Dolphins Saved My Life

I can’t tell you the reasons why Bernie and I went to Miami in 1959, because I can’t remember. It was a stupid thing to do. We were both eighteen, and broke at the time. We borrowed a credit card from Johnny Maxwell, a broke, out of work stagehand. We put our stuff in Bernie’s new ’59 Ford convertible and set off for Miami Beach

I vaguely remember having some kind of crisis on the road south, but I can’t remember what it was. I just remember being pulled off on the side of the road in a place where the road was the only sign of humanity. One of us finally caught a ride to the next town and got gas or oil or whatever this brand new Ford needed. We eventually got to Miami and checked into the Aztec Hotel. We met the pool boy there, a short, Mickey Rooney sort of guy. He was wild, and took his job to be making love with any older women and their daughters that stayed at the Aztec. But that’s another story.

Bernie had a prosthetic right leg from the knee down. A Toronto street car had severed it in an accident when he was twelve. I helped him out in the water or on the beach, although he was far from helpless. We were exploring all the tiny creatures in the shallow water close to shore. For a couple of days, the water had been black with a vast school of fish, Mullet I think they were called. I saw a kid about ten years old standing by the water. He had a diving mask, flippers and a spear gun.

I went over to the kid and asked to borrow the mask and gun. I didn’t want the flippers, and besides, they wouldn’t have fit me. The kid didn’t mind, so I took the mask and gun and swam out into the midst of the mullet school. I ducked under and was faced with a wall of fish swimming toward me and gently parting to flow around me. There was no space between fish, the water was totally filled with them. I figured I couldn’t miss, so I just shot the spear into their midst. I guess they felt it coming because they parted just enough for the spear to shoot harmlessly through a tunnel of fish.

Porpoise Protection

I re-loaded the spear gun, and this time took careful aim at a nice, plump Mullet. I nailed it, right through, just behind the gills. Suddenly, a large, dark shape swam past me. I freaked out. What if it’s a shark, and I’m here with a bleeding Mullet. I Saw it again, and it was a shark, about four feet long. They said it was a Sand Shark. I was afraid to make any frantic moves that might mean ‘injured prey’ to a shark. I learned later that a film crew was filming one of Lloyd Bridges “Sea Hunt” episode down the beach a ways, and one of the guys on the crew had a Sand Shark Chomp on his leg. They got him on shore and had to slash the belly of the shark several times so they could cut enough muscles to get the jaws open and free the guy’s leg.

A moment later, another large shape swam past me and almost touched me. It was a Porpoise. I saw two other porpoises, and I swear, the three of them were circling me, keeping a couple of sharks at bay. Apparently, a shark can be disabled by a hard hit in the side from a Porpoise’s snout. Sharks stay clear of Porpoises, although in this case the sharks were feasting on the same school of Mullet in which I was hunting.

I made my way to shore under the protection of porpoises. I returned the mask and spear gun to the kid, and left the fish on the spear for him. I’d had the adventure; I didn’t want the fish. The kid’s parents had the hotel dining room prepare it for their next meal.

After meeting some women and having some Miami challenges, we headed for home, 1600 miles away. At a later date, Bernie and I became independently solvent and bailed out good old Johnny Maxwell.

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