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In every person's life there are some events that are never forgotten. Most of these special memories occur in our childhood while our minds are still young and fresh. And each of these memories is generally tied to a special someone that somehow in a single moment or series of moments influences our life in ways we never imagine as a child.

For me, that special someone was a fish. Yes, I said a fish. Not just any fish. One special fish. A fish that was a part of my life for four years, and even now reappears in my thoughts and dreams. That damn fish just won't go away. And over time, somehow I have come to think of him as a friend. Even though as a child I was sure he was gonna eat me.


I wonder, is a prologue like a monologue, except before you say it? Oh well, I digress.  Before telling you my big fish story, I need to give you a little background. Some of you know me, and some of you don't. But soon all of you will know more about me than you will ever wish to. You can run, but you can't hide, lol.

After having written several of these stories in joke format, I guess it's time I get serious and make a book out of it. So, all of the previous stories are going to be gathered together and placed into a time ordered sequence, just like they really happened. YES, THEY ARE ALL TRUE. As true as my old brain full of stuffing will let them be. They say the brain is a terrible thing to waste, and boy do I feel terrible.

I always wanted to be a singer or guitar player. Seven years of music lessons. And all I can do is empty a building of people in less than 30 seconds flat. Dad suggested I sing tenor, which I thought was awesome until he informed me that he meant I should sing ten or twenty miles from home.

My second ambition in life was to be a writer. The next Steven King, but my whole life I felt it was an insurmountable task. Let's face it, no one would read the junk I write. Until now. When I started writing this I had a mailing list of thousands. Hopefully at least a few of you are still reading, maybe even one of you will finish this.

I understand now why I write, and why I wanted to sing, because it's the best way to say what is inside. Be it sadness, happiness or tears, music and the written word express them well. Well, for some people, maybe not the tedster. But believe me, if you think my writing and singing are bad, try just listening to me ramble on sometime. Speaking of rambling... ok.. it's gonna be a book.. now back to the beginning...

In the beginning.. there was a scrawny little boy named Steven, whose Daddy loved to unmercifully refer to him as "Stevie Weevie"...... I CANT TAKE IT ANY MORE........... Stop Laughing.... I SAID STOP LAUGHING... IF YOU DON'T STOP LAUGHING AT ME, I'M GONNA E-MAIL TEN MILLION PEOPLE "YOUR" MIDDLE NAME.... Oh..... Now you get quiet...


Before Marathon, I spent nine years as a prisoner in a snow-infested land called Indiana. A boy's prison if there ever was one. Six months out of the  year we were forced to wear big heavy coats, boots and mostly stay inside. For a young lad like myself that was truly a prison.

So when spring came, it was off with the shirt and back to shorts. All the boys would race down the hill to Williams Creek (Which explains how I got all the stitches in my forehead, story next time), carrying our fishing poles, hooks baited with Oscar Myers hot dogs (yes, I said hot dogs, we were only kids remember), and battle it out in the raging waters of Williams Creek to see who was really a man (He who catches the biggest fish).

I never caught the biggest fish. It was always Kevin, or Kent or even once my little sister (Oh... how humiliating, so much so that I remember it 30 odd years later).

The trips to the creek may have resulted in more injuries than fish, but they were truly formative in how they affected my mind. My little boy mind learned to think in terms of "To be respected you had to catch the biggest fish". The point might not be clear to you now, but I promise shortly you will begin to understand my fishing "obsession" and how it, and the Barracuda, affected my life. I became determined to catch the biggest fish, but never did I dream that it would decide to catch me... At least I never dreamed that "before it happened".


Several things happened about that time. Things that I'm not sure you would believe. And so I won't go into them much. I doubt many of you would believe that I am the grandson of the man that Time Magazine called, "The second largest landholder in the world", that there were kidnapping threats on the lives of my siblings and I, etc... So for now....

I will pass on these and simply say that events happened that precipitated a sudden move to Florida.

