Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Just Passing Through

This is a picture I took and a piece I wrote for Crystal Coast Outdoors Magazine about a chance meeting with a guy named Ralph. I had just had lunch with my family and was walking along the dock behind the restaurant and meet him. I was pretty taken with his story. Here is the piece I wrote:

I was walking along the dock after having Sunday afternoon lunch. My mother and father had joined my wife, daughter and myself for the weekend at our place in Emerald Isle. We decided to head to Morehead City, I have been wanting to spend some time taking photographs around the waterfront. This was the perfect opportunity to take advantage of a nice afternoon with clear skies. After lunch I decided to walk along the dock attached to the back of the restaurant while the rest of my family tried to keep my high energy four year old coraled and out of the water that floated the boats that were intriguing her so. As I walked along I approached a docked sailboat with someone going about the business of what appeared to be chores that had to done in order to prepare a vessel to set sail. When I got within ear shot the man on board offered a greeting of "Hey, nice toy!" referring to my camera. I promptly responded "Thanks, that's a pretty nice one you have too!" I introduced myself and offered my hand for the handshake. He told me his name was Ralph, while simultaneously wiping his hand on his jeans and apologizing for the mineral spirits he was about to transfer to me. With the formalities out of the way, I began to ask questions about his boat and he about my camera. After a few answers were exchanged he began to tell me about how he came to acquire his boat. It seems Ralph had traveled a long road to get to the point where he was able to stand at all, much less on such a nice craft and carry on a conversation with a new friend.

One day Ralph was on another mode of transportation, a motorcycle. He was cruising along obeying the green light that was giving him the right of way as he approached the intersection. Unfortunately, there was a truck approaching that same intersection that had no intention of obeying the red light that indicated he should stop and yield that right of way. The truck T-boned Ralph. One can only imagine what it would be like to meet the grill of a truck face to face while riding a motorcycle. Well, Ralph doesn't have to imagine, he has first hand knowledge of what that type of meeting of metal and flesh is all about.

He spent months and months healing and rehabbing from what should have killed him. There are pins and rods in his legs that make them operable. It seems to me there is something else inside him that is even more important than those pieces of metal that have reconstructed his legs. There seems to be an incredible spirit and a will to live.

Ralph went on to tell me that after getting to the point where he was able to move about on his own efficiently and there was a financial settlement from accident he decided to purchase the boat that I was standing in front of. There were two reasons for the purchase he explained. One was that he had always wanted to sail and two, it would also provide an enjoyable way to continue to rehabilitate his legs and begin the process of total reacquiring his upper body strength. The arduous tasks of
deploying and trimming sails would certainly offer the exercise needed. He went on to tell me of past trips along the Intercoastal Waterway and some out in the open water when the weather and conditions allowed. This particular trip was to the Florida Keys, Key West in fact.

Our encounter began to wind down and I needed to rejoin my family to continue our afternoon together. After hearing his story of what he had been through and what he was doing now I said "It sounds like the definition of freedom to me" to which Ralph responded "It pretty much is."

I'm no sailor, as my nautical experience is limited to navigating my two much smaller vessels across inland lakes. However, I did know enough to wish Ralph nothing but smooth seas and the wind at his back. I think he has navigated enough rough seas and head winds for a lifetime.

1 comment:

  1. It's so interesting to read the story behind the photo!!!!