Capt. Gary Henderson, Florida

August 30th, 2004

He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother
By Captain Gary (Flats Dude) Henderson

Random acts of kindness, now that's a nifty idea. I didn't come up with it; I think Oprah developed the phrase, not necessarily the action itself. But, never the less, a fine concept, especially when executed without expecting anything in return.

As hurricane Charley plowed into and through the state of Florida recently, I would be willing to bet many folks weren't prepared for the devastation they would find the following Saturday morning, especially down on the southwestern coastal towns. I would also be willing to bet a good number of those same people didn't expect to become looked upon as heroes and heroines in the eyes of their fellow human beings, and neighbors.

A hero, as defined by Mr. Webster, is; in mythology and legend, a man, often of divine ancestry, who is endowed with great courage and strength, celebrated for his bold exploits, and favored by the gods. Those are mighty big shoes to fill by a regular Joe, or Jill, but it is happening as I type these very words.

Observations since Friday the 13th, 2004

I saw a woman on television cooking dinner on a gas grill from her back porch. She was being interviewed by a local television station concerning the fact she, and her neighbors, didn't have power, and it was ninety-two degrees. She shrugged it off saying the people a century and a half ago didn't have the convenience of electricity, and she would have made one hell of a pioneer woman, as she laughed it off in front of the camera. No big deal, right? Here's the heroism part. She was ninety-something years old and was cooking for five of her neighbors and their families. No complaining, no patting herself on the back, but in the eyes of her neighbors; a heroine.

A man shows up on a corner down south with a refrigerated truck filled with bags of ice, television cameraman goes live, figuring a price-gouging story was taking place. The "clincher;" he was giving the ice away to folks that had no power. He had rented the truck, bought the ice out of his own money, and had driven down there from over two hundred miles away. A hero, plain and simple. When the reporter asked him why he would do such a thing, his only reply was, "Just the right thing to do."

I stopped a power company crew from South Carolina, out in my work area to thank them for what they were doing. One big, burly guy just said, "Hey, we're just paying y'all back when we didn't have power when hurricane Hugo tore us up." I'm sure when they "threw the switch," they became heroes to several thousand folks without power.

Another power-line crew from Mississippi pulled up in front of our home the Monday after Charley came through. I ran to the front to offer them something cold to drink, or something to eat. The gentleman just shook his head and said, "We're taken care of." That night our power came back on. They were my heroes, even though he said they were, "just doing their job."

Some emotions are hard to define...

It's a thirty minute commute to work each morning, but the trip leads me through vast, green pastures where deer sometimes graze, and the small community of Osteen in Volusia County. Not many people live there, maybe a thousand. It was dawn, and up ahead, on State Road 415, I could see the massive glow of yellow, flashing lights. It had been almost a week after Charley, and I knew these poor folks hadn't had power since the storm. As I approached the town, there had to be at least seventy-five power trucks and a dozen tree surgeon vehicles, all lit up with their yellow lights, lining the main drag through town. What a sight! Just the presence of this tremendous team brought out a lot of town-folk. My eyes welled up with tears, partly for the people of Osteen, but mostly for those men and women far away from home. I could only blow my truck's horn as I passed all those heroes, those that held fire gathered in ropes of wire. Later on that afternoon, I stopped to watch part of the operation. The two-way radios were blaring with the voices of those that were coordinating the restoration of power, and I heard something echo from the radios that, again, brought tears streaming down my face. "Okay boys, let's everyone back away from the lines, we're just about to make a whole bunch of folks happy." Someone somewhere threw a switch and the town lit up, air conditioners began blowing cool air, refrigerators and freezers kicked on, the people cheered and the men with the trucks smiled.

This is the last I'll mention Charley, the article isn't about him anyway. This is a fly-fishing website, for Pete's sake. What do heroes and fly-fishing have in common? That's pretty easy to answer. There sure were a lot of members of FAOL voicing their concerns about us Florida folks in the wake of Charley. A lot of you rode that storm out with us from all over, and there's not one of y'all that wouldn't have reached out if we had asked for your help. We know that. Whether it be hurricanes, tornadoes, fires, floods or any other disaster, we all reach out, especially this neighborhood of fly-fishers gathered here.

"...In mythology and legend," as Mr. Webster defines heroes...the legend of fly-fishers; would-be heroes. Thanks from the Florida gang.

See y'all next week. ~ Capt. Gary

One sad note; Two of our "heroes" from an Alabama power company were heading home in their utility truck Tuesday, August 24, 2004. They struck a semi, flat-bed that was parked along US 17-92 and I-4 outside of Daytona and lost their lives. They came to help us. We will forever be indebted to them. Our hearts, thoughts and prayers go out to their families and their crews.

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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