And somewhere between 1968 and 1970 (short memory here), during the time of Woodstock, Vietnam and some guy saying "One Small Step for Man...." (well you get the idea)... one little boy and his family moved to the Florida Keys... towards my destiny with a big fish....


When we arrived in Florida my parents decided that they wanted to live on an island. We stayed at several hotels, but finally decided upon "The Lagoon Motel" in Marathon, Florida. We met some really nice people, "The Tanners", and stayed right on the water. It was great. For the first time in my life I was next to "Real Water". Not that fake water like they have up north. This was real water with salt, and everything (The ocean).

And most of all BIG FISH.

The hotel sat on a canal, with our cabin right next to the water. You could walk down the wooden docks to where all the charter fishing boats were tied up. I spent half my time bent over the edge of the dock trying to look for fish (There were a lot of what I considered, at the time, big ones).

I fished every single moment I could for several days. For once, I was going to catch the biggest fish. After fishing I would jump in the water to wash the fishy smell off. I never once even thought of the fact that there were VERY BIG FISH in the water. I was young, naive, and more than a little stupid (anyone who ties the dog to the back of the van bumper and forgets to tell Dad, is stupid, and thank goodness the dog survived).

On the third day I finally caught a big fish. OK, to me it was a big fish (5 pounds). Remember, I was only 9. It fought like the dickens (I have no idea what that word means, does anybody?). It took me five minutes to land it, and when I did, I had no idea what it was. It was all kinds of colors, a bright green body, bright orange gills and a beak. Just like a bird. I don't remember exactly what I thought at the time, but I do know I was scared to death of a fish that was all those weird colors...

Fortunately, Mr. Tanner came along. He explained to me that the fish was called a "parrot" fish, which makes sense because it has all the same colors as a parrot. He was also kind enough to explain to me that the beak was for breaking rocks, so that the parrot fish could eat rocks (coral is actually a living organism). Then he helped me throw the parrot fish back (umm... I heard somewhere that parrots bite).

Next I caught some little fish (about a pound) that made weird noises. It scared the heck out of me when I reached for the fish and it made a grunting noise at me. Mr. Tanner said those were called "Grunts". Oh duh.... And when I caught a little fish that blew itself up in a ball, he called that a "Puffer".


Later that day.. I caught a little fish.. about a foot long... It look a little like a trout. I reached out to grab it, and Mr. Tanner came running. 

He hollered. Don't touch it! Give me a break, this fish was skinny and couldn't even weigh a pound.

I was really beginning to have my doubts about Mr. Tanner. First he tells me that the green thing is called a parrot fish (after some deep thought I had begun to think he was teasing me). A fish that made a noise was called a "grunt". And one that blew itself into an air-filled ball covered with spikes was called a puffer. Oh lets not forget the snapper (I understood that one when it snapped its little teeth down on my little finger).

So I ask him, "Why not?" He says that fish will take my fingers off.

Huh? This little fish take my fingers off? I don't think so. I started to reach for it again. He grabbed my hand with one of his. Then with his other hand he grabbed the little fish. He used the fishing line to pull the fish's jaws open. And then I believed. I have never seen a fish with more teeth than a barracuda. And I profusely thanked Mr. Tanner (after counting my fingers). I said, wow. I sure am glad that they are small. I was swimming down here a little while ago. That was the last time I ever jumped into "the ocean" without looking. Because Mr. Tanner told me that he had personally seen one of these fish that was 6 feet (um... I was about 3 feet at the time, that meant the fish he saw was twice as big as me... yikes), and had heard that some had been seen as big as 10 feet. He also said that sometimes they swam in schools of hundreds of them.

But the scariest news was when he told me that Marathon and the Florida Keys were the world's largest breeding ground for barracudas. This was where the big barracuda's came to make little barracudas. Swimming anyone?

