The Raising Up of Dale T

No one seemed to know how Dirty Dale got his name, and Dale wasn’t telling.

Gladys, who came in off the rigs to put her cooking talents to work in the cafe she purchased after years in the oil patch, had plenty of opportunity to watch the locals in action and she watched Dale a lot. She insisted his nickname came from his good-natured willingness to pursue every female in sight. It was a reasonable assumption. No matter how oblivious, uninterested or irritated the woman might be, Dale’s confidence was absolute as he slid into the seat next to her or leaned against her car.  “Hey, darlin’,” he’d say. “I’m here to improve your life.” Lord knows he tried.

Prissier live-aboards in his marina claimed he was “dirty” because he rarely indulged in a shower. That wasn’t true. Like every one else, Dale trotted down to the bathhouse with his towels and shaving kit on a daily basis.  His roughly-trimmed, scruffy beard and fly-away hair did give him an unkempt appearance and it was easy to figure out his current projects by the kind of grease or oil smudged across his tees, but that was true of everyone. All things considered, it seemed unlikely a lack of personal hygiene was the reason for his name.

Acquaintances who passed muster and were invited aboard his boat for drinks and conversation contended “Dirty Dale” had everything to do with living conditions down below. Living aboard is complicated at best.  The old adage, “a place for everything and everything in its place”,  probably was born below decks.  A particularly unpleasant sort of woe betides the sailor who gives up the struggle and lets his ship get out of shape.

It wasn’t that Dale had surrendered to the forces of “stuff”.  He never engaged the battle. The interior of his boat was the history of his world – layered and crammed and gill-filled to within an inch of its fiberglass life. If there was an occasional gap in the wall of stuff, it was only that Dale, overcome by impulses toward organization, had heaved a pile of spare parts or second-hand books off the boat. He was compulsively casual, and his boat showed it.

He approached sailing with the same joie de casual.  On the water he was off the cuff, improvisational and weirdly creative.  His greatest claim to fame was winning an offshore race by anchoring in the Galveston Ship Channel, pouring a couple of fingers of good Scotch and watching a fast-running tide sweep his competition back to sea. 

It was a validation of sorts, for everyone agreed that if God takes care of fools and drunkards, Dale was twice-blessed.  It was a curious and maddening fact that despite his disregard for common sense and common sailing practices, he never suffered the unhappy fates befalling the prepared, the cautious and the law-abiding.  And quite often, he got the ladies. At least, he got them once.  Most of them never came back for that second trip

In the years I knew Dale, his most famous escapade involved a weekend trip with his newest love, a sail down the Texas coast to Freeport.  She had time constraints, so they traveled via the Intracoastal Waterway, spent Saturday night in Freeport and were on their way back to Galveston when Dale ran out of gas.  Convinced she was stuck on the marine equivalent of a country road with a guy who’d planned the whole thing, the lady-friend became suspicious. Her assumptions were reasonable, but this was Dale, and he was flat out of gas.

Later, he told us she pitched a fit that would have done his second ex-wife proud. Unlike so many of his companions, she had a job waiting for her come 9 a.m. Monday, and she intended to be there. 

More confident of his old Atomic 4 engine than of his ability to endure the rantings of a furious woman, Dale concocted a gallon or two of home brew, combining acetone, nail polish remover, a little kerosene, a bottle or two of booze and who knows what else in a plastic bucket. He claimed and she swore that he mixed it up and poured it all into the fuel tank. When he fired up the engine, there was an explosive cough from the cylinders and a rattle or two unlike any he’d ever heard, but they were underway.

When he ran out of fuel again, they were nearly back to port and it was easy enough to find a local fisherman willing to throw over a line and tow them the rest of the way home.

Shortly after the infamous Freeport voyage, Dale found another woman. The new one found the boat charming and Dale amusing, and she moved aboard. Eventually they married, spent some time shrimping, moved to Florida, took up chicken farming, tried their hands at long-haul trucking for the fun of it and finally divorced. 

Ever the survivor, Dale remarried and moved his boat to Florida.  Then, after another divorce, Dale got sick. The gossip drifting back from Florida was contradictory but never good. It was an intestinal problem. He had stomach cancer. There were medical complications and financial problems.

Without email, cell phones and Facebook, it was hard to get solid news, but news still traveled, and eventually we learned the bitter truth. Another surgery hadn’t gone well. Dale was expected to survive, but then he didn’t.  When word of his death arrived on the Texas coast, everyone paused and swallowed hard. If death could come to Dirty Dale, blithe spirit and survivor extraordinaire, it could come to any of us.

Months passed.  At the marina where Dale once lived, new boats arrived, skippered by different sailors who told equally fantastic tales of life and the sea. Now and then, pulled together by the return of cruising friends, or a holiday, or the simple urge to party, old-timers gathered for long evenings of nostalgia and stories – some told with amusement, others tinged with regret and chagrin.

Sailors seem to have a knack for story-telling, and on one particularly languid summer night the stories flew. We recalled the  fellow who fell off his own boat, leaving it in the hands of a girlfriend who panicked and called his wife for help.  We remembered the salt-encrusted and slightly crazed live-aboard who varnished his decks with a mop, and laughed again at the hot-shot who was bragging about his electronics when he took out a channel marker because he wasn’t watching.  As always, we retold Dale’s Odesssey and just a few of the epic tales associated with his name. 

Deep into another retelling of the infamous Freeport cruise story, wine and maudlin sentimentality were wreaking havoc on emotions when the door to the clubhouse flew open and an unkempt, disheveled apparition stepped into the room.

