It's goin' to be a long time gone..."
Yet, it chases me.
I run from it. And I run to it.
I seek it. It seeks me.
No days off, for it, or me.
I am the cat, I am the mouse.
I can feel it as it sulks the darkness. Surfs the humidity, breaks my dreams.
I tell my wife, "I feel shaky," and she says, "eat something." So I do.
But I still shake because, the chase is on. I know it. It knows it.
I believe there is a life force in the universe that I feed from, that feeds from me. It's not me that needs to "eat something," it is IT that is hungry.
I am the cat, I am the mouse.
And last night, I was the mouse.
As it found me.
This life force, we call … the "Story."
A day or so before as we drove by, I told my wife, "You know I should do a story about this."
But I drove on.
With the empty beaches of the Mississippi Gulf Coast in my rear-view mirror.
But I had given it life. The universe, mouth-to-mouth. Challenged it. Invoked … Story.
And it chased me, followed me for days as we drove the db/bb/rv to the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year playoff event.
Always in the back of my mind, the Story I should have done, the back of my mind where the universe speaks.
So I wasn't surprised that while standing almost alone in a hot, humid, dimly lit railroad station with the Alabama sunset leaning on my back that the story came.
Through Elite Pro, Greg Hackney.
"...you know there's something that's goin' on around here,
it surely, surely, surely won't stand the light of day..."
I believe that if we want to see our true reflection, the mirror we must look into is, EARTH.
And that when we make Mother Earth bleed, she bleeds our future. The blood of our children.
That thought never left me as we drove by the Mississippi beaches of Bay St. Louis and Long Beach.
I am not going to make a political statement here, not my style, but I will make this statement, what I saw made me sad.
Sad about what we do to the planet.
And sad about what the planet does to us.
On the driver's side of the db/bb/rv … Katrina.
On the passenger's side … BP.
And sad for those caught between land and sea.
I started to ask Greg Hackney about how in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina he used his boat to go to New Orleans to rescue his Father-in-Law, Andy Hillery…
…but that wasn't the story that chased me here.
Sometimes I am the cat.
Last night … I was the mouse.
"You know Greg as we drove here we drove through Bay St. Louis and Long Beach Mississippi and…"
"db … really … Bay St. Louis … funny you should mention that."
Funny, or something entirely different? Something that made me mention that one tiny detail that had nothing to do with what I thought the story was.
When in fact the story, had its own tale to tell.
"You know db, can't believe you would talk about Bay St. Louis and the oil spill, but mentioning Katrina … did you know that my Father-in-Law, the same guy I used my boat to get in New Orleans after Katrina, that same guy had a house in Bay St. Louis that had been in his family for almost 200 years, or some crazy long time."
I had no idea, but inside I knew,"ahhh" that's why Mapquest took us through that route that lead to this conversation in this time and place.
The Story wanted out.
"How did his place make out?"
"It didn't db. It was Andy's Great-Great Grandfather's home, right there on the Gulf, right across from the water. It took a direct hit. All that was left were the concrete steps that they poured back around 1937."
A century of memories lost. Silenced by the wind. The story left untold.
Until it chased me down.
"db it was like the earth was wiped clean in that spot, nothing was there, all the heirlooms, gone, all the pictures, gone, a 500-pound cast iron clawfoot bathtub, gone, just like it disappeared off the planet."
And then a man and his young son walked up to us and asked Greg if he would take a picture with them. One photo of the man and Greg, one of the child and Greg, and then one of all three as I put down the pen and picked up the man's tiny pocket digital camera for a group shot.
As Greg and I walked back around his boat to finish our conversation, he stopped and leaned against the boat right about at the spot where his name was printed. Stopped, thought, and said …
"You know my wife, Julie, went back there soon afterward and spent a couple of days looking for stuff and she only found only found a couple pieces of plates -- that was all she found."
I didn't say much … didn't have to at this point, the story wasn't mine.
"You know now, I don't take anything for granted anymore. I appreciate everything I have.
"What has happened out in the gulf lately db, couldn't have happened in a worse place. It's one of the most fertile places on earth. Everything is so fragile.
"I don't take the sea for granted. We just can't abuse it like we do."
Between land and sea is the mirror …
"Mother Nature is bad enough, and we just, we just poured salt in the wound."
… we all must look into.
That's, The Story."...you got to speak your mind,
if you dare."
Long Time Gone
Crosby, Stills & Nash
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.