My dad used to take us camping all the time. Back then it was just my dad, my little brother Xander (sounds like Zander), and me. Our mother had passed away, and my dad was a 30 year old single man with two kids on his hands. Instead of playing with dolls and make-up, I spent time with my dad in the great outdoors. He taught us to swim, fish, drive a boat, and explore the world. Dad’s favorite saying was “Everyone has fun, and no one gets hurt.” Aside from the occasional scrape or bruise, we always came home with our limbs intact. Dad made sure we were fed and clothed, but he never spent a lot of time getting us material things because he knew that his time was what really mattered.
One of our favorite places to camp was on the beach at Cape Hatteras in North Carolina. Back then (about 25 years ago) they allowed you to drive right onto the beach and set up camp. We had a 4×4 Blazer, so it was never a problem to get through the sand. We had a lot of fun out there. Dad would fish all day and he would cook up his catch for our dinner. Mostly flounder, but also the occasional mackerel or trout. Xander and I would snorkel, play games, fish, and dig holes in the sand. Life was great.
When I was about 5, my dad married his second wife and we included her in our camping trips to Cape Hatteras. On one trip we took with her, Dad set up the tents so the openings faced the fire and he put us all to bed. He then went into the surf for some late night fishing, as he often did.
According to my dad, he spent hours wrestling with a huge fish. I’m pretty sure it didn’t take him long to realize he was battling a shark, a 6 footer. Dad wound him in a little, then the shark would take off and dad would have to let the line out so it wouldn’t break. This went on for a long time until he pulled the shark pretty close to shore. Dad pulled out the Bowie knife he always kept strapped to his belt and stuck it right into the top of the shark’s head, killing it.
I should note here that my dad has a very interesting and sometimes sick sense of humor, which should help to explain what happened next.
With the Bowie knife still sticking out of the shark’s head, my dad dragged the shark to our campsite. He said it took him forever to get it up there. He slowly unzipped the tent where my step mom was sleeping and pulled the shark as close to her head as he could. He grabbed his flashlight and then gently nudged her awake. She rolled over and when she opened her eyes, dad shone the flashlight on the shark’s now bloody head and used the Bowie knife to lift it’s head and make it appear to talk. He made the shark say, “Jaws is gonna get you.”
Needless to say, she woke up terrified. She bolted from the tent and ran screaming down the beach. Dad was laughing his you know what off, but he was able to pull himself together enough to shine the flashlight down the beach in front of her so she wouldn’t run into anything. When he did this, she was able to see the thousands of crabs that covered the shore and were now surrounding her. This made her scream harder and run even faster down the shore.
I don’t think she ever forgave him. Their marriage didn’t last long after that, but this story has gone down as a classic in the history of our outdoor adventures. My dad still loves to tell that one and I still love to hear it.