Capt. Gary Henderson, Florida

September 5th, 2005

Nine Hours West

By Captain Gary (Flats Dude) Henderson
I'm almost certain this article will draw some, of not a lot of criticism from some of you. I hope not, but if you feel the need, let 'er rip.

Nine hours west of our home in Deltona, Florida and just a little north, Katrina came to visit. And after it was all said and done, immeasurable and unfathomable destruction came to be in several of our southern States.

I visited New Orleans in 1991, if I recall that to be the correct year, to attend the Federation of Fly Fishers Southeastern Conclave as a guest fly-tier. I had a great time. Met some extremely friendly and easygoing folks who played host to many fly-fishers that showed up from all over. Now they are in serious trouble, and not just the Louisiana residents, but the people of Mississippi, Alabama and western Florida. Their lives that used to exist, don't, and probably never will be the same for some - for most, I'm afraid. It could have just as easily been Linda and me, or you other Florida folks. Think about it.

I sit and watch the news as the helicopters fly in to neighborhoods, plucking scared, hungry, thirsty, confused, injured, soaked, hot, wide-eyed folks from rooftops and deposit them far and away from their destroyed homes that only a few days earlier were filled with the smells of cooking food, cool, air-conditioning, framed photos of family members; photos captured perhaps candidly at birthday parties and weddings and anniversaries. Those are gone. The food has either floated away, or rotted. There is no electricity to power the stove where once stood a parent laboring over it, cooking supper, or breakfast for her or his kids as they laughed and giggled together. The mementos, the important papers, the photos and albums... gone. The home...gone. Some, or all of the family members...gone. Katrina took it all, and those of us that are fortunate, sit watching the news crews film the devastation, and we shake our heads and discuss; "what if?"

December 26, 2004. Where were you? Do you remember what happened? Here's a reminder. Can you say, "Tsunami"? "Oh yeah, now that you mention it, sure I do!" I'm not attempting to downplay the catastrophic event that killed thousands of innocent men, women and children; pets and livestock, and destroyed lives, businesses and property in Thailand. But think about it for just a few, if you will. Immediately, the cameras rolled tape broadcasting the powerful images back to us sitting in our living rooms, or while we sat in our offices. We sat amazed as we saw video after video that captured the deadly effects of the monster wave spreading its deadly grip over a nation far, far away. What did we do? Here's what we did.

Within hours of the tsunami's deadly strike, the United States and other countries stood up and began sending aid. Donations of clothing, food, water, money. Serious money was sent by the United States as we were "dogged" by other countries for not being quick enough to respond, and we were being "stingy." US military ships loaded with assistance and equipment, plowed towards southeastern Asia. Our nurses, doctors, counselors, engineers, and rescue teams, converged on a small, coastal area on the other side of the world, and began putting "things" back in order, sacrificing their time away from their families. Millions and millions of dollars poured in globally. Huge concerts were organized immediately by our famous rock and rollers, rubber fundraising bracelets were sold, and raffles here at my workplace were staged.

The good, old US of A. I love my country. I'd gladly defend her with my life. I have faith in our people, for the most part. I wouldn't live anywhere else in the world! If I'm not mistaken, it's even ones constitutional right to burn "Old Glory." That is until someone tries it within my arm's reach. I can certainly invoke my own constitutional right to unleash a good ol', southern ass whuppin' on someone that chooses to burn my country's flag. But that's another deal.

So, I pose a few questions. Where the hell is the returning favor from all the foreign aid we've shelled out over the years? Where are all of these other countries, now that our southern neighbors need all the help they can get? Where are the plastic bracelets selling for three bucks a pop in the convenient stores and on the Internet? Where are all the movie stars, the rock stars, the professional athletes…you know, the ones that were so quick to volunteer their time and money and names?

Tonight, when you get home, think about a few things.

When you touch your light switch, what happens? When you just walk into your home that is still standing; when you reach for that dry toilet paper (yeah, as simple as that); when you slap a couple of pieces of bread in the toaster and then reach into that cold refrigerator for that glass of milk; when you hit the tap at the sink for a cool, glass of water; when you reach for that fly-rod and your other gear and it's still there; when you close your eyes tonight and your head is on a soft pillow, your doors are secure and your family is in one piece, and you just know when you wake up, your job will still be there. All is well...?

'Til next time. ~ 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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