I was at the Lake Waccamaw dock when suddenly a man, driving alone in his Chevrolet pick-up, jacked his truck and trailer around at a forty-five degree angle to the wharf and backed up to launch his boat. He moved swiftly and smoothly. I could tell that launching a boat was a matter of course to him. As he emerged from his truck, I determined that his age was probably around sixty-five, in robust condition and physically strong. He had a weathered deeply sun tanned face and an engraved facial smile. He reminded me of the Marlboro Man before he became politically incorrect. No doubt, this man was a rural back-country, down-under type. I started liking him straight away. I anchored my old restored fishing boat to a newel and approached. “ Hey man, Need any help?”
“No thanks, I can manage.” He replied. Then beneath his breathe, but detectable, he mumbled, “Praise God”.
I was standing on the side-pier slightly above him admiring his almost new looking bass boat. “well, if you want me to hold the bow line or anything, I will be more than glad to help.”
“Thank you my friend. Praise God. I just usually tether the boat to one of the pier posts and then push the boat off the trailer by hand – no problem to do alone,” he stated as he busied himself with releasing the tie-down from the boat and tying his line to the bow hook.
“I love your boat, It's a beauty. Looks as if it's loaded with accessories. I'm sure you have everything you need to pursue those fish out there”, I said.
“Thanks, he replied. I love this boat. It is a God-sent. I thank Him everyday for it and for what it means to my family.”
By this time the man had climbed onto the pier level with me. He positioned himself directly in front of me, bow line in hand, staring fixedly into my eyes. Normally this would make me feel just a bit uneasy, but his gaze had a sedating affect on me. He said unpretentiously, “I’m going to tell you the story about my boat and then I will move out of your way and allow you to go on about your business.”
“I’m from a-ways up the road, not too far from here - a town called Old Dock. Name’s James Harper and all my life I worked as an assembly worker. From a financial point of view, I’m ain't wealthy; however, with God’s help, I have always provided for my family. I’m retired now but still have to work a bit here and there to make ends meet. Anyway, here's my boat story.”
“I purchased this boat in the latter part of 1997. I had eyed her earlier that year on the showroom floor of a marina in Little River, South Carolina. I wanted this boat something gosh-awful-bad but didn't have the money and I didn’t want to go into debt. Feeling my family needed other things, I left that day fully aware that I would never own a boat like this one.
Later that year I made a second visit to South Carolina and decided to visit the marina to look at what they had in stock. To my surprise, this boat was still on the showroom floor and I looked it over from stem to stern. I even talked to a salesman and we figured what my monthly payments would be if I bought the boat. After about two hours, I finally left without the boat. I just couldn’t bring myself to go into debt for that much money – especially for a boat.
Two months later I made a third visit to South Carolina and the Marina. The boat was still there and to me it was looking better than ever. As I stood wishfully looking at the boat, an attractive young lady walked up and introduced herself. Our conversation went something like this: ‘I’m Ms Hallaway, the office administrator here and I have been observing you during your visits. I can’t help but notice that you are troubled about buying this boat. Correct?’
‘Yes, I would love to own this boat young lady. I can just picture me and my family, especially my 28 year-old son, on Lake Waccamaw fishing from it. I have been looking at it for a long time but I can’t afford it,' I answered as my voice trailed off into a wishful silence.
‘Come with me to my office,’ said Ms Hallaway, ‘I want to talk with you about something.’
I followed her into the office and sat down noticing that the walls were glass so she could observe the showroom. The boat I wanted was just outside her office walls and it was a beauty!
With sincere emotion she began to speak, ‘Mr. Harper, I wish I could trade places with you. I wish I could become you and had to make this decision about that boat. Several years ago my husband and I gave birth to a son. When our son was three years old, his father died in a car crash. My son is now seven. Two months ago I was diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer and the doctors tell me I probably will not live many more months,’ she said in a matter-of-fact voice. ‘Again, I wish I could trade places with you. I don’t know what is going to happen in my son’s life. I will not get to be part of it.’
‘Mr. Harper, You should buy that boat today. Finance it if you must and take it home with you – today! Do not wait! There are no promises about tomorrow. Even if the bank takes it back in a few months it will be worth it. Go take your son fishing in that boat!’ she quietly cried as tears rolled down her cheeks.”
Mr. Harper’s voice quavered as he recounted his story. He choked back tears a couple of times. What a powerful story! “What did you do that day? Did you buy the boat? ” I catechized with enormous interested.
“I bought the boat. Got it on credit and took her home with me that very day. The following day my son and I went fishing and to this day we fish together from this boat. As a matter of fact, we were here just yesterday. “You know,” he said, “I thought I couldn’t afford it but God fixed it so that I completely paid for this boat in twelve months.”
“A touching testimony sir. You must share this with others.”
With a big smile, he stepped around me to tie the bow line and said, “I do. I tell everyone who is interested enough to listen and even some who ain't. And one last thing,” he said, “A month after buying the boat, I had a little something to go wrong with the motor. I took it back to the marina for repair and learned that Ms Hallaway had died of cancer. She was buried just a week before I arrived.”
He choked up again. I did too.
Copyright © 2011 Michael Hollingsworth All rights reserved