Acts of Nature - By Jonathon King Page 0,1

wild. At my river cabin on the edge of the Everglades I had packed in as much additional food as I thought necessary. I had been living out here on and off for four years and although the amount of work I was now doing for my lawyer friend, Billy Manchester, put me out into the world more than when I first arrived, I still kept the place provisioned enough to get by for at least a few weeks if I had the need or desire. The cabin can only be reached by small boats; in my case, a canoe. To the west are the wide-open Everglades, more than four thousand square miles of flat land, most of it covered in sawgrass, and it often looks like a million acres of prairie grass running to the horizon. But instead of rich soil, the surface of the Glades is a moving layer of water that quietly follows the pull of gravity and runs south from Lake Okeechobee to the sea. Some find it forbidding, others naturally and uniquely beautiful. For the first few days anyway, we were members of the latter.

Sherry is tall and long-legged and can whip my ass in a distance run. I’ve seen her hold an excruciating yoga pose longer than I’d thought humanly possible and I have also seen her kill a sexual predator, pulling the trigger on her service weapon at nearly point-blank range. Her toughness is unquestionable. But isolation in someplace like the Glades takes a different degree of mettle. I have no running water in my cabin, just a hand pump at the old cast-iron sink where botanists used to wash away the detritus and entrails and stomach contents of whatever species they were studying in the late 1800s. I have a rain barrel at the roofline to which a gravity showerhead is attached. In a small corner closet I have a chemical toilet like the kind used on board a small, seagoing boat. I cook mostly on the pot-bellied, wood-burning stove though there are a few bottles of propane and an ancient green Coleman stove under the kitchen cabinet. I read by kerosene lamplight. It is not paradise, but you know that going in.

For the first couple of days we were satisfied to fish lazily on the southern area of the river that is wide and flat and bordered by sedge grasses and tupelos, red maple and bald cypress. Sherry had fished here before with me and it’s an easy enough activity that fits most people’s sense of normality in the wild.

“You know, Max. This thing about incentive, motivation, greed,” she started on the second morning when we were sitting in my canoe on a wide and open stretch of river near a green edge where the color of the water goes suddenly dark and the bigger fish lurk. “Does a fish have that? Maybe we just have to figure out how to jack that up somehow. Make ’em more greedy.”

Her line had been dormant for about an hour, lying like a single silvery string on calm water.

“They aren’t much different than people, love,” I said, encouraging this little banter thing we’d become comfortable with over the years. “They’ll always want more. Dangle stuff in front of them and wait till they want it bad enough, they’ll take it.”

She might have been pondering the thought, or figuring out a way to tell me I was full of shit, when a big tarpon hit her line and bent the pole like a whip.

“Wooooo haaaaa!” she cried out and the instant enthusiasm and joy on her face caught me so off guard that I was slow to react to the sudden shift in the boat’s balance and nearly let us roll over. The tarpon immediately turned from the edge where it’d taken her bait and shot toward deep water. Sherry spun with it, her arms high, waist revolving, butt properly planted. I jammed my reel under my own seat and grabbed the gunwales with both hands, steadying the canoe. I’d learned from a dozen dunkings that fishing from a canoe is a different sport, a challenge of balance and concentration between shifting weight and anticipation of a strong animal’s moves.

Sherry’s reel was grinding with the sound of an electric can opener but the tarpon’s strength still turned her end of the boat and started it moving. I countered the shift with my weight. Sherry let the big guy run, let it wear itself out a