Every now and then it’s good to hear from people we once knew, and we’ve thought about from time to time, even though it might have been years since we last saw them. This happened to me today when Mike called. I couldn’t remember his last name or for that matter his face, but I remembered the voice. When you share an adventure with somebody, I guess you never forget the voice.
“Manny?” he asked. I knew immediately who it was and even managed to ask, “Mike?”
“I’ve been trying to get the courage to call you all these years, until so much time went by I forgot why it was I didn’t call,” he said, and I remembered all too well.
He and a group of attorney friends had gone fly-fishing in southern Chile, and we ran into each other literally by accident: They were by the side of the road with a flat tire, and I stopped to help. After the tire was fixed, they invited me to lunch. The end result was that we made fast friends, and they asked me to join them on a week’s worth of fishing in Lago (lake) Todo los Santos.
Fishing depends on the weather, and the weather in those latitudes depends mainly on the weather gods — gods that let us have two days of spectacular fishing before they turned against us. A storm that only happens every 50 years, according to the locals, happened on top of us that evening, and we spent the third night trying to keep from getting beat to death by our collapsed tents. Cold, tired and soaking wet, we saw the morning arrive with less rain, under dark-gray, low-hanging clouds, but no letup on the wind.
We decided to head back to the hostel were we had spent the first night, and with any luck sleep in a dry bed, have something warm to eat and dry our clothes, sleeping bags, etc., while the storm abated.
As luck would have it, everybody piled into our guide’s boat, except for Mike. Instead, saying that he might as well keep me company, he hopped into my boat. At the time, we were in a relatively calm cove, but as soon as we went out into the main body of the lake, I could tell things were different.
The waves were so huge, any ocean would have been proud to have them, with white curls on top and spray flying horizontally every which way. Still, we plowed ahead until it was too late to turn back. That’s when a huge breaker flipped my boat over, and we both flew heads over teakettle into the icy lake.
I had just popped my head out of the water and located the boat when another breaker arrived and flipped the boat right side up: a real miracle, and one for the books. Somehow, I managed to get aboard, and a second miracle: The engine started. In no time I had pulled the plug and was pushing the boat forward to drain the ankle-deep water. I was so happy draining the boat I almost forgot about Mike.
Soon, I had turned the boat around and found him in the middle of nowhere — right where I had left him. Without saying a word, he hopped in, we retrieved our equipment floating in the water and managed to get to the hostel without another incident. All the time, he never said a word. That was the last I saw of him, and the last I heard from him, until today.
“I just called to say thanks for picking me up” was all he said, and I was glad to finally hear from him.