I kept looking at him, at the fish and the little wet foot prints from  where I had been swimming just a short while ago. Thanks to that little barracuda, and Mr. Tanner, I have never gone into the water without looking first.... 


Later that day, my father announced that we had a new home. There was a lot of jumping up and down, hollering and screaming (sorry about catching my hook in your leg Dad), followed by a ton of questions. Where, when, how's the fishing?

The next day, destiny and I met. Or I should say, me and Big Daddy, the king of the barracudas. It started innocently enough. We piled into the family van (Oh what an ugly shade of green) and headed to our new home.

Marathon is located 58 miles north of Key West. The northern end of the  island is connected to a series of 33 bridges leading back to Miami and the great up north. The southern end of the island is connected to the longest bridge in the U.S. Called simply "The Seven Mile Bridge", it leads from Marathon towards Key West. The biggest building on the island is "Fisherman's Hospital" which says a lot about the locals if you really think about it, lol.

So here I am. Right dab smack in the middle of all this ocean. Wonderful, at least that's what I thought until I reached our new home, and met Big Daddy, King of the Barracudas.

We pull up to our new home. Our fist thought, wow, it's kinda small remember we were on the road from riches to rags). But that was only the view from the front (in island terminology, the landward side is called the back...). What Dad hadn't told us was that the other side of the house was on a canal. A canal leading to the Gulf of Mexico, or to us kids "the ocean". It took all of ten seconds for me to look over the house and grow bored, and a lifetime has been spent thinking about that little backyard plot of land adjacent to the ocean.

My first thought was... Why didn't I bring my fishing poles... Eeek! I was in heaven. We had arrived. Our little family consisted of: Father known as  Dad, mother known as Mom, a little sister named Ginny and yours truly, Stevie Weevie (I really hated that name). Oops we had Ding Dong the Dog, and the invisible sibling (maybe I'll explain someday, and then again maybe I won't). Just the 6 of us, or make that 7 as you will soon see...

So, while the adults are looking through the house (It turns out Mr. Tanner had bought the house next to our new home, and had talked my Dad into this one) yours truly was running around outside. The first thing I did was run to the water. I took in a deep breath and tasted the salt of the ocean in the air (Not to mention a little stale seaweed). I was thrilled. All us kids and the dog are having a great time running around. It's a little boys idea of heaven.

Then I got serious. It was time to check out the fishing. I examined our waterfront property. The back of our home was at the exact end and center of the canal so we had a direct view of the ocean. The seawall along the back of our new home was a concrete wall. There was a dock that was basically a wooden staircase going down into the ocean. You could walk right down into the ocean. TOO COOL.... The adults explained to me that the water was 15 to 20 feet deep. WOW... And it was fairly clear. I could make things out on the bottom (barely). And despite the sun's refection (glare) I could see fish swimming. YESSSSS! A chance to prove my manhood (at 9?). Life is good.

I wanted a better view of the fish. I had learned at the Lagoon Motel that if you lay down next to the docks and look under them into the shade that you can see a lot farther underwater because the docks shade  blocks the suns glare. So I ran next door, to what was going to be Mr. Tanner's dock. I climbed down on his dock which was a flat wooden dock which was only about a foot above the water and leaned over the edge. I could see fish. Big Fish. Some of them 5 or even ten pounds swimming down there. I was going to catch the biggest fish. Prove I was a man. And feel good about myself. LIFE IS GOOD...

Then I picked up a few rocks and started skipping them on the water.

Then simply throwing them to watch the small fish scatter. LIFE WAS GREAT.

And then.....


I threw a rock.... a big one, about the size of my hand... it hit the  water with a splash. The fish scattered... it began to sink... and then a huge black shape came racing up and stopped just inches from my sinking rock. This big shape had eyes. It was a fish. A FRIGGING HUGE FISH... the biggest fish I had ever seen in my life... And it looked at me with those big, black dead fish eyes... (Yes... fish can see us as... well as we can see them) It opened its mouth slowly (It's teeth were as big as my fingers)... and it swallowed my rock....