“Whatthehell does a guy haveta do t’ get a drink around here?”

The apparition was Dale, obviously as surprised by our silence as we were  stunned by his presence. “Whatsa matter with you guys?” he said.  One of crowd blurted out what everyone was thinking. “Dale! We thought you were dead!”  “Dead? Me? Dead?”  Looking around, he must have seen the shock and astonishment in our eyes. “Well, if I’ve been dead, I”m sure as hell glad to be back! Now, somebody pour me a drink.”  

At that point the only thing clear was the score:  Dale 1, Gossip 0.

Each year, as the season of rabbits, eggs, pastel dresses and unbelievable stories rolls around, I think about Dale. He’s well and truly gone now, having succumbed at last to the same disease that was rumored to have killed him in the first place. I miss his teasing, his larger-than-life persona, his ability to charm and hornswoggle anyone he met, but most of all I miss his generosity. Of all the gifts he gave his friends – his receptive spirit, his sense of humor, his willingness to explore the possibilities of a  life lived outside the bounds of normal society – perhaps his greatest gift to a surprised few was an experience of true resurrection.

During this wonderful Easter season, as the southerlies begin to rise and sailors prepare to seek out new stories, whether you’re Christian or whether you’re not, whether you believe Jesus walked out of his tomb or whether you don’t, whether you dismiss the rabbits and eggs of the pagans or embrace them with the joy of a child, Easter – and Dirty Dale –  have a message for you.

Keep your eyes open.
Be attentive.
Listen.
You don’t know what forces are abroad in the land.
You can’t predict what’s going to happen.

You never know when someone might roll away your stone,
and you never know who’ll be next
to come sashaying back from the dead.

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Published in: on March 31, 2013 at 8:21 am  Comments (102)  
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  1. What a great story.

    • Thanks, Ellen. Whether it’s a port or a porch in the country, story-telling’s one of the best activities in the world. Happy Easter!

  2. There’s a Dale in every port, isn’t there? I’ve known a few through the years.

    • Richard,

      Sometimes, if we’re really lucky, we get two or three in a port. Or more! One of the legends in our area, who lived out his life on a ferro-cement boat off the Coast Guard station in Galveston, used to row into town and back every day.

      Someone asked him once, “Why do you keep doing that?” I thought his response was perfectly reasonable. He said, “It’s the only kind of cruising I still can do, but I figure I might get a few more stories out of it.”

      Now that I think about it, he was having that “one more good adventure”.

      Happy Easter!

      Linda

  3. A story good for the retelling… as a movie. Think of a script, Linda, and go for it! ;)

    • Arti,

      Retelling is part of the joy of a good story. After all, one of the best has been retold for thousands of years!

      As for script-writing – I think I’m going to have to leave that to you. I wouldn’t have the slightest idea how to start, but now that you mention it, this one might do for a basis. Heaven knows there are plenty of details that could be added!

      Happy Easter!

      Linda

  4. The Dales of the world add color and spice to what could be a dreary place. What a spirit he is and how wonderful that it can live on. Great retelling of the tales. And I agree that it would make for a wonderful movie!

    • Jean,

      A friend and I had dinner last night in a little town known for sheltering Dale-sorts. The world often calls them non-productive, eccentric, querulous, weird – but they’re just who they are, and many of them are quite happy. Some aren’t, of course – there are the addicted, the rejected and the miserable – but for the most part they didn’t just wash up in the back bay. They got there by choice, and their stories are the most interesting in the world.

      The more I think about it, the more I can see the story as a movie – or maybe an expanded short story – but for now, it’s perfect as it is. I’m glad you enjoyed it!

      Linda

  5. I love, love, love this post. I am keeping it. There is comfort for me here, especially now. The same message can be told, but it’s the delivery that can make the difference in how its received.

    • Martha,

      You’re so right about the importance of how a story is told. People tend to forget that the events of Easter were “story” – neighborhood gossip, unsubstantiated rumor, dinnertable conversation – before they were dogma, doctrine, theory, cause for interminable argument, etc. ad nauseum.

      The good news is that new stories always can be written. You’ve been living one story for a while. It won’t be long until you’re telling a new one, with new circumstances and new characters.

      Happy Easter – and best wishes for the trip to the vet tomorrow!

      Linda

  6. Oh my! Delightful!

    • Thanks, merryme. I hope the rest of your day is as delightful, filled with enjoyment and surprises.

      Linda

  7. A great story so well written!

    • Thanks, Kim! Doesn’t Dale remind you a bit of Bayou Fabio? I can only imagine what would happen if those two got together!

      Happy Easter to you. Who knows? Maybe we’ll meet up down on the bayou this spring or summer, and can swap some of our own stories.

      Linda

  8. Yep. That’s my idea of a good Easter story.

    • Becca,

      Thanks so much – I know how much you prize both Easter and story-telling, so that’s high praise, indeed!

      I hope your day is wonderful, with a little spring, plenty of music and maybe even some time for reading. ;)

      Linda

  9. Oh–WOW!

    • Judy,

      When it comes to responses, I couldn’t ask for anything better! I hope your day is graced with moments of joy, despite life’s current sorrows and complexities. Happy Easter!

      Linda

  10. First you made me laugh…and then you made me cry. Which is, I believe, the first sign of a great story. I take to heart its beautiful message this Easter morn. I love all your stories, but this is a favorite. Thank you!!

    • Martha,

      I’ve always figured if a story’s true, it’s going to be true no matter the manner of telling.

