NO SHADES OF GRAY
‘Wildman’ Evans finished hosing off the aft deck of the Miss Julia, while he thought about having his first beer of the evening at the Palace Saloon... just up the street, one tantalizing block from the docks. It was late in the summer of 1958, and the setting sun was painting a soft orange hue on the white hull and deck of the shrimp boat, which he was hastily trying to clean up.
The ‘Julia, sixty-five feet long and built of wood, was one of dozens of boats that hailed from the tiny town of Fernandina, Florida...and tonight was rafted on the outside of four other boats. A half mile to the north, and about a half mile south, the docks were laden with shrimp boats, rafted four and five deep, and beyond them in the distance were two paper mills, which at each end of the waterfront, sat as large book ends.
Just south of the ‘Julia, docked all by itself, was a bastardized shrimp boat with no rigging, and with her cabin extended further aft than typical shrimpers. The running lights of the oddball vessel were on, and a faint, but persistent plume of gray smoke curled out of her stack. Wildman watched the crew of the boat work feverishly as they loaded boxes of food, luggage, building supplies...and then to his surprise, a Willy’s jeep that was being carefully driven down an incline on the dock, then precariously over two, 10-foot long, four by twelve timbers, onto the remaining space of the aft deck. Finally, after everything else was loaded, Wildman noticed several passengers boarding, one of them carrying two identical cases for shot guns or rifles...he knew this because he owned that exact same kind of case.
His cleaning duties finally completed, Wildman walked up the port side of the boat and into the pilothouse. He looked around and found a half-empty carton of cigarettes, and pulled out a new pack. While he opened the pack he scanned around in search of matches and finally found some.
With a new cigarette in his mouth, the lanky shrimper climbed into the chair behind the helm, and then pulled a logbook down from a rack overhead. Taking another drag from his cigarette, he began to write in the book. As he wrote down the details of the day’s activities, Wildman heard the familiar sound of a diesel engine coming by. He glanced out the door, just as the bow of a shrimper came into view. It was the same oddball that had been tied up just astern of the Miss Julia. He continued to watch as the boat slowly passed by, until he could read the name on her transom, Timucua, and below the name, and from where she hailed, Cumberland Island.
Ten minutes later, and finally finished with his duties, Wildman stepped out of the pilot house, placed a foot on the side of the boat, swung his leg over the rail and climbed a rickety iron ladder that was attached to the old wooden fixed pier. The climb wasn’t too bad since it was mid-tide and flooding, making it only three feet to the top. Once on the top of the dock, Wildman started to walk east up Atlantic Avenue and towards the Palace Saloon, still wearing his white rubber boots and grimy blue overalls.
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