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Kenny and Nancy call Oconto, Wisconsin home during the summer boating season where together they enjoy recreational boating on the Oconto River and the Bay of Green Bay. When boating season is over they become snowbirds and head south for the winter in their Monaco Windsor luxury motor coach named OWFISH.

Kenny lived and traveled in OWFISH with his late wife Barbara from 2002 until she had a disabling stroke in 2011 and passed away the following year. From then the OWFISH set, except for a short trip in 2013, until Kenny started traveling again with his new wife Nancy in 2014.

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Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas, Marina Merle

Merry Christmas, Marina Merle

The old man sat at the fuel dock on a cold Christmas Eve. He hadn't been anywhere in years since his wife had passed away. He had no decorations, no tree, no lights. It was just another day to him. He didn't hate Christmas; just couldn't find a reason to celebrate. He and his wife bought the marina years ago ... and it was their life. They had no children. His wife had been gone now for a few years. Working on Christmas Eve just seemed to be the right thing to do.

He was sitting there looking at the snow that had been falling for the last hour and wondering what it was all about when the door opened and a scraggly looking sailor stepped through. He smelled of fish and cigars ... like he had been on the river for awhile.

Instead of throwing the man out, Merle ... Marina Merle as he was known by his customers ... told the man to come and sit by the space heater and warm-up.

"Thank you, but I don't mean to intrude," said the stranger. "I see you're busy. I'll just go"...

"Not without something hot in your belly." Merle turned and opened a wide mouth Thermos and handed it to the stranger. "It ain't much, but it's hot and tasty. Stew. Made it myself. When you're done there's coffee and it's fresh."

Just at that moment he heard the squelch on the VHF radio. "Excuse me, be right back," Merle said.

Coming into the harbor was an old green 1960 Chris-Craft Roamer. Black smoke was rolling from the exhaust. The boater was panicked. "Mister can you help me!" said the boater with a deep Southern accent. "My wife is sick and the starboard engine has just quit."

Merle opened the hatch. It was bad. The block looked cracked from the cold; the engine was dead. "Looks like it's gone," Merle said as he turned away.

"But mister. Please help...." The door of the fuel dock closed behind Merle as he went in.

Merle went to the office wall and got the keys to his old truck, and went back outside. He walked around the building, started the truck to warm it up. He went back around the fuel dock to where the couple was waiting.

"Here, you can borrow my truck," he said. "She ain't the best thing you ever looked at, but she runs real good." Merle helped put the woman in the truck and watched as it sped off into the night.

Merle turned and walked back inside the fuel dock.

"Glad I loaned 'em the truck. That boat's not going anywhere for awhile. But that 'ol truck will get 'em where they need to go..." Merle thought he was talking to the stranger, but the man had gone. The thermos was on the desk, empty with a used coffee cup beside it. "Well, at least he got something in his belly," Merle thought.

Merle went back outside to see if the old Chris Craft would start. It cranked slowly, but it started. He pulled it around to the side of the fuel dock. He thought he would tinker with it for something to do. Christmas Eve meant no customers. He discovered the block hadn't cracked, it was just some trash in the strainer.

"Well, I can fix this," he said to himself. So he cleaned it out. "That anchor's not gonna hold that boat in these waters..." So he took the anchor off of he and his wife's old Sea Ray. It was like new and he wasn't using the boat anymore. His wife sure loved that boat.

As he was working he heard a shot fired. He ran outside and beside a police car an officer lay on the cold ground. Bleeding from the left shoulder, the officer moaned, " Help me..."

Merle helped the officer inside as he remembered the training he had received in the Army as a medic. He knew the wound needed attention.

"Pressure to stop the bleeding," he thought. The laundry company had been there that morning and had left clean shop towels. He used those and duct tape to bind the wound.

"Hey, they say duct tape can fix anythin'," he said, trying to make the policeman feel at ease.

"Something for pain," Merle thought. All he had was the pills he used for his back.

"These ought to work." He put some water in a cup and gave the policeman the pills. "You hang in there. I'm going to get you an ambulance." Merle said, but the phone was dead.

"Maybe I can get one of your buddies on that radio out in your police car." He went out only to find that a bullet had gone into the dashboard destroying the two way radio.

He went back in to find the policeman sitting up. "Thanks," said the officer. "You could have left me there. The guy that shot me is still in the area." Merle sat down beside him. "I would never leave an injured man in the Army and I ain't gonna leave you."

Merle pulled back the bandage to check for bleeding. Looks worse than what it is. "Bullet passed right through 'ya. Good thing it missed the important stuff though. I think with time your gonna be right as rain."

Merle got up and poured a cup of coffee. "How do you take it?" he asked.

"None for me," said the officer.

"Oh, yer gonna drink this. Best coffee on the river."

Then Merle added: "Too bad I ain't got no donuts."

