This year my dad, if still alive, would be a
century old. The story I'm about to tell may
raise a few eyebrows. I will say the same words
to you as Mr. Ripply said, "Believe it or not."
A man of morals, integrity and a sense of honesty
that was projected by a handshake and his word,
and the most important ingredient was his common
sense and his heart, a heart he couldn't hide
He could be quite crusty at times, answering
my youthful questions with a grunt or a "one-liner."
I didn't understand some of those one-liners until
I grew older, and somehow they would slap me in the
face as I repeated his same answers to myself years
later as I faced the same predicaments. You see, he
was a master carpenter; there wasn't anything he
couldn't do with a piece of wood, a few nails and
a large hammer. I can't put two pieces of wood
together without making a mess. I remember I used
to nail down decking to trusses as a kid. He would
be on the ground cutting the one-by-twelves to the
perfect length. I would miss more times than I hit
and sooner than later I would hear his voice from
downstairs yell out, "You lookin' where you hittin',
or hittin' where you lookin?" I would start to giggle,
making me miss the eight-penny nail even more. Every
time I miss a nail, I hear him clearly. Even Linda
gets behind a hammer once in a while, and when she
misses the nail a few times, she just looks up and
says, "Don't say it!" But I do anyway.
I remember helping him put up solid walnut paneling
in a house. The old lady that owned the home was
pretty well off, and had hired my dad to install
it. The paneling was over fifty bucks a sheet, and
that was back in the mid sixties. I watched in
amazement as he nailed the paneling to the wall
with little brads and a twenty-two ounce framing
hammer. He would leave the nails sticking up a
sixteenth of an inch and my job was to set the
nails and cover them with a new-fangled colored
putty. I was scared to death I would leave a hammer
track in the expensive, dark wood. He never missed.
So, I asked, "How come you never leave a hammer
track in that wood?" He didn't answer for a while
and I thought maybe I had asked a question too dumb
to be answered. In a bit, never looking up, he just
said, "'Cause you ain't supposed to." What other
answer would have suited the question better? Every
time I leave the imprint of a hammer's head in a
piece of wood, he taps me on the shoulder.
I was around ten years old, and one Christmas
morning we had just finished eating breakfast.
Mom was in the house finishing up the dishes
and Dad and I were sitting outside on the old
glider behind our enormous hedge that surrounded
the front yard. An old black man appeared from
nowhere and asked my dad if he could bother us
for a cold, glass of water. He wore worn clothes
and had humbleness in his voice; a sojourner that
appeared on this special holiday. Dad had always
told me never to turn away anyone who appeared
My mother's name was Mariah, spelled Maria. Dad
always called her "Riar."
He asked the old man when was the last time
he had eaten. The only reply from the stranger
was, "I don't won't to trouble y'all none."
"You didn't answer my question." My dad's tone
of voice was the same as if he had been speaking
"Riar!" My mom appeared at the front, screen door.
"Any of those grits left? Fix him something to eat."
A platter soon arrived heaped with biscuits, eggs,
ham and grits. The old man bowed his head and said
grace, then wolfed the food as if he had never
eaten before. Before the old man left us that
crisp, Christmas morning, Dad emptied a hard
candy bag in his old, tattered coat pocket. He
thanked us and again, apologized for interrupting
our morning. My father never mentioned it again.
No need to, I had learned a valuable lesson, again.
I tell of these few stories to let you in on
what kind of a man he was. Here's "eyebrow
He was clairvoyant. He never called it that;
he only said it was a gift. He could find me
whenever he wanted me, no matter where I was
at any given time, even though I never told
him exactly where I would be. He could do the
same with Mom, and I could do the same with
either one of them. I could "see" them. Mom
didn't seem to have this "gift" and it irritated
her somewhat, I think.
He often spoke of guardians that watched
over us, and would guide us through dangers
unseen. We had a friend of mine that stayed
at our home for several months, and one night
I told Tommy of my dad's reference to these
guides, and the "gift" of being able to "see."
