This was a long-awaited day in which the pieces finally came together to allow us a day on the beach at Gulf State Park. Our memories of this beach as a place with pure white sand, turquois water, and warm water and air have persisted for over 40 years. I have wished to come back here many times for that experience. The conditions today were not as perfect as they were on that memorable day, but they were pretty good. The water was warm and felt good. (That’s after I gathered my courage to get into the water. The authorities were flying a purple flag along with the yellow one, and that purple flag indicates a hazard from sea life. I thought it was primarily a jellyfish warning, so I talked with a guy who was fishing. He confirmed that it is a warning for jellyfish, which are more of a problem later in the summer. But he also said that it was a warning about sharks. We were near a huge fishing pier, and he told me sharks congregate around the pier because people clean their fish and throw the carcasses back in the water. Hmm.) We were 100 yards from the pier, and the fishing activity was pretty far out on the pier, so I didn’t really think I was shark bait by going in the water where I was.
We left the beach at about 4:00 and headed for a local seafood restaurant (DeSoto’s). Don’t tell anyone, but we were attracted by their “earlybird senior special” menu. I ordered fried oysters, because I am still taken aback by how good they were a couple days ago. E ordered grilled shrimp.
When we got back to the campground we saw that a fisherman was cleaning his catch out at the end of the dock. Several pelicans and a Great Blue Heron were hanging around looking for handouts. E was excited to go see the birds. I was looking for an opportunity to talk with an interesting-looking fisherman. We both got what we wanted. As the fisherman began to tell his story it turned out to be a great story for sharing.
Dr. Gary is a retired veterinarian from Iowa. For the first 20 years of his practice he was a traditional vet, primarily serving dairy farms. By that point in his life he was pretty burnt out, and could barely rub two dimes together to show for all his work. He had a friend who wanted to invite him to a conference on acupuncture. As he tells the story, he thought acupuncture was pretty much a hoax. He told this to his friend before he found out that his friend was an advocate of acupuncture. Gary was embarrassed to have offended his friend, and to eat humble pie he agreed to go with him to the conference. Well, Gary must have had an open mind, in spite of his skepticism, because this was the turning point in his career. He went on to become one of only a handful of acupuncture-certified vets in the country. He turned his practice into an acupuncture veterinary practice.
A few months ago Gary lost his wife, Vicky. She must have been a wonderful person, and they must have had a lovely life together. Gary is working through the stages of his grief, and it seemed like he really appreciated the opportunity to talk. We learned a lot about Gary’s life and family in this brief time of listening to a fisherman’s stories.
After the stories, and after the fish were cleaned, I was able to enjoy my second beautiful sunset at the Bay Breeze RV Park.