The Man with the Hat found himself wearing many hats those first few years. The nature of the business demanded it, and small operations like Ole’s were built on it.  Most everything would break down eventually, and the mantra became “Adapt-Improvise-Overcome”, it was on the job training in the first degree.

One time, in a particularly healthy SE’er, an eyebolt was pulled out of the rock and the barge was left to lunge back and forth on the remaining tie ups. Some old 2” ropes were married and raced ashore, wrapped around the largest Cedar tree they could reach, secured by a bowline. Fortunately, it held.  Little did the guests in the dining room know how close we had come to breaking loose!  Improvising became second nature and there would be many trials.

Early on a beautiful August morning, after checking on the guests out on the fishing grounds, he returned to the lodge for a break and a rest, because sure as shootin’, something was going to happen that he would not expect. With that thought still in mind, the Man with the Hat saw a boat approaching the dock very slowly, the guest shaking his head, a miserable expression on his face. It was the Brit, the return guest of many years who had offered much sage advice at their first meeting.

Holding his hand up, he presented a thumb with a hook in it, and as the blood trickled down his arm he admonished himself for being so stupid.  In the dining room now, the Man with the Hat had brought out the first aid jump-kit with gauze, antiseptic, and everything he thought he might need.  Sitting down he cleaned off the area around the hook and took a closer look. He knew there were only two options, cut off the barb and pull it back out the way it came, or cut the eye off the shank and push it through the rest of the way. Now this was a 4/0 barbed hook and a little tug on the hook elicited a squirm and grimace from the usual stiff upper lip; it was clear it was too deep, the barb buried, it would have to go the rest of the way.  He decided it would need to be cut off at the shank and pushed through. Having covered this in his First Aid Training, he knew the theory but they had not actually cut a fish hook in class.  He wanted to know what it would take and that it was going to work before attempting it live.

Excusing himself, he took a few identical fish hooks to the shop to find something to cut it with. Wire cutters turned out to be useless; side cutters equally so.  He tried everything he could find, but nothing would make a quick, clean cut through the hook shank without twisting. Having been gone for some time, he needed to buy a bit more, he returned to the patient with a shot of rum, and while not prescribed in the first aid book, it seemed a good idea-he had one himself.  Then he headed back to the shop, announcing he would be back shortly.  Running out of options for the fish hook, he tried everything, finally a small 4” pair of vice grips, which had a small cutting edge at the inside.  Cut, cut, cut, they worked!  He cut 3 spare hooks he had with him one after the other, making sure it was quick and certain.  Now returning once again with confidence, he held the offended hand firmly, and cut the shank of the hook clean off.  Without the eye, it would now be possible to push the hook the rest of the way through the thumb and out.  Thinking the hard part was over he prepared to push the hook through.  The first attempt only barely made it move.  The resistance of the flesh was impressive, intimidating.  The hook was deeper than it appeared-it would take some force, more than you would imagine, the tearing sensation as it pushed through on the second attempt was unsettling.  The point of the hook just visible now below the tough skin, another firm steady push, and it pokes through.  He grabbed the pliers and pulled it out the rest of the way.  A sigh of relief and another shot of rum followed in quick order.  The Brit was at ease now, bandaged and chatting again he thanked the Man in the Hat and said it was the first time he had got stuck with a hook in 9 years of coming to Ole’s.

Nine years, thought the Man with the Hat, next year would make 10, a decade of coming to Ole’s!  He had only been there 5 years himself now, so imagining that someone would come 10 years was incredible.  He would have to do something, something special to mark the occasion.  For anyone to come for a decade, that was a once in a lifetime event.  While he escorted the Brit back to his boat, his first aid hat was replaced by his thinking hat… what to do for these special guests who would keep coming back after all those years?


To be continued…