The Gulf and The Cove

by Rick Beck

Chapter 31

A Year in Passing

It was a high speed summer. Many weekends I spent with Harry flying around Florida. In Pensacola, Harry let me land the plane. He'd talked me through a dozen of his landings and he talked me through my first landing. I memorized the sequence of events by that time. Landing was a matter of him telling me the steps as each step became necessary. It was one of the most exhilarating events of the summer. I was too busy to worry and we were on the ground before I had time to think about anything but controlling the plane.

Once I taxied to the spot we were instructed to use, Harry unfastened his belts, reaching for his briefcase in the backseat.

"Nothing to it. You're smooth, Clayton. Very smooth."

As casually as he said it, I may have just parked his car.

Harry let me take off from behind his house a couple of times. Over the summer I became a pilot.

Like when I became a marine biologist, I could do the job a long time before it became official. That happened once I took the test.

There was a school in Ft. Lauderdale Harry would enroll me in after the election but before he was sworn in as a senator. Once he was a senator, when we flew somewhere together, he wanted me to fly the plane while he slept. It seemed fair. He flew from Washington to pick me up. Then it was on to our destination.

Like SCUBA diving, flying excited me. Piloting Harry gave me an entirely new range of responsibilities. I was proficient on land, on the sea, and in the air. I wondered what it took to be an astronaut?

The first time I saw Ivan, he flew. Now I could fly too, but I needed a plane. I didn't take the controls with Ivan and Dylan in the plane. It was too much responsibility for Harry to risk it.

I needed to be a legal pilot before I said, 'I'm a pilot.'

1980 was an incredible year of change in my life. I left my childhood behind in 1980. I grew into my role as a marine biologist who spoke for the sea. I grew comfortable in my love for Ivan. I watched as my son grew into a young man who had his own future.

Little did I know that Ivan had seen something in Dylan I hadn't recognized. Any time there was a change I didn't understand, resistance was my reaction. I didn't want Dylan hurt. I didn't want my son disappointed before he understood how talented he was.

Ivan wanted Dylan to learn to fly.

Dylan took a roll of 35mm film each week in 1980. No matter where I was or what I was doing, having him pop up to capture an instant in my son's life became typical. I couldn't imagine him putting down that camera for anyone, but he did. He lost interest in the Nikkon that was like an appendage for the first half of 1980.

On Dylan's eleventh birthday, the second birthday in a row Ivan shared with his son, the square box Ivan put in front of him at the breakfast table was too small to hold Dylan's future.

It turned out to be just the right size and it would connect Dylan's future to his daddy's future but it was a box at the end of July in 1980, eleven years to the day that man first walked on the moon..

"What is it, Daddy-O?" Dylan asked.

"Open it and you'll see," Ivan said.

Dylan went to work cutting open the box. He reached in and took out an 8mm camera.

"Moving pictures," Dylan said with a touch of wonder in his voice. He examined it from every angle.


Dylan carefully put the camera back in the box and he leaped into Ivan's arms. My son was giddy with delight.

"I love it, Daddy-O."

Ivan had never given Dylan anything that wasn't an instant hit.

I bought my son a charcoal gray suit for when we went with Harry and a leather bound collection by Elizabeth Bronte and one by Jane Austin. He'd read most of those books but reading books a second or third time was Dylan's way of absorbing what was on the writer's mind and what they most wanted the reader to know.

No one gave Dylan a toy or a game. I wouldn't dare give my son a game. He wasn't a kid and by eleven no one thought he was. We challenged his brain and we sought to expand his ability to think critically and not simply let teachers tell him what to think.

I remembered the greatest thing I'd ever heard a teacher say. I mentioned I would tell Dylan not to bring the books Lucy left lying around to school.

"Oh, no, I wouldn't want to do anything to discourage him. If I had thirty kids like Dylan, I could stay home. That day he was reading Tolstoy."

If Ivan ever failed to give Dylan the perfect gift, Lucy gave him the greatest gift possible. Lucy taught Dylan to love literature.

While I was reading The Cat in the Hat to him, Lucy was reading Jane Austin to him.

I didn't see that Dylan was already planning his future. Daddy-O, Harry, my sister could see what Dylan was becoming.

His daddy was still busy watching his little boy.