There was a lot of screaming... (nothing coherent I'm sure) After all... what exactly would you scream in that situation.. ummm.. Big Fish... Big Fish.. BIG FISH? Or "IT SWALLOWED MY ROCK"? I was like a miniature air raid siren.. but louder... and the adults came running...

The barracuda is still sitting there looking at me... The adults look at that huge fish... the fish spits out the rock... which starts to slowly sink... the fish takes one last look at us.. then it turns and s-l-o-w-l-y swims off. I swear if a fish can swagger, that fish was swaggering as it swam off. If there had been bubbles, I'm sure when they had popped they would have sounded like an evil laugh... heckling the screaming little boy... the little boy whose name just might be.... LUNCH.....

Mr. Tanner tried to calm me down. He said that Barracudas (BARRACUDAS!!!) rarely ever attack people. Ummm.... if you are a nine year old boy.. you don't think about the millions of people who didn't get eaten by barracudas... you think about the ones who did... And especially about the next one... This guy sure wasn't helping.

He did try... He explained that there are barracudas all over Florida (No child psychologist here), that they rarely bite people (oops), and that this particular barracuda had been living in the canal for years (just what I wanted to hear) and had never bitten a single person (yet).

I asked if we could get a house on a different island, but Dad just laughed. But later, I heard him asking Mr. Tanner the same questions I had. He had seen the fish, and he had seen me. Let's face it, if there was a contest, I didn't have a chance... Mr. Tanner laughed and said the Barracuda was harmless. One thing I realized after all these years, I knew Mr. Tanner for years, but I never once saw "him" get into the water.


Mr. Tanner had a little girl named Nancy. Nancy Tanner. She was about two years younger than me. She was also the world's biggest tomboy. I remember one thing in particular.. she loved Scooby Doo... If anything fun happened.. if she caught a fish.. or was just in a good mood.. You would hear her call out Scooobbyyy Dooooooobbbbbyyyyy Dooooooooo....

Well, there was one day she wasn't thinking about Scooby Dooo. That was the day she almost became lunch for The Five Foot Barracuda. There were four of us kids out on a little sailboat called a sunfish. We were coming back from an island that was half a mile offshore. We were coming back against the wind (what little wind there was) and were having to zig zag (tack) back and forth to get home. We would go from one side of the canal to the other and would only move 20 feet forward. It was taking forever... So we got bored and someone (who shall remain nameless) threw Nancy Tanner in the water....

Nancy started swimming for our dock. Then my dad yells that the barracuda is under the dock. This is normally a joke to all of us. We yell it all the time. Along with "Shark.. Sharkkkk.. everytime someone goes swimming... " But this time he seemed serious and went running... for a spear...

None of us knew what to do.... I couldn't get to Nancy with the boat (we were facing the other way with the wind against us... The barracuda was under the dock she was swimming to... and the other side of the canal is a long way... Nancy swims back and forth in several different directions in her panic and makes trying to pick her up with the sailboat even harder. We are all in a panic....

Then our hero arrives.. My Dad... He had a lobster jig (A four-foot wood shaft with a metal head that has four big spear tips on it). He climbs down the steps of the dock... grabs the spear by the top of the shaft... raises his arms in the air.. and shoves it down with all his might... making a big splash... Unbelievably, he hit that barracuda with all his might.... with a spear with four heavy duty metal prongs on it... and the barracuda just sat there... Dad raises up the spear.. all the prongs are bent in different directions (Barracuda scales are like armor).... and Dad stands there too stunned to speak as the Barracuda swims off s-l-o-w-l-y... Nancy isn't eaten, but we all have a new respect for the fact that if the barracuda chose to eat any one of us at any time, we were lunch. No ifs' no ands, no butts... Simply the barracuda decided if we lived or died.... All but Mr. Tanner who with all his words of wisdom never went in the water.....


