By Louis Cahill
This film struck a chord with me.
You owe it to yourself to watch it. If you’re interested in my story and what it meant so much to me, read on, but don’t feel like you have to.
I’d like to thank Simms, Costa, The American Museum of Fly Fishing and Cold Water and Cold Water Collaborative for this fine film.
It would be impossible for me to overstate my love for the Bahamas. I’ve said many times that my birth place was an accident. I was meant to be Bahamian. Of course, that’s a joke. I love those islands, and the people who live there with all my heart but I know that I have only the faintest idea of what it truly means to be Bahamian. The struggle those people have endured to gain, first their freedom, then their independence is beyond anything I can understand. What I do know is, that struggle forged a people who as tough as they are kind, as tenacious as they are vulnerable and as proud as they are ingenious. To be Bahamian is not for the faint of heart or the weak of character.
I grew up in the rural south in the 1960s. How a kid from tobacco country found his way to bonefishing is still a bit of a mystery to me but I was always…let’s say unconventional. I was forged by my environment as well, and that environment was uneasy. If you didn’t live in the 60s, I don’t think there’s any explaining it. It was a remarkable time in many ways. The US was truly reshaping itself. The civil rights movement was a huge part of that and my little town had full blown race riots. Bloody Monday, they called it. The currents of that event run through the town to this day.
My mother worked for the public housing authority. There was only one public housing project and the office was on sight. My mother would sometimes take me to work with her and a woman who lived there would look after me. I’d play with her children, who were about my age, and hang out on the playground. It never bothered me that I was the only white kid. My family was not especially progressive and by no means liberal, although no one used those words then. They were conservatives and some of them mildly racist. By that I mean passively racist. They didn’t hate black folks but they didn’t necessarily see them as equals. I never saw those kids at the housing project as any different from me.
Dr Martin Luther King was dead by the time I was old enough to understand the great speeches he’d made. I went back and listened to the recordings. I was always moved by the man and his words. When a buddy of mine at Simms sent me the link the the film Mighty Waters, It struck to my heart. Hearing bonefish legend Ansel Saunders talk about his struggle for equality and his friendship with Dr King was an eye opening experience. Here in the states, we never hear about civil rights in the Bahamas. I’ve been shocked to learn how many Americans think the people of the Bahamas are indigenous. They might ask me why their names sound so English? for example. They have no idea what these people have been through. I encourage you to do some research. I will tell you that, whatever you may have heard about slavery in the US, what happened in the Bahamas was far worse, if that’s possible.
We’ve heard a lot about diversity in fly fishing in the past several years. I’ll confess to a fair bit of eye rolling over the subject. One of the things I have always loved about fishing in the Bahamas is that its a place where black men, and a few women, with fly rods are total badasses. Some of them have been mentors to me and I will never be able to repay what I owe them for the education they’ve given and the richness they have added to my life.
Next time you find yourself on a skiff in the Bahamas, I’d encourage you to talk with that guy on the platform. Ask about what things were like when he was growing up. I’m willing to bet you’ll find, that guy you’ve been hooking on your backcast is one of the most fascinating people you’ve ever met. Growing up Bahamian is replete with experience, good and bad and you don’t find yourself on that platform by being anything close to average.
I’ve rambled enough. In closing I’d just like to dedicate these thoughts, whatever they are worth, to dear friend, the late Josie Sands. I say your name every day brother.
Louis Cahill Gink & Gasoline www.ginkandgasoline.com email@example.com Sign Up For Our Weekly Newsletter!