      And sharing laughter is so important. In a world filled with people who take themselves Very Seriously, and so-called comedians whose “humor” is offensive, hurtful and crass, opportunities for grace-filled laughter at the absurdities of life are becoming fewer and fewer. I intend to do my part to keep laughter alive, even if I have to make myself the butt of the joke.

      Happy Easter to you and yours! I suspect Dale’s happy to be one of your favorites!

      Linda

  11. LOL..truly the cutest tale of a tale of a sailor! I kind of liked “It wasn’t that Dale had surrendered to the forces of “stuff”. He never engaged the battle.” It is too bad when you do wage the battle and it looks like you never tried! Silly part to focus on I suppose!

    You definitely have got the skill for the tall tale. Paul Bunyan would be proud!!

    Still smiling!!

    • Judy,

      Well, it pleases me that you did notice that little line about engaging the battle with “stuff”. Goodness knows enough of us have done that, with equally unsatisfying results. Here’s the irony: Dale always could lay his hands on anything in that boat. Me? Not so much. I’m always wandering around convinced I know exactly where (whatever) is, but unable to find it.

      Who knows? Maybe when Dad and Mom took me to see Paul and Babe the Blue Ox in Minnesota, something rubbed off!

      I hope you smile all day long, whatever the reason!

      Linda

  12. A timely story within a story about stories.
    I suppose other groups brought together by a common interest have their story sessions also but docks, boats and sailors are dependable sources of stories, people wanting to tell and the magic ingredient: people willing to listen.
    Sashaying: I think I’ll do a bit of that today.

    • Ken,

      Stories within stories within stories – reminds me of Ezekiel’s wheels, or those nesting Russian dolls, or the infinitely reflecting mirrors. That’s probably why it’s so easy to get lost in a good one.

      Did you hear me yell “Bingo!” all the way over there in Western Canada? That magic ingredient’s so important – the willingness to listen. One thing I’ve noticed is that when a story-teller who’s known to be good starts off, people “settle in”. Maybe they prop their feet up. Maybe they call for another beer. Maybe they shove their hat back a little so they can see what’s going on. But in so many ways it’s clear that they’re going to be patient. They’re along for the ride, not picking up a bulletin.

      I once read a blog entry about “story-telling on Twitter”. Haiku, maybe. Story-telling? Never.

      I love “sashaying”. It’s as much fun as “mollycoddle” and “schmooze” when it comes to words, and it’s not bad as an activity, either. Enjoy yours!

      Linda

      • Sashay arose as a metathesis, which is a fancy name for switching sounds around in a word. The original was the French word chassé, which came to be used in the United States to describe the kind of gliding step common in square dancing. Etymologically speaking, to sashay is to chase about.

        • So, we could say the storm chasers who’ve been running about, looking for good photos of hailstones and wind damage are “sashaying” through the countryside.

          “Chassé” isn’t just for square dancing, either. Very little remains of my brief career as a ballerina, but I do remember “chassé”, “plié” and “brissé”.

          I’ve seen some footage of the flooding in Austin. Flooding’s no fun, but it was nice to see so much rain. We’re hoping for more this afternoon – only 2″ yesterday.

          • I was aware of chassé in ballet, but the word entered mainstream English through square dancing, so I stuck with that reference.

            I wish the rain here had stuck around longer, at least in its heavy form; about all we’ve had today is drizzle, plus some thunder. Yesterday in the late afternoon rush hour, though, the rain came down hard, and briefly there were a few waterfalls in places where water doesn’t normally flow at all. The most incongruous thing I saw on the circuitous drive home, even in the rain, was dense smoke coming from a car on fire by the side of the road on Loop 360. Because so many people were calling 911 for flooding and other problems, no fire engines or police cars were anywhere in sight, nor were any sirens to be heard in the distance. It was like something out of a Fellini movie.

            • Isn’t 360 where those Christmas trees get decorated? If the car was flanked by a couple of those it might have been even more Fellini-esque.

            • Yes, it is, though the decorations have been gone several months now and won’t return till after Thanksgiving.

  13. Hello Linda:

    Your lovely narration about “Dirty Dale” reminded me of the “resurrection” of Tom Sawyer who made an unexpected appearance at his funeral frightening everybody there.

    Steve Jobs also once joked about his death being greatly exaggerated. He projected a slide which read, “The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.”

    In ancient Greece storytelling was a form of poetry and collective oral history. Thank you.

    Regards,

    Omar.-

    • Omar,

      I’d forgotten about that wonderful scene in “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer”. I just found the chapter online and thoroughly enjoyed reading it again.

      I remember when Jobs gave that presentation – or at least I remember reports of it. I went back to find it, and discovered there’s some additional humor in the Huffington Post’s reporting.

      In their article, they say that Jobs was playing off Mark Twain’s quotation, but in fact Twain’s words were rather different. You can read about that here. I discovered the misquotation a while back when I was trying to run down another Twain quotation, which also turned out to be false. ;)

      Story-telling has a long history, for sure, and its power can’t be denied. There’s a reason children still demand, “Tell me a story!”

      Happy Easter to you – I hope you day was joyous.

      Linda

  14. The Dales of this world always have a guardian angel and that is good so. Someone has to watch over children and the childlike.

    A lovely tale well told.

    • Friko,

      Yes, and as someone recently reminded me, guardian angels also look out for the clumsy, the foolish and the inattentive. I suppose if we throw in the children and the childlike, that should cover about everyone.

      Now, if we can just get spring to make its presence known, all will be well, eh?

      Many thanks for your kind words!

      Linda

  15. Good Lord, Woman! This is the second best Easter story I’ve ever read! Astonishing in its down and dirty beauty! Just wonderful. You are such a good writer….