Like I said, "The Barracuda" had become a legend. It was known to all the neighbors, and it was known to all of their friends. It was even known to all of our friends a thousand miles away in the cold lands of Indiana. Brr.... I hate even thinking about snow....

So when we would have visitors come down from up north, they would want to go out behind the house and see if they could see "The Barracuda". There weren't barracudas. There was just one Barracuda. No other fish in the ocean, before or since, has held such a reputation among us land lubbers. Simply, there are billions of fish in the ocean, but if you say "The Barracuda" to people who lived in Marathon back in those days, they will know exactly which fish you meant. He was special, also a member of the family, and like I said a celebrity...

Ok.. there was one fish more famous... Down the road about 30 miles on another Island was a placed called "Theatre of the Sea". That's the place where all the "Flipper" episodes were filmed. I have to agree that Flipper was more famous, but first, Flipper was a mammal, not a fish, and second... Flipper was penned in a small area (It only looked like he had the freedom to swim in and out) and had to be bribed with fish. Our barracuda was a free spirit that hung around our homes by choice... So I stand by the fact that he was the most famous fish in Marathon, Florida during the 60's and 70's.

Some friends of Dad's decided to come down for a visit. The father's name was Bob. And to this day I don't know what he said to Dad to piss him off, but he must have... They had an argument around the side of the house, and then came out back trying to pretend everything was OK.

So Bob's standing in our back yard in a three piece suit and tie (Kinda uppity up for the Florida Keys in the summer time). He insists on seeing "The Barracuda". And he didn't mean later. He wanted to see it NOW. Ummm.. remember this is a fish with a mind of its own living in the ocean (Unlike Flipper in his underwater cage). Well, all us kids run to find the barracuda... We look under the docks, the boats, all over. No barracuda.

Bob starts with, there really isn't a barracuda, the whole attitude thing... about at this point Dad looks under our dock, and says..Bob... come here.... I see "The Barracuda". Bob comes over, leans out a little but can't see anything. Dad says.. You have to lean out a little so you can look under the dock without getting the sun's glare... Bob still can't see the barracuda... Dad leans out and says.. I can still see him.. He's still there... Bob looks.. No Barracuda... leans father... starts to say something.., Dad gives him a push. Bob goes in, suit and all... and scrambles to get out of the water. Away from the Barracuda. I was never so proud of Dad as I was that day. :-)

Other incidents occurred with the barracuda, a few minor tangles with the local black tip and shovel nose shark populations, but nothing really bad happened. In the winter we had schools of 3 and 4 foot barracuda come in, but we weren't worried because none of us went swimming in the cold.


But my obsession with that Barracuda grew. If I could catch "The now "Six Foot Barracuda", I would be a hero. I dreamed about that fish. And truth be known, I still do. In the daytime I might be afraid of him, or at least indifferent, but at night in the safety of my bed, I had the courage of a lion at dinner time. In my silly child's mind I dreamed of putting a ramp on top of the house, mounting a big spear on the front of it... and riding the bike off the roof (spear first) to joust the evil barracuda and save the princess (We'll talk about BaddTeddy's first crush some other time).

You see what I'm telling you ... don't you... that somehow in my mind... my need to prove myself... to stop feeling like a failure.. to be a grown up... was to prove myself in a contest of man versus beast... As a child.. boy versus barracuda.. in my stories... teddy bear versus dragon...

That barracuda was the first real dragon I ever faced... and I dreamed of saving the princess from it... (I know it sounds lame now, but I was only 9 years old, so GIVE ME A BREAK.....)


Sooner or later it was bound to happen... The barracuda and I would both be in the water at the same time... and we would meet... and I had to remember the most important lesson you can ever learn when dealing with animals... SHOW NO FEAR....