Change was never my long suit. Taking a shot wasn't my style. I learned slowly. I wanted to know everything about what I learned.

I was more the guy who woke up one day and said, "Oh, this is what that was all about. That's cool."

When Dylan brought the new camera on Sea Lab instead of the Nikkon, I worried he'd get it wet and he might ruin it.

I worried a lot.

By the time I was thirty, everyone knew my worry was about caring and they didn't mind I cared so much. They overlooked that I worried about the little stuff.

I did know to stand back and let Dylan be Dylan. I learned from my son in that way. I learned a lot in 1980. It was a great year for me because everything turned out fine almost to the end.

Dylan didn't say, lights, camera, action, but he said, 'Smile, Daddy,' which meant the camera was rolling.

I took care of the 35mm film. I developed it and I bought the film. 8 milometer was out of my bailiwick and Ivan took care of anything to do with moving pictures. Dylan loved filming at the cove and we frequently had movie night with the popcorn popper popping.

At first Dylan knew what he wanted to get on film but it was shaky and the composition of his filming suffered. He gave the viewer an idea of what he was trying to shoot but centering it and holding it still was another story.

Taking still pictures, when you moved the camera as you clicked, might blur the picture somewhat but you knew what was being photographed.

Moving pictures didn't like moving photographers. It took skill to compose the scene you wanted and get it on film.

With a boat rolling on the waves, you could increase the degree of difficulty by several notches. it was impossible to hold a camera still and capture the action on deck. Once we stopped and were ready to go diving, Dylan got candid shots that were pretty good.

Being on the boat in motion, Dylan got excellent pictures of things on either side or at the bow or the stern. After watching some of the wavy pictures, Dylan began experimenting with different ways of bracing himself while holding the camera.

He found out that if he could keep himself still, become like part of the boat, the film he took looked better. His composition improved but the quality of the camera was such that the slightest motion caused someone watching to wonder what they were watching. It also gave them a crash course in the feelings that come with sea sickness.

When Dylan filmed around the cove and at the house, his shakiness disappeared once he became aware of how important it was to keep the movie camera perfectly still. He accomplished it as long as the land didn't move.

My fear that Dylan's disappointment might sour him on photography was unfounded. Each time he watched film he took, he learned from it. He wasn't discouraged, he became more inventive. By working through what he did wrong, he corrected it.

During the summer, I tried to take my men diving once or twice a week. We made a day of it. We ended up at J.K.'s for fried clams and after dinner on dive days, we went to play Goofy Golf and finished with one of Ledo's great pizzas.

"I would like to film what we see underwater. That's where pictures would tell the story of the fish and where they live. Your slides are beautiful but slides don't catch the fish in motion."

I'd seen underwater motion pictures. It did capture the sea creatures as they were. The color was evident and sizes and shapes were easier to establish.

A still picture offered a view of one frame frozen in time. It required a lot of notes to explain the story the picture couldn't tell.

"Bill sometimes takes an underwater motion picture photographer on his research trips. I'll ask him if one of the photographers might talk to you, Dylan," I said.

"Cool. That would be far out, Daddy. One day I want to have a camera to take underwater pictures."

The dollar signs rang up in my brain.

I'd never thought I could take motion pictures while I was on a dive. The excitement was in witnessing the strange beautiful world where most people will never go. I could give people an idea of what is in the sea by catching marine life in motion. Because I did the photography, stills were what I knew and slides were a great medium in telling the story I wanted to tell.

The idea of adding motion pictures to my work in the Gulf might have been an idea worth considering. I wanted to talk to Bill's motion picture cameraman myself. Ivan's plan to introduce Dylan to different sides of photography gave Dylan the practical experience a photographer would need.

He'd nearly mastered still photography overnight. His pictures were surprisingly good. Then, Ivan introduced motion to the equation. Dylan had yet to master motion, but he didn't stop trying and I wouldn't stop giving my son as much room as he wanted.

Expense would be prohibitive but the possibilities were endless. I was lucky to be able to give my son whatever it took to allow him to find the space he wanted to occupy in his life.

"Did you see where Reagan's first campaign stop was after getting the nomination for president?" Ivan asked.

"No, where?" I asked, folding back the Sunday comics.

"Philadelphia," Ivan said.

