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Danny a day to live
Touching story of heart transplant survivor catches his marlins

                       DANNY ‑ cwferguson


     The telephone rang shrilly.  Sybil hated early morning telephone calls.  There was always something ominous about early morning telephone calls.  Reluctantly, she picked up the receiver.



     Bud Dame shuffled into the dinning room with a bath towel draped around his waist; concern etched on his brow.  "Who was that at this ungodly hour?"

     Sybil answered hesitantly, "It was my cousin Danny from

Louisville, Mississippi.  His heart transplant is going all right.

He's up and around.  The Doctor told him to start leading a normal life."

     "So why are you looking so concerned?"

     "Well..."  She poured herself another cup of coffee.  "He, he wants to go Marlin fishing; a, a kind of a last request.  He, he doesn't think he has very long to live."

     Bud gave her a reassuring hug.  "Well, tell him to fly out.

There's not many Marlin running right now, but we can sure take him out fishing."

     "You don't understand, Bud, he wants to go fishing in Cabo."

     The word exploded from his mouth, "Cabo!"  Bud gathered himself quickly, "Do you think he's up to Cabo?"

     "I don't know.  I just know that's what Danny wants to do."

     Bud was a decision maker and it didn't take him long to make one.  "O.K., I'll call Jerry Hansen down in San Diego.  He's got the ALLIANCE moored down at Cabo San Lucas.  Maybe we can get Trif to skipper for us."  Bud stared into his coffee mug for a moment and then looked up at his new bride as his face broke into a broad grin.  "Cabo!  By God, your cousin is really something.  He's just got himself a brand new heart and he wants to test it out against the toughest fighting fish in the world.  By God, let's do it.

Let's go down to Cabo and get Danny a Marlin.


     Trifon Leonte was not exactly thrilled.  He loved the

ALLIANCE.  The Pacifica 36 did every thing he asked her to do.  She was a great sportsfisher, but he was not exactly thrilled.

Dr. Barkke had lost his brother aboard the ROGENE just a few months earlier and here he was waiting to pick up another new heart recipient at the Hacienda dock who wanted to catch a Marlin.  Well, he mused, if you were going to drop dead of a heart attack there was only one better way to go than Marlin fishing.  Trifon Leonte preferred dying in the arms of a sensuous woman, but Marlin fishing was a very close second.

     Trif was shocked when Danny Fulcher scrambled aboard the

ALLIANCE.  He knew the boy was only 34 years old and had worked as a wildcat rigger in the Alaskan oil fields, but he never expected to see what appeared before him.  Danny was hardly a boy.  He stood well over six foot, was built like a 230 pound middle linebacker,had a full head of brown hair with a full, well manicured beard.

He sure didn't look like a heart transplant patient to Trifon.

     Danny grabbed Trif's hand with a vise like grip and drawled in his slow, Mississippi drawl, "Please ta meatcha.  Ya'll gonna find me a Marlin today?"

     Trif looked deep into Danny's clear brown eyes, "Danny, I know there's one waiting out there; just for you.  Maybe two."


     They cleared the arches and headed up hill toward El Faro Viejo, vectoring Jaime Banks.  God would not have allowed a better day for fishing ‑ or for sightseeing.  The stark, merciless desert melted casually into the sandy Pacific coastline and as the eye traversed the horizon the brain registered the subtle change in coloration from azure to cobalt blue.  Rey Sol had started its daily climb well behind them but would be directly overhead by noon.  Danny was mesmerized by the unparalleled scenic beauty.

     After two tedious hours of trolling and watching for tailers,

Daniel Alvarez, the Mexican skipper, suggested that they change course toward a group of some twenty boats half a mile to the South.  There wasn't a cloud in the sky; nor a bird.  What little chatter there was on the radio was all negative.  Trif was not terribly concerned.  There were plenty of fishing hours left on the clock.  And, of course, Danny didn't know any better.  He was happy just being there.

     "Señor!  Afuera!  Marleen!"

     Sure enough, fifty yards astern was a tail fin, pacing the lures.  Trif had a live mackerel on the business end of a Shimano

Rod and Reel within a blink of an eye.

     "Otra, Señor.  Izquierda."

     Another tail fin had moved up to within twenty yards of port and without hesitation Trifon threw the mackerel in the Marlin's path.  Bud and Sybil quickly strapped Danny into a Taniguchi fighting belt and a kidney harness and cautioned him to balance himself against the gunnel because all hell might break loose on any given second.

     Daniel jammed the throttle toward the bow and the Pacifica fairly leaped from the water.  Bud made a grab for Danny, but Danny had already recovered from the unexpected shock.