It was a hot summer day. The family was playing in the back yard. A friend of mine (Andy) and I were going lobstering. Basically, this meant we put on face masks and snorkels (He wore one, I never could stand using snorkels). He was wearing flippers (to make him swim fast) and I was barefoot. I loved the feel of the ocean and hated to cover myself with all that plastic stuff.

So we start going down the canal... Swimming down to the bottom and along the canal walls looking for antennas (Lobster, not car) sticking out of holes in the coral. Once we saw the antennas we would reach into the walls and grab the lobsters. And hope nothing else grabbed us.

So here we go down the canal, innocent as can be. Just another day. Nothing special. Not expecting anything to happen. A perfect day to be a kid.

We start to swim into a small cave in the canal wall. It's almost shaped like a U-turn... just a few feet into the wall and then you come back out... and so we swim in looking down... for lobsters... and then I decide I need air (who doesn't). So I look up and I am face to face with "The Now Six Foot Barracuda". It is less than two feet from my face. I start to scream (not the best idea underwater). The barracuda opens it's mouth, all the way.... There are teeth inside that would give a pit bull nightmares... A whole lot of teeth.. and they are less than two feet from my face...

I screamed again, (still underwater)...


...  (Bubble... Bubble........) all thoughts of courage, fighting the metaphorical dragon and saving the princess gone..... I turned and swam as fast as I could towards the dock... My mask had fallen off when I screamed and was dragging behind me. I had no flippers (for speed), no snorkel for air, and I swam approximately 150 feet without stopping for air once.... I was a lean mean swimming machine... and I was heading for shore....... I was heading for the dock... the one in our back yard with the steps that went down into the water.. When I reached them... I didn't bother trying to walk up... I swam up the steps.. and I was still swimming when I got up on the concrete and then the grass.. I was still trying to swim and they were holding me down... It took them a few minutes to get me calmed down.. Not to mention breathing and the water out of my lungs.... and I kept trying to tell them what happened (between gulps of air) and then they all started laughing...

I WAS MADDDDDDDDDDD... I was nearly killed... My head had nearly been inside the mouth of a huge Barracuda and then I had nearly drowned trying to get away... How dare they laugh at me....

I was so furious I couldn't listen to what they had to say.. And they were laughing so hard that they could barely say even a single word. Finally Dad caught his breath and explained....

They had heard me scream... The whole neighborhood had heard me scream.... And I had screamed so bad that I had scared the barracuda... Andy who I had forgotten about told me that he had seen the barracuda just after I did, he had seen the barracuda open it's jaws when the barracuda and I had accidentally almost bumped into each other, but he had seen something I hadn't. He saw me scream that air raid scream of mine... and he saw the look in the barracuda's eyes as it turned around as fast as it could to swim the other way. I had screamed so loud that I had scared the barracuda away...

What Dad and the others had been trying to tell me is that two seconds after they saw me scream and start swimming towards shore, they had seen the barracuda come shooting down the canal "away" from me. They had all realized what had happened long before I got to shore (The barracuda and I had scared each other) but because I would not stop swimming for air, or the steps for that matter, they hadn't been able to tell me... And so seeing me swim all that way, screaming underwater while the barracuda did the same thing in the other direction, it had been all they could do not to start laughing as I swam up the steps of the dock and onto shore....


The barracuda and I lived with each other in peace after that. Often sitting there just a short distance apart. Me with my fishing pole, and him with those black cold dead fish eyes. Over the years, thinking about it, I even started to think of him as a friend in a way. I've realized that at any time he wanted too he could have eaten me, but he hadn't. And he gave me something wonderful. One of those special childhood memories that will last forever, and a reason to write this story. Looking back I feel almost guilty. The last time I had seen him, the water had been extra clear, the sun had been at just the right angle, and I had seen four new scars on the back of his head. Scars from my father's jig. Maybe he was just curious watching Nancy and he really wasn't looking for a Scooby Snack (Sorry, I just had to say it)...

A Division of Say You, Say Me, Inc.