This... Is CNN!
Walt C. Snedeker
Right off, I could see this was going to be a good day. I tell
myself this same mantra every time I go down to the dock where Captain
Charlie's Shenandoah picks me up, and I see that there are small
craft warnings on the Intracoastal.
And this time I said it twice. For it is a poorly kept secret, Gentle
Reader, that Your Humble Obedient &tc. is desperately prone
to seasickness. It is a weakness for which, unlike my weakness for
beautiful redheaded barbarian ladies, I am not proud. While we are
on the subject of those lovelies, I might as well report that mine,
The Fabled PC, was snug abed. She had mumbled something into her
lacy pillow about it being bad luck to watch the takeoff or whatever,
and I could go on down to the dock alone. She would suffer my absence
with some more nonnie-nonnie.
She can be so noble sometimes.
But now, as I looked up toward Lake Boca from the dock, my eyes
teared in the rushing wind. Whitecaps formed from shore to shore
in the Intracoastal. I said the mantra for the third time. I didn't
do it after that -- I didn't want to wear the batteries out.
A panel truck pulled up beside me, and the CNN crew got out. CNN?
Oh. Yeah. It seems that they had heard of Captain Charlie's exploits
from a newspaper in Texas, of all things, and they had arranged
to do a "shoot" of Your
Humble Obedient &tc. feeding the sharks off of Delray Beach.
It is something we do each week. But this time, CNN wanted to record
it for the delectation of the civilized world. The cameraman was
a big, hulking brute with a face like muted thunder. He looked like
he ate the furniture for breakfast. But the guy that was going to
be filmed diving with us was so handsome, he made me glad that the
Fabled PC was not here.
Nobody seemed to notice the howling wind except me while we waited
for the Shenandoah to crunchsmashcrash into the dock. Ah well...
Soon we were all aboard, and the African Quee -- I mean the Shenandoah
began chugging out to sea, with Charlie kicking the boiler every
now and then. Sure enough, ten minutes along the coast, I began
to feel the need to call for "Earl!".
In fact, everybody did -- except Captain Charlie and the hulking
cameraman, who was chewing some dried beef red-hots for a mid-morning
snack. The aroma of those things even in normal conditions would
give a hyena a fit of the dry heaves, but he was looking extraordinarily
tough and superior. I thought regretfully to myself, "If I
had killed him twenty years ago, I'd be getting out of prison about
Then Captain Charlie announced over the PA system (he loves to use
it, and will accept any excuse, even though he could just turn around
and talk to everybody), "OK, folks, we are here. It's time
to suit up and go gettem!"
Since I had just finished calling for dinosaurs, I was in that blessed
state of grace where one has about five minutes before one begins
to die again. I happily began to put on my flippers and tank.
Hulking Brute Cameraman nudges my shoulder. I look up.
"Where's the cage?" He is looking all over the Shenandoah,
which I had tidied up to the point where it resembled a delicatessen
that had been looted by a Viking raiding party.
"What cage?" I honestly didn't know what he meant.
"The shark cage."
"We don't have one."
"Whaddayamean, 'We. Don't. Have. One!'' He looked about to
see if I was serious. I must have been, because I was sitting on
the transom in my bathing suit, flippers, mask, and scuba tank.
"But that mesh armor stuff ain't all that good, and it don't
pertect yer head n' stuff."
"We don't use armor. Just bathing suits."
"You. Don't. Use. Armor..." the sweat on his brow was
a bright yellow, "You. Don't . Use. A. Shark. Cage." He
had a funny way of speaking.
"You got it. No bang sticks or other stuff either. Let's go."
At this point, Super Handsome, the other CNN guy, sez to Hulking
Brute, "Ah... Brutus, I'm going to stay on board. You can get
all the film you want of me back on shore where it's safe, I mean,
where I can interview the surviv-- I mean, the Shenandoah crew."
Brutus (I might have known that was his moniker) looks at me like
I was made of nitroglycerin and blasting caps and says in a suddenly
tiny voice, "Are you really going in the water out here to
feed sharks by hand, wearing just what you are wearing?"
"Yup." I was really enjoying this. "Nothing to worry
about. I have a sign printed in 'shark' tattooed in infra-red all
down my body. It says, 'Don't Eat This Guy, He Tastes Awful'. Nothing
to worry about."
I distinctly heard him mumble, "Prob'ly ain't no sharks down
there. It's a put-on." And other things. I heard something
about "cab driving" and "momma".
Anyway, the first twinges of my imminent fall from anti-seasickness
grace were becoming apparent. So, I grabbed the guy, and over we
Sixty feet down, the clear water on the beautiful reef was densely
populated with grunts and things. I immediately nailed one hapless
little guy with my pole spear.
True to form, the sharks appeared from nowhere. I pulled the wounded
grunt off of the prongs, and tossed him six inches up. A humongous
Caribbean Reef shark came straight in at me, and inhaled it. I turned
around to see if the cameraman had gotten to the bottom yet, and
saw the lens of the camera six inches over my shoulder. He had gotten
a superlative shot. My attitude toward him changed instantly. Scared
he might have been, but he was right there, doing a professional
For forty minutes, I had sharks all over me. Fortunately, they can
read their own language, and none bothered to taste me. Then it
was time to go back up. The biggest shark came back one last time,
and I took my regulator out of my mouth and blew him a kiss for
being so nice.
Back on the Shenandoah, the cameraman was absolutely hyper.
"That was fantastic! I wanna do it again! And I wasn't scared
at all! On the way down, I thought that this was my last day, but
once the sharks came, it was fun!"
This is the reaction we always get from the folks we take down.
Charlie and Your Humble Obedient &tc. were grinning like we
had both just gotten fresh lobotomies. It is a pleasure to see someone
that you have made that happy.
Super Handsome interviewed us for two hours back at the home port
of the Shenandoah (Charlie's house). The Fabled PC demurely stood
behind the camera, beaming with pride at her soon-to-be-temporarily-famous
So look for the CNN special in September. I think you will know
which one, because they'll start it out with Voice-Of-God James
Earl Jones saying:
"This.........is CNN. And Waltie."