    • Teresa Evangeline,

      Thanks so much, for all those generous words.

      One of the reasons the Easter story seems so truthful to me is that death and resurrection beats immortality hands-down when it comes to describing life’s realities. We see death and resurrection woven into life’s fabric in uncounted ways. Immortality? I can’t even imagine wanting it, but in any event I don’t see it very often. ;)

      I hope your own day was wonderful, and that spring is making its presence felt. I can smell rain on the air – it would be the best Easter gift ever.

      Linda

  16. Fascinating tale, Linda! You had me from the first word to the last. What fun that Dale “resurrected” before finally succumbing! Your line of work really puts you where the good stories and interesting characters are, doesn’t it?

    • Debbie,

      Isn’t story-sharing fun? And Dale was such a hoot. He made the most of his new status as one of the resurrected ones!

      Actually, I just read a post today by a fellow who was in a medically-induced coma for several days before “coming back to life”. His sense of amazement and gratitude is another kind of story. As I think about it, I realize that Dale’s story is as much about our response as his experience – but it’s a heck of a story, nonetheless.

      You can read Gerard’s story, called “A Cut-Rate Resurrection” here, if you’re inclined. It’s neither dramatic nor maudlin, but it certainly is thought-provoking. One similarity with Dale’s story is striking – neither man realized he was “dead” until it was over.

      I do meet some interesting characters – but I think that life in general is filled with some pretty interesting people. All they need is someone to tell their story.

      Happy Easter to you – I do hope your day was delightful!

      Linda

  17. The most stunning event of the many contenders during our spring break in New York City was attending the New York premiere of The Gospel According to the Other Mary by John Adams at Lincoln Center. I mention it because Lazarus was a centerpiece of the musical tale told, and your story puts that in mind. Lazarus was given the most gorgeous aria of the night, set to Primo Levi’s poem Passover. Here is the last passage. Somehow, it seems to fit.

    And time reverses its course,
    Today flowing back into yesterday,
    Like a river enclosed at its mouth.
    Each of us has been a slave in Egypt,
    Soaked straw and clay with sweat,
    And crossed the sea dry-footed.
    You too, stranger.
    This year in fear and shame,
    Next year in virtue and in justice.

    • Susan,

      All unwitting, you’ve provided another example of something I ponder a good bit – the growing loss of what I think of as “cultural context”. There may be a better phrase, but that’s mine.

      Think, for example, of a public speaker who uses a phrase from Churchhill, Shakespeare or the King James version of the Bible. Even my grandparents and parents, who never had more than a high school education, would recognize such references and often quoted from the sources themselves. Today? Far too often, references to great literature and leaders are completely lost on those who hear them.

      In the case of Primo Levi, much of the power of those last two lines comes from their relationship to the traditional conclusion for the Passover Seder: “Next year in Jerusalem”. I know that, but how did I learn it? At Sunday School, surely, but perhaps even in grade school. I remember building a diorama for a social studies unit on “Great Migrations”. I chose the movement of Irish people to this country during the potato famine because of my Irish heritage. But a classmate chose to portray the crossing of the Red Sea, and no one came unhinged. Try that today….

      In any event, Levi’s “Passover” is marvelous, and it takes me one more link along memory’s chain to Annie Dillard, who had something to say about Lazarus herself.

      “There is always the temptation in life to diddle around making itsy-bitsy friends and meals and journeys for years on end. It is all so self conscience, so apparently moral…But I won’t have it. The world is wilder than that in all directions, more dangerous…more extravagant and bright. We are…raising tomatoes when we should be raising Cain, or Lazarus.”

      Linda

      • A shared American culture is definitely more circumscribed than it used to be. A decade ago, in my last stint as a high school teacher, I was appalled to discover that even in my most advanced class, with the smartest kids, not a single one had ever heard of Stephen Foster.

        • Honestly, sometimes I can’t believe the stories I hear. Who doesn’t know Stephen Foster? Well, those kids, apparently. Of course, it was years – decades – after I learned the song before I knew the “real” river behind it was the Suwanee.

    • As a post-script re: cultural context and a gleeful “See? I told you!”, I offer this, from a current “New York Times” article:

      “This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

      Correction: April 1, 2013

      An earlier version of this article mischaracterized the Christian holiday of Easter. It is the celebration of Jesus’s resurrection from the dead, not his resurrection into heaven.”

      Good to have that clarified. ;-)

      • The quote from Annie Dillard is marvelous! As for cultural context, perhaps it’s (to borrow a phrase) a moveable feast, you know? The young composers and musicians I’ve met have introduced me to a wealth of new musical worlds, all of which have a rich context, none of which I knew the least about until I made it my business to learn something new two+ years ago. There is, in the end, too much to possibly know, and certainly, for those of us, like me, who seem to have used up much of the brain’s memory tape–does anyone remember tape?, to keep in mind. It’s all right, though (I console myself), I don’t mind rediscovering things multiple times . . .

        • I still think there are basics everyone should know, but that’s just me. The innovators and explorers – the best at least – have a firm grounding in what came before, even if they choose to move on in their own remarkable ways.

          As for rediscovering things multiple times, you just reminded me of my mother. In her very latter years, she used to laugh and say she’d grown quite fond of Russian novels. They had so many characters and plot complexities she couldn’t remember them at all. As she put it, she could read Dr. Zhivago a dozen times in a row, and it would be perfectly fresh for her each time.