     "Houkaup!  We geet eem, Señor.  We geet eem."

     Danny had the rod well in hand and seemed amused by the screaming reel.  The drag was right where it belonged and Danny had no choice but to wait for the Marlin to finish his initial run.  He turned to his cousin, Sybil, and laughed, "This'n ain' no black bass out thea."

     He turned back to his line in time to see the Marlin explode from the frothy sea.  The iridescent colors bombarded the eye.  The Marlin shook his head furiously, fell into the sea and then leaped out again in a spasm of unbridled anger.  His tail walk was a delight to his captors and then, with seemingly little effort, he exploded stage deep.  Danny had not been prepared for the awesome jolt, but he recovered instantly.

     "Da'yam, Sybil, how big is tha' fella?"

     Bud answered for her, "He'll go about a hundred and fifty pounds.  Listen, do you think you'd rather be in the fighting chair?"

     Danny eyed him savagely, "Hell no. I'm jus' fine standin',

thank ya."

     The Marlin demanded some 300 yards of thirty pound monofilament line before deciding to rest.  Trif grabbed a cold Pacifico beer and stood next to the angler.  "Now, it's your turn, Danny.  Just take your time.  That Shimano you're holding will do most of the work for you.  Just take your time."

     By 10:30 hours, Danny had coaxed and heaved the fish to within twenty yards of the starboard stern.  Bud grabbed the flying gaff and moved next to the gunnel.  Trif leaned up against the fighting chair and advised, "Might as well put it away, Bud.  This one's got plenty of energy left."  He turned to Danny, "It's not over yet,

Danny.  Wait 'till he sees the boat; he'll make another run  For sure."

     Danny grinned, "Let 'em rip, Trif.  I'll stay on 'em all day

if'n need be; 'es a commin' home wea me, Trif.  I mean it!" 

     Danny was plummeted toward the gunnel and the Shimano reel screamed its anguish.  The Marlin was a fighter; no question about that.  He leaped high out of the water at about eighty yards, practiced his choreography for a few seconds and sounded deep and fast.  Within minutes he was 300 yards astern, and resting.  Danny grinned broadly and commenced his chore; heave, lower, reel; heave, lower, reel...


     The chrome gaff flashed in the late morning sun.  Bud shouted with delight, "You've got him, Danny.  You won!"

     Danny handed the rod to Trif, removed his fighting harness, and eased into the fighting chair.  He looked at his watch and remarked to everyone within earshot, "It's only eleven, I think I got time for three more o' those suckers."

     Sybil broke out some sandwiches and iced tea while Daniel changed the bearing toward Cabo Falso.  It was high noon and the only shade was in the cabin.


     Along about 1500 hours a little breeze kicked up and the 36 foot Pacifica started to show off its seaworthiness.  Bud and Sybil were playing cards in the cabin and Trif and Danny were discussing the theory of colored lures.  They had gone over three hours without a sighting; Danny was learning the difference between fishing and catching.  Trif stood up, stretched, and covetously scanned the horizon.  He glanced up at Daniel meaningfully.  Daniel shrugged his shoulders and flung his palms skyward in supplication.  Trif gave him the high sign and the skipper changed course for Cabo harbor.  It had not been a bad day.  It was Danny's first trip ever and he had boated a 140 pound Stripped Marlin. Rogerio would immortalize Danny and his catch with an 8 1/2 by 11 inch colored photograph and Danny would return to Mississippi with the biggest fish story any of those delta boys had ever heard because Danny had played that fish for sixty minutes.  Actually, it had been a very good day.


     Daniel had been skippering boats for over ten years, but it always startled him when the bridge reel suddenly screamed.  And it was screaming.  They had been dragging a red and white Clone; Trif's theory on afternoon lures was proved once again.

     "You think you can handle another one, Danny?"

     "Hell yeah.  Gee 'em ta me.  I'll whip 'em."

     The fight lasted but 35 minutes.  Danny admired the colorless

Marlin lying spent in the water, smiled at Bud, and graciously demanded, "Let 'em go, Bud.  Gee 'em anotha day ta live.  He un me

ha' a little somethin' in common.  Let 'em go.  I'm plum satisfied."

     The spent Marlin lay wallowing in the water for a few moments, incredulously eyeing the group of onlookers; then, with just a faint movement of its tail, wriggled deep into the azure sea.

     "Bye, Mr. Marlin," yelled Danny.  "Good luck ta ya.  Ya'll 'ave a real good life, ya heah?"