Trail of the Firewriter…
2010 Road Trip: Day Nineteen

My secret agenda, when I decided to come to Florida, was to attend the lady coleslaw wrestling contests held at the annual motorcycle bike-out held at Daytona Beach. I was hoping to participate. To my dismay I found I arrived a month too early.  I was going to stay a few weeks to see friends and family anyway. Visiting my cousin Cookie and her husband Michael turned out to be the most soul warming part of my stay in Florida.

They are extremely interesting people, unassuming, highly intellectual and successful, with a bent for high adventure. I must say I learned more things from Cookie and Michael than I did during my entire time at Wayne State University. It was a two day Liberal Arts education which I shall place as the highlight of my 2010 road trip.

They love animals. I was met at the door with a glare from a beautiful black and white cat named Zorro. Next came a barking ball of black fur with a tail that looked like a flag being carried by a charging civil war cavalryman. The little dog’s name was Saddie. In the background I could hear the barking of two gorgeous Border Collies. Ethel is 13, so she remained on her pillow and offered moral support to the animals confronting the visiting stranger. The other two cats, Zoe and Magic eyeballed me from a distance. I could see that cat intelligence at work. If the intruder was dangerous they would let the dogs handle it. They would wait until later to see if this new guy was friendly and approachable for pets and treats. It would be at a time of their choosing. It was the next day when Zorro befriended me. I was sitting at the dining room table, talking to Michael, when Zorro jumped up, plopped down in front of me and looked directly into my eyes. He sent a silent message saying, "Start petting big guy."

The most fun was Saddie. Every time I left the room and returned, she greeted me with that cavalry charge and loud barking. Each instance was a new meeting that involved petting, hugging and tail wagging. It was Saddie’s favorite thing. I enjoyed it as much as Saddie did.

On the last day of my visit we took a drive to see the highlights of the Palm City/ Stewart area. I learned the difference between wealth and mind boggling wealth. We went to Jupiter Island where Tiger Woods has a house, or should I say had a house. This whole area of Florida is beautiful. Instead of celebrating my last night there with a night on the town we decided to sit and talk. I was able to learn about the time in Cookie and Michael’s life where they took a hiatus and sailed the Caribbean for two years.  They nearly lost their lives in a storm off the coast of the Carolinas. They were racing into port. Tremendous waves were pounding their 40 foot sailing craft. Michael could not raise the coast Guard on his radio. As they approached the shore fate stepped in. The radio finally came alive and the Coast Guard asked for a position. Michael responded and was told in a firm voice to turn around and head out to sea. It was a dire emergency. Their boat was nearing a jetty that was hidden by the high seas and raging waves. They were only minutes from crashing into a barrier that would crush their boat and take their lives. It was a scary start for a trip that would last two years. They were seasoned sailors when their travels were over. They both agreed they never would have started the journey if they had known the dangers they would face.

Cookie told me about the beauty of being at sea on a warm balmy night with a full moon and a sky splashed with a billion sparkling stars laced with the Aurora Borealis. She said it is an experience that caresses a person’s soul. They also experienced strange sounds and sights at sea. Many were unexplainable.

One moonlit night Michael was at the helm when he saw a surge of water approaching the boat like an enormous torpedo. Whatever it was stopped short of striking the boat and turned sideways. It was a bull whale as big as the boat. He was confronting the intruder violating his territory.  The whale sounded and disappeared. Michael knew the next torpedo run would be the real thing. Bull whales will crash head first into any perceived threat. Many small boats have been sunk by whales. Michael quickly put his boat into neutral and roared the engine as a warning. The whale aborted his charge by going straight up out of the water about 20 feet from the boat. Michael said it was a magnificent animal, at least 30 or 40 feet long. When he came down there was a splash of water spraying the boat. Michael said he came close to wetting his pants. The whale disappeared and the sea again became tranquil. Cookie gave me her log of letters and I know they are full of adventures. I will read them when I get home. Michael and Cookie will always be my heroes. They have lived their lives to the fullest. They are fun to be with and if they ever go to sea again I will volunteer to be their house boy and cook.

Day nineteen ended with a sad parting. I had to go into the house two times to get my gear. Saddie gave me her cavalry charge both times with the happy tail wagging conclusion. The other dogs barked farewell from their beds. The cats, Zoe and Magic gave me bored looks. Zorro purred and brushed against me on the way out. I was sorry I had to leave but that wagon train heading west will be departing soon.

"Trail of the Firewriter" Posts

"Fire Horses" book authored by firefighter R.J. Haig.


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