          • I have just had a similar experience to your mother’s relating to the very high-brow activity of watching a detective series on TV. We watched 3 episodes, and at some point early on in each, I was told,”we’ve seen this before.” At my end, not a glimmer of recognition! Re knowing the basics, I think the question is not whether, but what they are. I think what constitutes “the basics” is more of a moving target than we tend to think.

  18. Oh, I doth believe me lady is becoming a weaver of yarns!!!

    • Bayou Woman,

      A weaver of yarns,
      a spinner of tales,
      a comber of life, both its beaches and swales.
      An arranger of threads,
      both fancy and plain,
      a re-worker of life, both its joys and its pains.

      My, goodness! That just popped out, but I decided to go with it because it’s National Poetry Month. It’s also the month of alligator love and iris in the swamps – enjoy it all.

      (I forgot to come back and tell you what I thought Rickey’s orange “eggs” were – so I’ll put it here before I come by and see the answer. I’d say floats for his jugline!)

      Linda

      • Well, the beginnings of another wonderful poem—or complete like it is! I’m sorry I’m just seeing this. We’ve had problems with our cable internet and TV and just finally got the issues resolved today, after the electricity was restored from a foul-weather outage. Anyway, what a great find of baby gators! I’ve never come across that many in one spot before! I bet you were some excited!!! The blue flags and yellow flags are blooming right now . . . . the rain just stopped, and I hope it rained while you were at jury duty!

        • It did rain during my very short jury duty stint – I got excused. I’m glad. It was a high profile capital murder/death penalty case, expected to go on for weeks. Beyond that, there’s been a change of venue from Beaumont to Galveston – complexity on complexity. I never would have made it past voir dire, anyway. So, it’s alligators and irises for me! Glad you got your own problems solved – it’s time to celebrate Spring!

  19. Thank you Linda, for this lovely way to wind down this glorious day! “Be attentive” names well what I think is at the heart of the Easter message. Life is a joy and full of mysteries for those who pause, and you have given us pause in this. Blessed Easter-tide to you! Allen

    • Allen,

      The winding-down is part of it all, isn’t it? I’ve always been rather fond of the days after each holiday, and even the week between Christmas and New Year’s. Holy Saturday, too. They’re “in-between times”, times when life goes on but no one pays it much attention – to their loss.

      In her book “Annie Leibovitz: At Work”, Leibovitz talks about the in-between times as being particularly rich lodes for a photographer to mine. She recalls her shot of the Marines rolling up the red carpet after Nixon was whisked away from the White House. Most of the photographers left as soon as the helicopter lifted off. She stay, and claimed an image for posterity that’s perhaps more interesting and certainly more poignant than the photo of Nixon himself.

      Empty time, empty spaces, empty tombs – hang around, and you never know what you’ll find!

      Linda

  20. Great story. How boring life would be without these colorful characters, the eccentrics, those who march to the beat of a different drummer.

    I think one of the things that makes us human is the telling of and enjoying of stories, embroidered, unvarnished, true or untrue. One of the sad facts of modern day life is that the magical phrase “Once upon a time. . . ” has been preempted by electronic media — videos, films, TV. We are the poorer for it. Everyone needs a collection of “war stories” stories from the front lines of everyday life.

    Your “Be attentive.” meshes well with my own words to live by, “Be alert. The world needs more lerts.”

    • WOL,

      Your “lert” reminds me of my dad, who carried a small, round alumimum disc in his coin holder (remember those rubber things you could squeeze open with one hand?). The metal disc was stamped with the world “Tuit”. You know, as in, “I’ll mow the grass when I get a round tuit.”

      The colorful, the eccentric and the differently-marching are a wonderful part of life. At least, they used to be. For all our emphasis on inclusivity and acceptance these days, there’s a kind of ghastly uniformity developing. I intend to resist as best I can. I’ll never surpass Dale, but if I’m lucky they might tell a tale or two about me when I’m gone. ;-)

      Linda

  21. You know Linda, you have the ability to “hook” a reader and reel one in for I can not stop reading anything that you write. The lines just keep building and dare I say that to me it sometimes grips me with suspense.

    As I read I am always wondering what you are going to come up with for the next sentence or the next paragraph.

    Dear departed Dale.I suppose there is a character in most places, only the guy you wrote about was unique in many ways.

    • Yvonne,

      Here’s a little secret. There are more times than you can imagine that I find myself wondering what sentence or paragraph I’m going to come up with next. Of course I want people to be “hooked” by what I write, but figuring out how to make that happen in an interesting, thought-provoking or entertaining way is hard.

      One thing the telling of Dale’s story has taught me is that patience really is a virtue. It not only takes time to tell a story, it takes time to live a story. And, it takes time to appreciate someone before we write about them. Anyone can gossip, but capturing the essence of a person is something different.

      The beauty of it is that everyone has a story. What’s sad is that some people don’t realize it.

      Linda

      • Thanks for the reply, Linda. I believe you when you say it is hard work to make a story sing. That’s my definition of good writing. Besides hook and reel people in with your words. The stories that you write are not written in an idle manner. Your words are kind yet honest and I think you did Dale’s life justice by writing about him. I think he would be quite pleased if he could read about his life.

        • I think he’d love the story – and it would tickle him beyond words to be in an “Easter story”. I can hear him giving me the business about it now – a wonderful memory to go along with everyone’s enjoyment.

  22. I’m grateful for a wonderful read as the Easter Weekend draws to a close. At this time Downunder, many would traditionally be camping out, and yarns would be spun around a campfire…… and the Bush is full of characters such as Dale. Many thanks for your wise message.

