Back in 1977 when my beloved late wife Ellen and I were living in New Orleans my visiting uncle stayed at our house for the weekend after a long spell of fishing for tuna off the California coast. A deep sea fisherman his entire life, he was tired that day, but not so tired that he couldn’t tell an interesting story.
Since I’ll soon be older than dirt, I decided to share this tale rather than taking it to the grave with me. So, without further preamble, here we go…
“Twenty some year ago, when I was 28,” my uncle said that long ago weekend, “I was working off the California coast on a tuna boat. We lucked into a fabulous school of fish, and we were hauling them in as fast as we could move. I’d gotten married a week before and was wearing a heavy gold wedding ring my new wife purchased for me. Unfortunately, I hadn’t yet had time to get the jeweler to resize the ring, which was too big for my finger. Downright loose, in fact.”
My uncle sighed before continuing. “It was raining that day and my hands were slippery with fish slime. We were working furiously. So I snagged a tuna with the grappling hook, and my wedding ring slipped right off my finger and fell into the ocean. I was tempted to jump in after it, but it was already too late. I knew from the weight of the gold that my ring was on its way to Davy Jones’s locker.”
“Gosh, that’s awful,” I said. “Did you tell your wife?”
“Oh, of course I did. She was upset, but she knew that accidents happen on fishing boats, and she told me we’d get another one after payday.”
Uncle Lance took a sip of a cold beer and sighed again. He shook his head, and it was obvious his mind had drifted back to the day he lost that ring.
Though I was anxious to hear the next part, I didn’t say anything.
A few moments later, my uncle came back to the present, smiled the biggest smile I’d ever seen, looked at me, and said: “Chet, I bet you can’t guess what happened last week when we were fishing the same area and happened on another large school of tuna.”
Anticipating something incredibly cool, perhaps even unbelievable, I told my uncle, “I don’t know. Tell me.”
“Well, after we had a good ten dozen fish onboard, it was time to clean them. I picked out the largest one — gosh, it was a gargantuan blue tuna, must have been at least thirty years old — inserted my knife, started cutting, and, mercy, you’ll never guess what I found inside.”
“You can’t be serious. You found your wedding ring!”
My uncle smiled more broadly and said, “Nope. I found Jimmy Hoffa!” He then slapped his knees with his hands and laughed until I thought he’d have a heart attack.