"Where they signed the Declaration of Independence. Seems like a smart move. The creation of the presidency started there," I said.

"Philadelphia, Mississippi," Ivan said.

I lost interest in Lit'l Abner. I put the paper down.

"Why does that sound familiar?" I asked.

"Freedom Summer."

I paused. I knew about Freedom Summer. The facts rushed back into my mind.

"Chaney, Schwermer, and Goodman," I said. "I take back the remark about it being smart. It's a bit in your face."

"Give that man a Kewpie doll. Remembering them is important."

"That was when I first moved here. Before I even knew you."

"Before you knew me when they disappeared. We read about it in Time. When the bodies were found. It's been sixteen years."

"The Klan hid the bodies," I said.

"Probably accelerated passage of the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act by years," Ivan said. "LBJ was a great president but he had to play politics and that's when he sold his soul to the devil."

"What a waste," I said. "Bad men controlling everyone in their sphere of influence," I said.

I wondered how men who should never be allowed near power always manage to get power. In a dog-eat-dog world, these men inspired greed and hubris. It was wonderful for politicians but it didn't work out well for the people.


I made a dozen appearances for Harry in October and five for Lucy. Two when both of them appeared together close to election day. No one was happier than me when it was over. I didn't mind it. There were things I enjoyed but by November I was worn out and sick of terrible fried chicken dinners.

I was invited to Harry's for the election night watch. Lucy got the first invitation. I took Ivan and Dylan. I'd devoted far too much time to campaigning to spend any more time away from my men.

Harry didn't initially invite Ivan and Dylan but he told me they were always welcome to accompany me. They were both anxious to see what happened at a future senators house on the night he was elected to higher office.

I was excited.

Captain Popov came as an honored guest. He wore his brand new tailored captain's coat with gold braid on the sleeves and the captain's hat with gold braiding on the bill.

Gifts from the regional director and the assistant director of the FBI. Along with it were a copy of Popov's captain's papers. Written above the official seal of Florida were the words:

'Friend of the FBI.'

We knew about the ceremony in Tampa when Popov was officially thanked for capturing one of the FBI's most wanted. He wouldn't tell us how much the reward was but it was enough to make him smile.

With the loss of twenty pounds by the time his ordeal was over, Popov cut a dashing figure in the seat of honor in Harry's den. Hearing his laughter and watching the sparkle return to his eyes was medicine for everyone.

Harry did end up with an opponent for the open senate seat. At the last possible minute a state legislator put his name on the ballot. For the life of me, I can't remember his name.

Harry had a dozen ads running in the state. I was at his side in six ads. There was one ad with Harry boarding Sea Lab. I greeted him on the stern deck. Neither of us was featured in that ad. Sea Lab got star billing as the camera pulled back to show Sea Lab in all her glory.

I did pinch myself from time to time. I didn't know how I got here from that pudgy boy who moved here from Tulsa. I hated my new home. I missed my friends. That lasted about a week. Then I loved my new home and I didn't want to live anywhere else. By that time I had met the boy next door. He became my best friend.

I was fourteen then. It was sixteen years later. This Clay Olson couldn't possibly be related to the one who came here from Tulsa.

It was easy to be where I was. I belonged here. I just didn't know how I got here from where I started.

The only record of the event at Harry's house in November of 1980 was Dylan's motion picture of the event. I didn't know he had the camera with him. Ivan put it in the car and it stayed there until we were mesmerized by Walter Cronkite's election night reporting.

Dylan slipped out and brought back the camera when Ivan gave him the signal that this was the time to record the action. The camera was rolling when the magic happened.

"We've called the senate race for the open seat in Florida. Congressman Harry McCallister, an environmental force in congress for more than a decade, will be taking his place in the senate. Senator elect McCallister runs the Sanibel Island Conservancy. His conservancy is credited with some of the most comprehensive studies done in the Gulf of Mexico."

The room erupted in cheers and applause. This came before ten and Dylan filmed us listening to Walter Cronkite giving the facts on Harry's career. It was the peak of the action that evening. The phone immediately began to ring.

Even at 2 a.m. Lucy's seat in the legislature wasn't decided. The cameraman was sleeping with his head on Ivan's shoulder. His father's arm was around him.