The officer laughed and winced at the same time. The front door of the fuel dock flew open. In burst a young man with a gun.

"Give me all your cash! Do it now!" the young man yelled. His hand was shaking and Merle could tell that he had never done anything like this before.

"That's the guy that shot me!" exclaimed the officer.

"Son, why are you doing this?" asked Merle. "You need to put the cannon away. Somebody else might get hurt."

The young man was confused.

"Shut up old man, or I'll shoot you, too. Now give me the cash!"

The cop was reaching for his gun.

"Put that thing away,"! Merle said to the cop. "We got one too many in here now." He turned his attention to the young man.

"Son, it's Christmas Eve. If you need the money, well then, here. It ain't much but it's all I got. Now put that pee shooter away."

Merle pulled $150 out of his pocket and handed it to the young man, reaching for the barrel of the gun at the same time.

The young man released his grip on the gun, fell to his knees and began to cry.

"I'm not very good at this am I? All I wanted was to buy something for my wife and son," he went on. "I've lost my job. My rent is due. My car got repossessed last week..."

Merle handed the gun to the cop.

"Son, we all get in a bit of squeeze now and then. The road gets hard sometimes ...but we make it through the best we can."

He got the young man to his feet, and sat him down on a chair across from the cop. "Sometimes we do stupid things."

Merle handed the young man a cup of coffee. "Being stupid is one of the things that makes us human. Comin' in here with a gun ain't the answer. Now sit there and get warm and we'll sort this thing out."

The young man had stopped crying. He looked over to the cop. "Sorry I shot you. It just went off. I'm sorry officer."

"Shut up and drink your coffee." the cop said.

Merle could hear the sounds of sirens outside. A police car and an ambulance skidded to a halt. Two cops came through the door ... guns drawn.

"Chuck! You ok?" one of the cops asked the wounded officer.

"Not bad for a guy who took a bullet. How did you find me?"

"GPS locator in the car. Best thing since sliced bread."

Who did this?" the other cop asked as he approached the young man. Chuck answered him, "I don't know. The guy ran off into the dark. Just dropped his gun and ran!"

Merle and the young man both looked puzzled at each other.

"That guy work here?" the wounded cop continued.

"Yep," Merle said. "Just hired him this morning. Boy lost his job."

The paramedics came in and loaded Chuck onto the stretcher. The young man leaned over the wounded cop and whispered, "Why?"

Chuck just said, "Merry Christmas, boy. And you too, Merle, and thanks for everything."

"Well, looks like you got one doozy of a break there. That ought to solve some of your problems."

Merle went into the back room and came outwith a box. He pulled out a ring box.

"Here you go. Something for the little woman. I don't think Martha would mind. She said it would come in handy some day."

The young man looked inside to see the biggest diamond ring he ever saw.

"I can't take this," said the young man. "It means something to you."

"And now it means something to you," replied Merle. "I got my memories. That's all I need."

Merle reached into the box again. A toy airplane, a racing car and a wooden boat appeared next. They were toys that the oil company had left for him to sell.

"Here's something for that little man of yours."

The young man began to cry again as he handed back the $150 that the old man had handed him earlier.

"And what are you supposed to buy Christmas dinner with? You keep that, too. Count it as part of your first week's pay." Merle said. "Now git home to your family."

The young man turned with tears streaming down his face. "I'll be here in the morning for work, if that job offer is still good."

"Nope. We close the marina on Christmas day," Merle said. "See ya the day after." With a hand on his shoulder for comfort, he walked the boy outside and watched as he disappeared on the road for home.

Merle turned around to find that the stranger had returned.

"Where'd you come from? I thought you left?"

"I have been here. I have always been here," said the stranger. "You say you don't celebrate Christmas. Why?"

"Well, after my wife passed away I just couldn't see what all the bother was. Puttin' up a tree and all seemed a waste of a good pine tree. Bakin' cookies like I used to with Martha just wasn't the same by myself and besides ... I was getting a little chubby."

The stranger put his hand on Merle's shoulder. "But you do celebrate the holiday, Merle. You gave me food and drink and warmed me when I was cold and hungry. The woman who was sick is going to bear a son and he will become a great doctor. The policeman you helped will go on to save 19 people from being killed by terrorists. The young man who tried to rob you will become a rich man and share his wealth with many people. That is the spirit of the season and you keep it as good as any man."

Merle was taken aback by all this stranger had said.

"And how do you know all this?" asked the old man.

"Trust me, Merle. I have the inside track on this sort of thing. And when your days are done you will be with Martha again."

The stranger moved toward the door. "If you will excuse me, Merle, I have to go now. I have to go home where there is a big celebration planned."

Merle watched as the man's old yellow slicker, his ragged fisherman's sweater and his torn denim pants turned into a white robe. A golden light began to fill the room and lit up the river behind his shoulder.

"You see, Merle, it's My birthday. Merry Christmas."

~Author Unknown

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