
Japie & Elandi-Marie Botha.
They are sitting across from me in a hotel lobby. They are young, they are fresh looking, they smell nice.
And they are from South Africa.
Japie, a 29 year old Civil Engineer is fishing in the B.A.S.S. Nation Championship, his bride of 7 months, Elandi-Marie sits close to him on the couch with her arm around his shoulders.
They are educated, they speak the English language better than me, and they have just told me a sentence that could basically start a war.
I say nothing, silence is always the best follow-up question.
Japie: “…but you know what Don, it is nothing at all like that…”
Elandi-Marie: “…it is not how it is portrayed at all, this has been a once in a lifetime trip and it has been beautiful.”
Thanks in fact, to a pool man, who may or may not be a redneck, thanks in fact to the pool man’s neighborhood, and maybe most of all,
thanks to Halloween.
“…under the same sun…”
“Yep, I took them to a college football game, guess they don’t have that back there in South Africa, they had no idea what was going on. It was great.”
Joe Dee Dycus, lifetime resident of Monroe, Louisiana, the Volunteer Coordinator for the B.A.S.S Nation Championship, and avid angler, and a pool guy…
“I specialize in finding leaks and repairing them underwater so the pool owners don’t have to drain the pool.”
We are driving to my hotel in his office, a four-wheel drive step way up to get in truck filled with, uh, you know, his…life.
“Sorry,” he says as he takes handfuls of stuff off the passenger seat and throws it into the back seat. As we drive he reaches behind my passenger seat and pulls out, PULLS OUT…a wet suit.
“After I drop you off I have to go diving…”
I just look at him, I have had pool guys and none every brought with them a WET SUIT.
“…the pools have been cold lately…”
I’m just listening, what would you do…
“…have to go fix a leak in the bottom of a pool today.”
So I ask, “Where are your air tanks.” Frankly I have no idea what a Pool Man in a wet suit uses as air tanks.
Joe Dee just looks at me, then says, “The fix won’t take long, I’ll just hold my breath…” and then he just smiles. He has a Band-Aid over the bridge of his nose that his sunglasses sits on, a well used white billed cap thing, and a smile that engulfs his face.
I love this guy. We become immediate buddies.
“You know db, the chance of me ever meeting and getting to know a couple from South Africa while living here in Monroe, Louisiana would be, how you say, slim, to, not at all.”
And as he says this, I nod my head, yep, and in my head I’m thinking, maybe we send the wrong people out in the world to do our business, to represent us.
Maybe, we need to keep the politicians home, and instead, send folks like…Joe Dee out there for us.
“…we all walk under…”
“When we knew we were coming to America we told ourselves that we really wanted to immerse ourself in the American culture, we may never get back here so we wanted to come here and live just like it would be like to live here. We wanted to be Americans in America.”
In the hotel lobby, both Japie and Elandi-Marie are shaking their heads, yes, in unison.
Back in his rolling office, Joe Dee is also shaking his head, “So Japie and Elandi-Marie show up on our front porch on Halloween, all dressed up in Halloween costumes.”
“We don’t celebrate Halloween back in South Africa but we went to Wal-Mart here and bought those Halloween costumes…” Elandi-Marie.
“And we bought candy to give out, how great is that you go around your neighborhood and people give you candy…” Japie.
“So they are all dressed up in these weird Halloween costumes and they sit out on our front porch giving out candy to all the kids in the neighborhood who come trick or treating…” Joe Dee.
“And then Joe Dee and his wife let us take their children down the street trick or treating…” Elandi-Marie.
“We start getting all this candy and the kids, we are having a great time…” Japie.
“So then we have this tradition in our neighborhood that we all get together for a block party on Halloween so we bring Japie and Elandi-Marie with us to our block party to meet our neighbors…” Joe Dee.
And then I ask the follow-up question, by saying nothing.
“You know db, it was like, weird, but like my wife and I, our neighbors, weird but it was like we had known Japie and Elandi-Marie, all our lives.”
And in Joe Dee’s rolling office, I turned my face to look outside the passenger window, didn’t want my new buddy to see me all choked up.
Because that’s what always happens to me when I come face to face with,
the KIND in MAN.
“…the same moon…”
“We had a great time with the neighbors, they asked us a whole bunch of questions about South Africa, they had heard about our country but never met anyone from there before…” Japie.
“Their children were great too, in South Africa our language is called, Afrikaans, that’s what we speak and the kids loved it, we actually taught the children some Afrikaans words, it was great…” Elandi-Marie.
“They were like kids again, they smiled all the time, the neighbors loved them, especially the kids, it was just like they were neighbors…” Joe Dee
“You know, it has been an extraordinary trip for us, America is an extraordinary place, the people here are so friendly, so kind, Joe Dee’s wife told me that she saw her and Joe Dee in us back when they were younger and just married…” Elandi-Marie
“db, it was great meeting them, we will be lifelong friends, you know, there’s good people everywhere.” Joe Dee
As I sat in my hotel room last night and watched the national election results, saw the same looking people say the same old stuff with the same blank looks, I couldn’t help but think, but wish, we had a pool man on the ballot.
Wish that we had a family neighborhood in Monroe, Louisiana on the ballot.
I would vote for the pool man, and his neighborhood, to represent me…anywhere.
To Japie and Elandi-Marie, and all of those who have come to this country to fish this tournament, please know this, we are not the rednecks, we are not the buffoons the media make us out to be, we are like you, we just live in another place.
Under the same sun.
Under the same moon.
With the same kindness in our hearts.
“…then why, why can't we live as one.”
Under The Same Sun