Capt. Gary Henderson, Florida

March 14th, 2005


By Captain Gary (Flats Dude) Henderson
As we sit by the campfire, sparks carried by the heat begin their arduous journey into the dark sky, then disappear far above us, but are they extinguished? Quietness of the night, the crackle of the fire, the feeling of security as we speak softly to each other. We are careful not to interrupt the ambiance. Deep shadows dance to the silent music of the flames that are creating and reflecting pleasing orange hues on the distant woods, and on us as we warm ourselves.

Much like life itself, these sparks. Skyward and burning, then off into the darkness to abate. Maybe, maybe not. I see a similarity to lives; the likeness to fire and embers and sparks.

The flying and gliding embers, carried by gentle breezes, touching, then another fire has begun, caused by the sparks; the sparks of enthusiasm and knowledge. The enthusiasm of life, its spark that now has set a fire within someone else, then repeated time and time again, passing from one to another, regenerating as long as time itself; eternal.

I sat and read a long thread here on FAOL yesterday. A thread created by Deanna about Al Campbell. I read about a man that I've never met, but somehow know very well, simply, by reading what others wrote about him. A man of conscience, a man casting sparks into the star-scattered night. A man causing fires within hearts and souls that have spawned more sparks. And if we are lucky, we have caught a few of Al's sparks.

What do you think about reincarnation? I believe in it, I've written about it before. I've spoken of spirits, and ghosts. I've seen them, and I speak with them…often. So, you don't care to believe? That's okay. But look around you. See that spark over there? Can you feel that warmth, that burning? Who started it? Where was that fire; who was that fire? Look inside of your soul, your inner strength. Do you have a quiet fire burning, if so, where did it come from? The answer is obvious, friend. It comes from folks just like Al Campbell.

We never know where our sparks may land, or who they will touch. Just like the ripples in the lake behind the house, they touch things, they touch lives. And, if we are fortunate, our sparks will spread to others, and others will continue the process with the same vigor we have, or once had.

How many lives has Al Campbell touched? What differences has he made? Here's an excerpt from one of his articles, "The Meaning of Life", I found quite amusing...

"The meaning of life, huh? Let's see; maybe it's the way we raise our kids. There's a good one. People tell me that my legacy in life is my kids, and what kind of people they grow up to be. Oh my, I hope that isn't it. Kids are like clay; you mold them the best you can and pray for the rest. In my case, it's plainly obvious that I'm no artist. It's also obvious I need to practice praying more often than I do. Still, I hope for the best and hang on, praying that all those wild oats I sowed when I was young fail to produce a crop."

My kind of guy. Common sense and a good and healthy mix of humor. That's Al. Guess he touched me with one of his sparks, and I never met the man face to face. Sad, I should have. But all of the shuddas, wuddas, and cuddas have gone now.

So, how many have had Al Campbell's sparks fall upon them? Let's see. I'll pull a few quotes from the members...

"I am thankful for the knowledge that Al has shared with members of the fly fishing community. He was greatly appreciated, and he will be greatly missed."

"My heart weeps."

"There will be an empty place - a place on this board that will never be filled."

"You made me feel important for just a little while."

"Although I never met Al in person, I feel as though I know him personally through his writings here."

"The reflections of greats past and present are the true treasures of this great weekly production. It is the true gift from the heart."

"Having never met the man, it's hard to say I know him. But if someone were to ask, I surely say I did.

Just a random sampling of what our readers are saying. Sparks? Loads of 'em, scattered upon us from a man that most, like me, have never met, but somehow knew. And how fortunate are those that call him "friend."

I go back to my belief in reincarnation. I look around, and it's reaffirmed. Those, like Al, that have scattered their sparks wisely are all around, not gone forever, and their sparks continue to burn, then reignite more flames to make great differences in the lives they have touched. I am careful where my sparks are going, and what they are saying.

As we sit by the campfire of life, listen. Listen to the winds that blow through the pines and you will hear their voices. They are there. Their sparks have been scattered among us so that we may continue the fires to warm others.

Good Night, Al Campbell...thanks. ~ Capt. Gary

About Gary:

Gary grew up in central Florida and spent much of his youth fishing the lakes that dot the area. After moving a little closer to the coast, his interests changed from fresh to salt. Gary still visits his "roots" in the "lake behind the house."

He obtained his captain's license in the early '90's and fished the blue waters of the Atlantic for a little over twelve years. His interests in the beautiful shallow water flats in and around the famous Mosquito Lagoon came around twenty-five years ago. Even though Captain Gary doesn't professionally guide anymore, his respect of the waters will ever be present.

Gary began fly fishing and tying mostly saltwater patterns in the early '90's and has participated as a demo fly tier for the Federation of Fly Fishers on numerous occasions. He is a private fly casting and tying instructor and stained glass artist, creating mostly saltwater game fish in glass.

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