    • eremophila,

      Your comment took me back to my own enjoyment of Paul Theroux’s wonderful book, “Happy Tales of Oceania”. He writes extensively of Australia and the Outback, including a great chapter titled “Walkabout in Woop-Woop”. Remembering makes me laugh – Dale apparently went walkabout at age three or so, and had an ability to bring the feeling of “out there” to wherever he was.

      Now that I think of it, there’s just a bit of that in me, too. On my “About” page, it says my favorite place to be is a hundred miles from anywhere. If that ended up being a campfire in the Bush, swapping tales with other travelers – well, that would be just fine!

      Thanks so much for your kind words – I’m glad you found the piece enjoyable.

      Linda

  23. Such a colorful story about a colorful character. We all know one, but I have never met one the likes of your Dale. ““I’m here to improve your life.” “The interior of his boat was the history of his world…” “joie de casual” “Dale was twice-blessed” So much to love about this story –all of it, that I just quit copying and pasting the “good parts”.

    You had such fun with this right down to the character that “varnished with a mop”. Oh, I can see you soak up much more than the sun’s rays while you work around the docks. Someday you will be discovered in a big way. Such wonderful story telling here.

    • Georgette,

      The wonderful thing about writing about someone like Dale is that the source material is so rich.

      And there’s this – he was so purely himself, so absolutely honest and straightforward, no one ever suspected him of ulterior motives. Even the ladies who got the “I’m here to improve your life” line never took offense – it was so clear he believed himself capable of doing just that. (Well – there may have been some who took offense, but they probably skedaddled so fast we never knew of them.)

      I wish you could have seen the boat of the fellow who varnished with a mop. He had designed it himself, and it had several unique features, like a triangular mast. He spent a lot of time “engineering”.

      As for being discovered, I think I already have been. You’re here, aren’t you? ;)

      Linda

  24. Oh, Linda, no one tells a story like you — and when the subject is so lively and colorful as Dale, then that story is bound to delight! But I never saw the end coming as it did!

    You paint the most remarkable pictures with your words. I can absolutely see Dale as clear as a Norman Rockwell illustration — but with a little less sweet and a little more pizazz! Thank you for sharing with us — the loveliest egg in the basket, I think!

    • jeanie,

      Norman Rockwell would be the perfect choice for someone to paint Dale. In fact, I’m not sure there’s anyone else who could. Al Capp, maybe. Dale bore some resemblance to his “L’il Abner” characters. Can’t you just see him cozying up to Daisy Mae and saying, “I’m here to improve your life”?!

      I think all of us begin to prefer a little less sweetness and a little more pizazz in our Easter baskets as we age. Dale fits the bill perfectly. And look here, at what I found in mine this year!

      I just glanced at your post description in the email. I can’t wait to see the photos, but I’m going to have to wait, because I’m off to jury duty this morning. Whether I get selected is another question. We’ll see.

      Happy spring!

      Linda

  25. Told like a seasoned feature writer. I would have loved to meet this man, although I think I may know one or two of his cousins. Up here they troll for ladies and adventures on snowmobiles. :) Happy Easter, Linda!

    • Emily,

      Once upon a time, I drove up to the Twin Cities for a conference. I was completely astonished by all the yellow road signs indicating “Snowmobile Crossing”. I’d known about ice fishing and “ice shack” culture, but I imagine there are some pretty clear parallels between boating and snowmobiling. It’s rather fun to think about Dale and your friends trading tales.

      Happy Easter to you, and happy Spring, too. I hope those snowmobiles get put away sooner rather than later!

      Linda

  26. “Compulsively casual” has got to be my favorite phrase in your Dale tale.

    Roomie and I were talking the other day about how unique God’s miracles are throughout the Bible. His approaches and solutions never seem to be repeated. So I appreciate your reminder to keep eyes open: you never know what might be coming around corner.

    • nikkipolani,

      I’m not sure your rose gardens could be described as “compulsively casual” business, but there’s some “studied casualness” involved, for sure! Those lovely tumbles of blossoms don’t “just happen” – as you so well know.

      I’ve never thought about it in precisely those terms, but you’re right. There aren’t a dozen burning bushes and a hundred parties supplied with wine. Every miracle is just that – a miracle. Unexpected, inexplicable, and message-carrying. It wouldn’t take much thought to make a lovely leap – there’s a miracle waiting for everyone that’s never been seen before. Maybe, more than one.

      Happy Easter!

      Linda

  27. That’s a great story! Here’s to Dale!

    • There’s nothing he’d enjoy more than being remembered with a toast, montucky! Glad you enjoyed the tale!

      Linda

  28. I adore this story of yours… And I would have absolutely adored Dale. God bless those with little common sense (in the traditional notion, at least), for they remind the rest of the world how to be free.

    Our first horse, a beautiful thoroughbred rescue from the track, who landed at the killers’ auction as most of them do (even the winners), we named “Blythe Spirit” — a survivor as well. Thanks for a beautiful story in honoring this truly unique soul!

    • FeyGirl,

      There’s little question Dale was a model of freedom. And the best part was that he didn’t demand or expect that anyone else live his kind of life. He just lived it, and accepted that others would prefer things like 9-5 jobs and long-term relationships.

      “Blythe Spirit” is a wonderful name, and how great that you provided a home as well as a name for a rescued animal. We have a greyhound track down the road, and there’s a very active group in Houston which promotes adoption for dogs no longer racing and monitors their well-being at the track.

      Here’s to freedom and well-being for all God’s creatures – human and otherwise!

      Linda

  29. I imagine Dale would have loved this post, including your description of him as “compulsively casual.”

    • Charles, I know he would have loved it. He always was able to laugh at himself – a quality many of us struggle with from time to time. “Compulsive” is pretty easy, and “casual” is a way of life around here, but the combination is memorable when you come across it!

