VI: Captain Dave

The afternoon of our arrival at Bluewater RV Resort, Dan unhooked our bikes from the car and we hopped on them, rode on past the privacy gate and turned left. Our bike path led us along mangrove thickets and sun washed bridges separating us from flowing tributaries of the Atlantic Ocean. A local fish camp on Geiger Key we had heard about from one of Bridgett’s dog persons was our destination. When we reached Geiger Key, about three miles south, we turned onto a single lane rode that wound past trailer huts, squatted adobe apartments with a sign in front that read “Vacation Villas for rent”, roosters crowing under palm tress, and across another small bridge protecting us from murky stagnant water. Finally we found the fish camp nestled along a lagoon, just across a bunch of mangroves languishing in the dark water like a bouquet left by a lover in the night. Directly to our south was Cuba.

The scene around us was typical Key West – steel drum band playing on the radio, a lot of Jimmy Buffet, interspersed with Mumford and Sons and The Goo Goo Dolls, thank goodness.  Men grubby with stubby unshaven faces weathered by the sun were spitting fish stories at each other in between sipping their beers while bar maids in short shorts and bar-logoed t-shirts bantered with them as if they were family. Bottles of beer were propped along the bar like miniature soldiers wearing flags on their uniforms, displaying not their country, but their lager.

People in kayaks and fishing boats skimmed by the dockside restaurant as we found a couple of stools at the far end of the bar next to a white whiskered man with a faded blue ball cap on his head and a beer bottle in his hand. He sort of grunted when we sat down next to him.

I turned to him, smiled and probably asked a question, as I’m inclined to do. Before long, we learned that “Captain Dave” as the bartenders and local patrons called the man whose place at the bar was obviously his territory, had been in the Air Force a long time ago, which he announced by saying “Look.” and pointing to his cap. He had flown in the back seat of F94 Starfire in the days of manual ejection seats (not exactly reliable in an emergency), and his job, along with the pilot, was to skew messages sent by Russian Bears, which were in the air trying to thwart US missile information.

Captain Dave regaled us with aviation stories, as well as his newest venture of taking tourists through historic canals in Massachusetts. He bought us a beer, told us he’d been living at the fish camp for over twenty years in his trailer, and he had a kayak, if we wanted to borrow it. His voice was rusty as if it hadn’t been used in awhile and his eyes were as blue as the skies he used to fly and the old canal waters he now masters.

Waving good-bye to our friend, probably forever, Dan and I hopped on our bikes to head back to the RV. Our visit to Key West and Geiger Key had already been made richer for the stories shared with us by Captain Dave. I would like to think we blessed him as well by listening with rapt attention to the history he hadn’t told in quite awhile. After all, that’s what Lent is all about – the reliving of an old Story.