Capt. Gary Henderson, Florida

July 12th, 2004

Necessary Noise
By Captain Gary (Flats Dude) Henderson

This Fourth of July, I found noise I needed. The sounds I find soul-filling; music to my ears. It begins to unfold just before dawn...

I sat out on the screened-in, back porch as the eastern sky began to show its hint of deep blue. A symphony was beginning and I had a free ticket.

A leopard frog begins warming up the orchestra with his perfect, C major voice, two octaves above middle C. "Breeeeeeeeeeeeeee"..."Breeeeeeeeeeeeee" ...then another begins to answer from the other shoreline in perfect fifths. Never together; they wait, careful to listen to each other. Another frog chimes in with another sound, kind of like fingers squeaking across wet rubber. Then another, until the grassy shoreline sets the undertone with sounds of the opening prelude.

In the early morning, as sky begins to outline the still-silhouetted shore, a cardinal calls for her mate. He answers her from a pine tree in our backyard. The stage curtain is about to raise, and the conductor, a woodpecker, taps in four-quarter time on a tree from just across the lake. The sun has yet to appear.

A mockingbird joins the group with, "Rikki...Rikki... Rikki..Rikki." The blue heron squawks somewhere from the predawn to add richness to the high squeal of the leopard frogs. A squirrel begins to bark, then another from far away. A mallard quacks loudly, just offshore, keeping the beat and calling to the sextet far away, adding his unique saxophone sound. They answer, adding dimension. A bass smashes the surface of the lake; cymbals. And, within minutes, the entire lake is the sound stage. All have joined in now; the music plays on.

I sit on the porch for an hour, or so, as Mother Nature plays just for me. My bulldog, "Flats," sits beside me, cocking his head sideways, not understanding why he can't just go chase the squirrels (he has no appreciation of fine music).

The grandkids have now arrived and they began adding to the music. Their laughter and their billions of questions blends into the lake noise; pots and pans clattering in the kitchen adds percussion, as daughter and mother chatter, affixing even more richness to the wanted commotion.

I walk to the grill down by the lake and add secret sauces to the smoking, pork ribs. Our Puerto Rican neighbors, next door, begin playing a Latin music CD, and come out and invited us to join our foods and families in celebrating the day. Another needed ingredient added perfectly to the music of life and lake.

The day plays on. Aromas, then laughter, added to different languages, added to lake sounds, added to children's laughter, all sounds becoming equaled and balanced; then harmonize.

A thunderstorm appears from nowhere, thought to others as an interruption, only adding more to the musical score. Lightning flashes, thunder crashes, leaving all to scatter. It's intermission.

Two hours pass, and the storm moves to the east and begins to subside. A drizzle of rain speckles the surface of the lake, creating a tinkling sound. The air is cooler now.

"Breeeeeeeeeeeeeee...Breeeeeeeeeeeeeee..." The leopard frog opens the second half of the concert; a fine tenor soloist.

The drizzle is still falling on the lake and through the trees, enough to dampen things, but not spirits. A dual rainbow appears from south to north and the lake folk suddenly erupt into applause, welcoming it. "Ripples" the canoe, had been placed in the lake earlier for the grandkids, and now the reflection of the rainbow appears to end at the rear seat. It had been Terry's canoe, still was. Terry's spirit was sitting there; Linda and I both noticed him. It seemed fitting that Terry and Steve had joined us at the lake. We were having ribs, Steve's favorite.

I notice others gathering around the shore, adding chairs and coolers and colored tarps. It's just past sunset.

As the stage lights dim, fireworks begin all around the lake. Blasts of color light the evening's deep, purple sky. The Master provides fingers of heat lightning that dances and etches the darkness, providing the perfect backdrop on a stage set with life. Muffled thunder rolls, must be "Mr. God's Trombones," I thought. Explosions of firecrackers and mortar shells keep time.

The frogs sing in their strange harmony. The grandkids clap for the array of showering colors, and their laughter splatters even more sparkle into the cool, night air. Our neighbors and we join in warm conversation. I lean against an old pine tree, slightly away from the others gathered on the bank, enjoying the sights, and the concert of necessary noise.

See y'all next week. ~ Capt. Gary

About Gary:

Gary grew up in central Florida and spent much of his youth fishing the lakes that dot the area. After moving a little closer to the coast, his interests changed from fresh to salt. Gary still visits his "roots" in the "lake behind the house."

He obtained his captain's license in the early '90's and fished the blue waters of the Atlantic for a little over twelve years. His interests in the beautiful shallow water flats in and around the famous Mosquito Lagoon came around twenty-five years ago. Even though Captain Gary doesn't professionally guide anymore, his respect of the waters will ever be present.

Gary began fly fishing and tying mostly saltwater patterns in the early '90's and has participated as a demo fly tier for the Federation of Fly Fishers on numerous occasions. He is a private fly casting and tying instructor and stained glass artist, creating mostly saltwater game fish in glass.


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