      Linda

  30. What a fabulous story! I love Dirty Dale come back from the dead. It’s so true that we need to really pay attention because who knows what might happen!

    • The Bug,

      It’s pretty easy to just keep plowing through life, seeing nothing (as my grandpa would say) but the south end of a mule headed north. We can miss a good bit that way and sometimes, of course, we don’t even realize what we’ve seen. Auden got it so right in his “Musée des Beaux Arts”, even though he was talking about poor Icarus instead of something more pleasant.

      “In Breughel’s Icarus, for instance: how everything turns away
      Quite leisurely from the disaster; the ploughman may
      Have heard the splash, the forsaken cry,
      But for him it was not an important failure; the sun shone
      As it had to on the white legs disappearing into the green
      Water, and the expensive delicate ship that must have seen
      Something amazing, a boy falling out of the sky,
      Had somewhere to get to and sailed calmly on.”

      Linda

  31. Linda, My head has been elsewhere for a few weeks…But I had seen the comment thread on this tale running on now for days. I finally took the time to visit your story. What a great tale…And the seasonal tie was that standard twist you always seem to find to tag us with at the end.

    Thanks for the story. Now I am off to pop a top to DD.

    • Gary,

      While you’re popping a top, be sure and lift one to that rain that cruised through last night. An inch here and two there and we may survive – if it can just keep it up.

      Glad you liked the story. You now as well as I do, of course, that such tales can be told on a fence rail or back porch as easily as around boats. I’m sure glad you enjoyed this one.

      Say, did I tell you the one about….? No, I didn’t. But I’m going to!

      Linda

  32. What a hoot!

    Boy, wouldn’t I have loved to been a fly on the wall, when Dale burst through the door, back from the dead.

    I’m surprised the group didn’t all drop dead from strokes and heart attacks from the shock!

    • Gué,

      Honestly, it was all anyone talked about for a couple of weeks. It truly was a shock. Intellectually, we all understood within an hour what had happened. Emotionally, it took a while to wrap our minds around it. We had the boy dead and buried – once he showed up again, we had to find a way to reincorporate him into the world!

      I was talking today with another friend who remembers him, and she told me a story I’d never heard. Seems Dale had one of those little Sunfish sailboats at one time. He’d take it out in Clear Lake, fiddle around and have a drink or two, just for fun.

      One afternoon the boat turned turtle and into the water he went. (She couldn’t remember the cause – maybe a powerboat wake flipped him, or inattention.) After a few minutes he surfaced, waving something in the air. It was his bottle of Scotch. He’d hung on to it the whole time. Gotta love those folks who hang onto things when they go into the water! ;-)

      Linda

      • You just have to know what your priorities are: WHATEVER YOU DO, SAVE THE SCOTCH! LOL

  33. Linda,
    Fantastic! I’ve known a few Dirty Dales. This was so entertaining that I had to read it to my husband. We chuckled all the way through.

    • Bella Rum,

      I’ll bet you have known a few – and aren’t they fun to remember? Of course, every family has their “oddities” – in ours, it was my crazy great-aunt Rilla, my slightly disreputable great-uncle and an aunt who did a few things I didn’t learn about until about five years ago. You don’t want the children to know, after all!

      I’m glad you – and H! – were entertained. It’s good for your health, you know!

      Linda

  34. ‘Compulsively casual’ is definitely going to be my new phrase! Just as ‘formative pruning’ was back in the day when a little butchery was necessary on a shrub ;)

    There are so many things to be learned from this story and I love the last bit too. The Dales of this world need to have their stories told as time shows us that it is the tales of ordinary and not so ordinary folk who usually disappear from the written histories.

    This morning I made us a cup of tea and then said to B, ‘I’m going to write an email’…whereupon it was brought to my attention (!) that not everything needs to be a vehicle for reaching somewhere else… Like…the whole point of making tea is the sitting down and enjoying it. Well, I had to agree. I guess that’s what paying attention is. :)

    • thinkingcowgirl,

      Well. Perhaps in your case, we’ll just have to speak of “tea-mail” instead of “email”! Humor aside, it’s true that more often than not we stack one thing on top of another and another and another, and then excuse it all by calling it multi-tasking. There’s nothing wrong with a cup of our favorite at hand while we’re doing this or that, but it surely is a different experience than sitting down and focusing purely on the tea and biscuit.

      It makes me think of those wonderful photos of the girls. They’re not doing a single thing but eating their hay when it’s hay-time. Their enjoyment is so obvious and their focus so clear, they could serve as very nice models for us.

      Both “compulsively casual” and “formative pruning” feel just slightly oxymoronish. They’re not quite “deafening silence” or “open secret”, but they’re headed that way. There’s just a bit of tension there that asks to be thought about.

      In a world increasingly obsessed with celebrity, it’s lovely to have people like Dale around to remind us that even the unknown and ordinary can be worth spending time with. And they’re much more accessible. ;)

      Linda

      • Teamail, I like it!

        You’re right about the girls, they just don’t trouble themselves with mind chatter.

  35. Our “Dale T.” was actually a “Brian” .
    He disappeared from our lives about 20 years ago when we refused to “lend” him any more money.
    I’m not certain I want him to sashay back in to my life though there would be some wonderful stories.
    Come to think:
    There was a “Les”, my cousin “Keith” and an “Eric”.
    Nah, I am not that curious to find out where they are now.

