A fellow has to have a fishing buddy. It’s part of the wherewithal of fishing. You don’t go it alone. You find your rod, find the fishing hole, then your buddy finds you.
When I moved to Whidbey Island in 2000 and found my ideal beach and cottage, it wasn’t long before ‘Wild Bill’ found me. Right away we hit it off.
He was licensed in 1962 as an Alaskan Fisherman. Tall and tough — over 6 feet tall — he got a job on a long liner, the demanding work of hauling in half a mile of line with hundreds of baited hooks. It was out for days in the worst of weather then a break for a day or two ashore. But Bill didn’t stop there. He hit the clubs and with an almost arcane skill became a renowned poker and pool player. Years of that and neglect of body took its toll and Bill had to retire on disability. He lost a lung.
Bill lived in a modest cabin on Tiffany Road leading down to the beach to my cottage. The road was named after his daughter.
Together we fished the shoreline of the area near the Mukilteo ferry named Cascade View. Like any fishermen, we were a little competitive. Bill caught his limit one day and I had zilch. I saw him cast his line again and yelled, “Hey you have your limit!”
“Just cleaning off my line,” he said. Reeling in, he inadvertently hooked another fish. As I yelled again, he gently took the salmon off the hook and returned it to the sea.
Bill never ate fish; he gave them all away to friends. Winning at poker, it was the same way. The club on top of the hill in Clinton up from the ferry was his hangout. Buying drinks for the house, he also gave a good part of his winnings to the waitress.
Bill went to Las Vegas occasionally. When he beat the dealers they closed him down. He came back with a pocketful one day and promptly bought a Jaguar. A better choice might have been to improve his shack. Like many of us on the Island, he was his own man.
A rough poet at heart, he could reel off cowboy poetry of his own composition. I liked that.
Bill was ailing lately. I went to his cabin a few weeks ago where he daily fed a visiting flock of pigeons. The pigeons looked expectant that day, with no corn. His door was locked. I knew he was there.
The ambulance took him away the next day. He died a few days later. I lost the fishing buddy — and we all lost a colorful piece of Whidbey Island life.
His close friend,