George (Osprey) Bergin – Author / Storyteller
Prolific author / storyteller who entertained so many of us over the years with his creative writings... View more
Prolific author / storyteller who entertained so many of us over the years with his creative writings before passing in 2018 at his home in La Ribera
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Canciónes del Hamaca
Canciónes del Hamaca
Canciónes del Hamaca
I don’t keep track. I do remember at least two fishing trips with Leonardo when his sons, Jesus and Miguel, joined us. The tall handsome young men didn’t mind me being along – Miguel seemed to be in a zone of his own while Jesus, Chuy, was in heaven. Neither talked much but any fool could see and feel Chuy’s special adoration for his dad.
On one trip we really got into the fish and after just enough fast and furious action we were muy chochi; dripping with sweat, fish blood, bait slime, guts and scales we were a happy, smelly crew.
I took the tiller so Leonardo could clean and bag the tasty, hard-won filets of pargo snapper, dorado and triggerfish. As he faced me, kneeling in the stern, he sang many of his favorite fishing songs with the boys jumping in when they knew the tune. Chuy made his way to the stern behind his dad and planted a big kiss on top of his dad’s filthy head.
They were just a meter away from me when Leonardo, unabashed, dropped his knife and patted Chuy’s bloody foot. Later I felt a sense of inclusion, a proud witness to a special kind of love.
I remember when I first met the big, smiling fisherman. A rain event hurricane washed out his street so he couldn’t get to his pickup, his boat. I was having some fun making my way across deep muddy arroyos that hours ago were smooth dirt streets and when he saw my camera he came over to me and asked me for some pictures of the ruinous washouts.
He said he was going to petition the municipio for emergency help so he could fish and feed his family. That same day I returned to his house and handed him a computer disc he might use to make his case. When they paved the road over the next few days I didn’t notice since there was flood relief work all over the village. Sometime later he came to my house with a thank you offering for the pix that he thought had done the trick with City Hall. It was the start of a friendly relationship because after the next big storm, 20 days later, he pulled my boat an extra 100 meters up the beach and saved my boat and motor from being snatched and sunk by waves I could not imagine and didn’t plan for.
Years later a neighbor gave me an old trailer and I was able to keep the boat/motor/trailer in the safety of my lot. It mattered little since health issues kept me from fishing in the boat except for when the fish I wanted were close to shore and hungry. It was then that I heard his boat and motor was stolen from the launch beach. I walked to his house, found him there and suggested he use my boat. He was very grateful and pressed the marine authorities in hopes they could find his stuff and he could return mine to me.
They never found his equipment so I gifted him the boat, motor and trailer, gave him the ownership/registration papers. More thanks my way; he often put his commercial fishing aside to take me out when the wind was calm and the bite was on. He always made sure I took home the lion’s share of the catch and it was all I could do to force him to at least take my gas money in place of a guide’s fee.
It all worked out for me because then my fun and productive fishing began — he did all the heavy lifting, from the gear and gear box to the ice and the big coolers, he made bait, put us on the fish and cleaned them on the way back in. I didn’t count the trips but each one was unique and golden to me and over the years our friendship grew wide and deep and abiding.
The captain’s big hands, more like bear paws than human hands, somehow loaned themselves to roughhousing with his boys and, like willing robots, were directed to subdue a giant shark one minute, untangle nearly invisible fishing line the next – over forty years of muscle memory helped lovingly embrace his crew while adding six bait hooks and a sinker to the all-important end tackle that brought the catch to the boat. Miguel, a bank manager at age 25 and Chuy, 23, who would soon start to use his business card introducing him as a Certified Civil Engineer, rarely got the chance to join dad in these all too brief outings.
A hard life near the sea began to catch up to the Minjares family; Natcho died of conditions arising from one of my ailments, enlarged heart, spleen, and liver. Then, his other brother Trino, a very successful local charter fishing guide, died predictably from a prolonged illness involving cancer of the lungs and other organs. Leonardo came to the aid of each surviving family with donations, fish for the table and help with the funerals. It was then that he began to repeat the words that define his character, his soul, his existence; “Es la Vida”.
His smile, the pat from his big bear paws told me it was not some begrudgingly bitter acceptance of what El Señor or the fates were dealing out. It was said with grace and good humor, not so much resignation as it was an altogether beatific recognition that “It happens to all of us the same”.
He held onto the smile as we shared a beer on my patio while he told me his work truck, his fishing truck, his only truck, had finally given up the ghost and was beyond repair. I walked into the kitchen, got the keys to my old beater of an Isuzu Trooper and once again in a position to help, I handed him the keys. My wife got up, smiled and as she passed me to go to the kitchen for some coffee, she patted my shoulder to let me know she approved – she still had the little Toyota to get around shopping and to her weekly card games with the ladies.
Back in Las Vegas, so long ago, my simple plan for Mexico held no hint of me being able to help others with our meager Social Security income and it was a rare treat to get the chance to contribute something to the village and its people. I could feel the grand and growing irony of trading old but functional equipment I no longer wanted or used, for fun filled mornings of inshore fishing all within sight of my humble house. I was acutely aware that Leonardo was not only my friend and fishing guide but provided me personal protection that made me feel safe enough to move about, unsteady, wobbly at times, at risk in a small, often waved-tossed, inshore outboard boat.
Happenstance balanced the scales for us in lots of ways: as my health conditions kept me from the sea I put all my fishing gear in his hands and enhanced his chances for bigger, better catches and more money for his family. By now all my gringo neighbors were fishing with Leonardo and they raved about his good humor and his seemingly unlimited knowledge of the bottom in most of Palmas Bay, north to the seamounts at Ocho Ocho and south to Vinorama.
No one will ever know how many fish Leonardo has caught over the years to put these two boys, their two brothers and a sister, through school. No one will keep score as the young adults begin to be wage earners and each is able to put money in the jar for the family. We can only hope marine resource managers will not only keep track but act to assure a healthy future for the diminishing number of fish and fishermen, honor these hard working fish farmers with their hooks and lines.
I hope I live long enough to see my old friend spending more time in the hammock, serenading the chickens, not the fish, finally knowing the quiet joy of payback.
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