    • Ken,

      Oh, well. Yes. We all know some of those folks, too – the interesting characters that tell us stories as a way to gain a little advantage (or cash, or a sofa to sleep on, or a loan to start that business that they just know is going to be what finally sets them on the road to success).

      They do give us fodder for plenty of stories – not all as happy as Dale’s, for sure. But, as we like to say down here, there’s just no accountin’ for folks. I need to dig out the hand-written account of my Louisiana great-uncle’s shenanigans. That might make a pretty good story, too. ;)

      Linda

      • “shenanigans”
        Looking forward to such records. Dunno about great uncles but my uncles were all over the map. The one I spent most time with was tasked with the “Family Farm” and as far as I know did a decent job of that. Hired me as a teenager to stack hay bails and bring the skids to the elevator.
        Fell in love with a “tiny perfect” lady one summer. Always since have wondered why short women are attracted to tall men and vice versa. Tall ladies seem to seek out shorter men.
        Maybe a natural tendency to level the playing field?
        As Bert Leduc is quoted in a CSNY song:
        “I may be crazy
        But i ain’t real dumb!”

        • Or, as I heard it in my family, “I may be dumb, but I ain’t stupid!

  36. A terrific story told with great wit (and wisdom) and certainly to remind all of us of someone who had unfathomed human spirit. Thanks, this was great!

    • WildBill,

      Glad you enjoyed it! And yes – Dale was pretty long on human spirit. That is, his spirit was more interested in connection than condemnation, he was open to new experiences, and he was always willing to help anyone who was having a tough time. Was he one weird dude? In some ways, yes. But he wasn’t about to curse someone he disagreed with, or cut off someone who offended him.

      We could use more human spirit like his!

      Linda

  37. I went to the rose blog you pointed out and I found you along with the roses. So here I am reading a funny, hilarious story. I love it! I do not need to say more, others have already said it in their comments. Thank you for a wonderful read, I’ll chuckling all day long.

    • Maria,

      Any time I can provide a chuckle or a smile, I’m delighted to do so. Heaven knows there never are enough of those in life. We need all we can get to counterbalance all of those “other things” we have to cope with.

      As one of my friends said after reading it, “I don’t just like Dale. I want to BE Dale!” I’m not sure I’d want to be him, but I certainly would like to let some of his qualities blossom a bit more extravagantly in my own life.

      Weren’t the roses beautiful? I’ll bet they gave you a smile, too!

      Linda

  38. Oh I hope the hell people don’t remember me that way, I been trying to stay on the good side of the line that Mr Cash drew. Well another spiffy blog post.

    • blufloyd,

      Just from what I’ve observed, I’d say folks think of you right kindly now and will remember you the same.

      As for that line, it was Dale himself who said, “If you’re gonna try and walk the line, it’s a whole lot easier if you think of it as a train track with six feet on either side than a 2×4 across a gap.” Now, there’s some wisdom. ;)

      Linda

  39. Now, that’s the best Easter story I’ve ever heard. Charmingly told!

    • Thanks, Andrew! I can guarantee you that Dale thought it was amusing, charming and entirely amusing! He was such a character – what a subject for your photography he would have been!

      Linda

  40. What a great and loving tribute! I too had a Dale in my life who lived on his trimaran down the river from my house. Perhaps Nick’s real name was Dale!

    A friend once stated, ‘I don’t know what you see in nick…’ and I said, ‘my friendship means the world to him, and if I were drowning on the horizon, he wouldn’t stand on the shore and say, ‘too bad.’ or if I were buried in debris from an earthquake, he wouldn’t stop digging until he reached me…’

    My friend grew quiet and stated, ‘I hope you realize I would do that for you.’ But I really didn’t know if he would do that.. for sure, Nick would, so for that reason, it didn’t matter if he was a skirt chaser, a one-too many drinker, or had a wild-eyed castaway look! He was, and always will be my friend!

    he’s somewhere in the states now; who knows, he might have passed close enough to drop a smooth line in your direction! z

    • Lisa,

      Finally, the right phrase for Nick and Dale has popped to mind – “lovable reprobate”.

      It’s a fact that long-time liveaboards are a different breed. Lots of folks try it out – I did for a year – but the ones who stick it out (and prefer it) are some of the most interesting people in the world. They can be lazy or industrious, well-off or poverty-stricken, in love with boats or just in love with being left alone by the rest of society, but anyone who has one as a friend will have stories galore.

      Dale was as firm in his friendships as your Nick. And we all would have dug him out of that earthquake debris.

      Linda

      • Perfect! “Lovable reprobate!’

        The first time I met Nick was at a cybercafe, and he was pulling out all the stops to get me to look up and speak to him and his friend. I finally stopped typing, looked him square in the eye and said, ‘Lo siento. No hablar English,” then turned back to my computer.
        He then uttered, “It’s a good thing you don’t, because we’re talking about you.”

        He continued, and finally (because he truly was funny) I stopped typing and said, ‘Hi.. I’m Lisa.. and you’re a scoundrel!’

        Nick, who served three terms as a marine, is still ‘somewhere’ on this planet. I was thinking of him a few days ago and thought that I should send a ‘Car 54 Where are you” query!

  41. A real character who never gave up, unhappy ‘though he was. I like the story and the lesson. But, ‘hornswoggling’….eh?!

    • janina,

      Ah, “hornswoggle”. One of the best words in the world, that I rarely get to use. Of course it’s meant to denote one who often deceives or bamboozles – another great word. Maybe such characters push our powers of description so much they give rise to wonderful words!

      I did just discover that there’s a WWE fellow who uses the name Hornswoggle. No connection should be assumed between Dale and the wrestler!

      Linda


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