Life Dream of Fisherman Who Almost Gave Up Hope but Didn't

Ken Jones

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Staff member
#1
Sounds like "The Emperor's New Clothes" or "The Boy Who Cried Wolf." And anyway, who ever heard of a fisherman telling whoppers?

Life Dream of Fisherman Who Almost Gave Up Hope but Didn't

A year ago Charles (Chuck) Martin of Oceanside was reveling in his fame as a teller of fish stories. Now Chuck is bemoaning that same reputation. He says that once a fellow gets a reputation for telling whoppers no-body will believe he's in earnest, even when he says it's a nice day.

Among the fishermen well known on the Oceanside Pier is a gentleman who for years has been spending his summers in Oceanside. He comes from an inland town, and the dream of his life has been to catch a huge sea fish. Of course, there are places where one may be photographed with stock, stuffed fish, but that fisherman was too high-minded for such tricks. Summer after summer he returned to Oceanside, cherishing a secret hunch that the moment of achievement was at hand. But each autumn, as he sadly packed up to go home, he had to sigh and say: “Next year—maybe.”

So his eight-second anniversary arrived, and his dream was no nearer realization than it had been when he was a boy of 60.

He was no deep-sea fisherman. From a barge or from a sea-going launch he might have caught a big fish. Be he was a landlubber who would not venture farther from terra firma than the end of the Oceanside Pier. There he could feel that he was only knee deep in the ocean, and when a big wave burst on the knees of the pier with an ardor which made it tremble he could rejoice in the knowledge that its thousand sturdy legs were braced in solid earth.

He had about given up his lifetime dream. But it was something to be fishing at 82, so he went out again to celebrate his birthday. He went to the extreme end of the pier and let out enough line to carry his hook out beyond competition. And then suddenly he pole began to bend like a reed in a tornado.

He seized it with a shout. For a moment it looked as if he would either have to let go or be carried off the pier. But he hadn’t been fishing for thirty years for nothing. He knew how to play a fish. Other fishermen rushed to his assistance, but he waved them away—with his head, for his hands were busy. And at last he landed his prize—a jewfish weighing 202 pounds.

Chuck Martin was inspired. Of course he wrote the event up for the Oceanside Blade-Tribune. But all the readers of that excellent paper remembered Chuck’s series of “whoppers” and thought it was just one more. So he wrote a magazine story about it. But what chance has a man who has written a whole book of whoppers when he tries to write a true story? It was the impossibility of all Chuck’s whoppers which made them amusing. So the editors sent it back. “Are you losing your imagination?” they wrote. “This isn’t nearly as preposterous as the stories you’ve given us before.
Then Chuck accompanied his story with photographs of his elderly friend and the fish, towering half a head taller. But the editors knew that on the Long Beach pier there is, or used to be, a place where one could be photographed with stock fish which, before they were stuffed, weighed a ton or more.
So Chuck has a darned good fish story on his hands—one with a lot of real heart interest in it—perhaps the best fish story he ever wrote. And he can’t do anything with it because he has too good a reputation for whoppers.

—The Leeside o’ L. A. by Lee Shippley, Los Angeles Times, August 24, 1934
 
#2
Love that story! Lee Shippey is my kind of writer.
"...and when a big wave burst on the knees of the pier with an ardor which made it tremble he could rejoice in the knowledge that its thousand sturdy legs were braced in solid earth..." I'll think of those knees next time I'm at the pier.