Tommy, of course, told me I was full of it and
totally dismissed what I had told him. The next
morning, at breakfast, my dad looked up at me,
without knowledge of what Tommy and I had
discussed and said, "Some will believe you,
some won't. Just know that you have this gift."
His words scared the hell out of Tommy, and
he was convinced I had ratted him out to my dad.
In 1973, Dad left this Earth.
Several years ago, my best friend Jim Wilson
and I had traveled down to Stuart, Florida for
a long weekend of offshore fishing. Jim brought
his motor home and we had a place reserved at
a local County park on the water.
One very early morning, I awoke at exactly 3:05 am.
My boat was anchored just off the beach and the
stern was tied to the front bumper of the camper.
I was sleeping on the dining table that made into
a bed. It was raised high enough so that I had an
unobstructed view of the boat sitting in perfectly
still water. What I saw jarred me out of a deep
sleep. A man dressed in dark pants, a light jacket
and a ball hat was walking around in my boat
lifting hatches and looking all around the cockpit.
I shook my head, looked at my watch, and shook my
head again, basically doing a reality check on my
senses. I looked out again…he was still there.
I looked to the rear of the motor home where I
could see Jim's feet sticking out from under
the covers on his bed. "Jim, are you awake?"
Jim answered that he was and I explained that
someone was in the boat. Jim asked if I had my
pistol, and we exploded out of the camper to
apprehend the rather large man that was in the
boat. No one was there. I apologized for waking
everyone and I lay in my bunk the rest of the
early morning, watching for the man to return.
Monday morning, Jim and I got together to divvy
up the bills over lunch. The "sighting" still
bothered me. I again apologized for being the
idiot that woke everyone, when Jim looked up
at me and simply said, "I saw him too." Jim
went on to ask me if I knew who it was. I knew,
but thought he would think I was nuts if I
admitted to my thoughts. Before I could answer,
Jim just says, "It's your Old Man. I always have
to walk around him every time we go offshore.
You've never seen me sidestep him?"
Tears welled in my eyes, and now I could confirm
what and who I had seen that very, early morning.
I knew it was him when I first saw him. But one
doesn't admit to those things. I do now.
A couple of gals bought the house three doors
down from our home on the lake. I fly-fish for
bluegills and bass right behind their place in
waist-deep water. They are from Philadelphia,
and I rag on them from time to time for being
"city girls" and need to get out in the lake and
let me teach them to fly-fish.
During the past hurricanes, their home was
extensively damaged and I went down to see
if they needed anything, and Nancy and I began
talking about my Florida native background and
why the lake doesn't scare me. She went on to
speak of her dad that had just recently passed
on and how much he loved to fish. Nancy began
to tear up and said she sometimes sits on their
patio and can see her dad right there with me
fishing along 'side. Before she was finished we
were both in tears as she spoke of her dad and
I spoke of mine. "Nancy, he's more than welcome
to fish with me any time he wishes, Terry, Steve
and my dad do." I explained to her what I was
A few months ago, Linda and I sat on the screened-in
back porch overlooking the lake behind the house.
She went to say something, and then hesitated,
then went on to tell me that a few nights prior,
she had been sitting out there, unable to sleep.
While sitting in the dark, she could see the lake
from the reflection of lights from the street,
then suddenly a shadow of a man, half walking
and half running appeared, he stopped instantly,
seeming to sense she was there. He looked in her
direction, and then was gone as quickly as he
had appeared. I smiled and asked her if she knew
who it was. She just nodded and asked me, "You
know who it was, don't you?"
"He's come to check out the new house. After all,
he was a homebuilder."
I've lost a few good friends over the years,
so have you. Their spirits still linger, and
I believe this to be true. I've seen them. So,
here are my simple thoughts on this.
You are welcome to believe me, or not.
Nancy's dad, my dad, Steve, Terry, and Leon
Chandler; welcome aboard. It may get crowded
once in a while, and I may appear to be speaking
to myself. But am I? I fish with ghosts...
See y'all next week. ~ Capt. 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.