It was a picture I couldn't take. I would commit it to memory. My family was together and unlimited in what it could accomplish.

Lucy won a seat in the state legislature.

The excitement renewed once she was declared the official winner. Harry had been on the phone since ten and he was only able to smile when he received word that Lucy won.

It was two days later when John Foley was elected the new sheriff. Teddy's friend from the A&P, when they were in high school, the big cowboy deputy who got me to my sister at school after Kent State, at an event when the kids closed down the high school. John made sure we stayed safe. He escorted us back to my car.

Ten years later he was elected Sheriff John Foley and he would be taking over for Sheriff Andy. John appeared one time on stage with Harry and Lucy at a campaign event a week before the election.

Harry kept his word to support a new candidate for sheriff.

This was the beginning of Harry's national prominence.

The never ending phone calls from supporters, donors, and friends wouldn't stop until late Wednesday night. Harry was ready to go back to Washington to get some rest but this was the job he wanted and he was in demand.

Harry stood on the national stage now. Our campaigning was merely the beginning of what was to come. With the Sanibel Island Conservancy on his resume, we would receive endless scrutiny.

Harry would need to hire staff to answer inquiries into the conservancy and I would be on the hot seat more often than I liked.

Nefarious entities sought to discredit Harry and his conservancy.

Anyone fighting the EPA's regulations that Harry sponsored were forced to clean up after themselves. Protecting the environment and the health of the people cost companies money and they didn't like it and they spent millions trying to discredit the idea they pollute.

Fighting them was like David fighting Goliath. Corporations had vast budgets to dispel the idea they'd do harm. They lied. We were funded by contributions and we didn't lie but we were the ones accused of lying.

Harry had more than one cause but he was called the environmental senator. His voice was respected and trusted, but he was attacked as a zealot and no friend to working men.

Even under fire, Harry spoke eloquently on preserving an environment that didn't kill the people or make them sick.

A majority of people believed Harry. An increasing number of people saw Harry as dangerous to working people who needed the jobs he was endangering by wanting to keep the environment healthy.

The people of Florida knew Harry was the people's senator.

That and a buck got you a cup of coffee in Washington.

I was reminded each time the conservancy came under fire for making things up that politics was a dirty business. I kept records to prove anything we put out as fact, but no one was interested in the records, they wanted to talk about the fight.


Ivan built the new cove and interest in his development was growing. The campsites were occupied most days each week. Each morning Ivan and I walked along the cove beach with our first cup of coffee in hand.

This became our routine as the dust was settling on 1980.

Life was good. We'd put the trouble behind us. Carlos Santiago pleaded guilty to nine counts of racketeering and six counts of conspiracy to commit murder.

The bargain was, Big Carlos wasn't going to fry but he was going to spend the rest of his life in a federal prison.

Lucy would sit in the legislature for about two months at the beginning of each year. She would room with one of the other legislators she knew for those months.

Lucy was a voice for a clean Florida. She was an advocate for the Sanibel Island Conservancy, it's marine biologist, and of Senator Harry McCallister's efforts to keep Florida clean and prosperous.

Lucy would teach as a substitute teacher during the months she wasn't in Tallahassee. No matter whose class she substituted for, they got a lesson in government and another one on the environment. She didn't give tests on what they learned from her.

As close to making 1980 history as we were, it wasn't ready to let us off quite so easy. There was another blow waiting to be delivered.

A mighty oak in my generation was felled December 8, 1980.

"The troubadour of peace and love was gunned down in front of his Dakota apartment building late Monday evening. He lived there with his wife Yoko and his son Sean. John Lennon was returning home from an interview to promote his new album, Double Fantasy."

"The assassin waited. He was there when Lennon left. He held out a copy of Double Fantasy, Lennon signed on his way to an interview. When Lennon returned Monday evening, the assassin stepped from the shadows shooting him five times in the back, and today the world stopped to mourn the man and his music."

"Lennon stood at the top of the rock and roll world for years, singing his songs of peace and love for fans all over the world."

Born in Liverpool and raised by his Aunt Mimi, John was sixteen when he met Paul McCartney at a Quarrymen's concert, Lennon's band at the time.

The rest is rock and roll history. The singing and song writing duo turned out a prolific amount of rock and roll as Lennon/McCartney.

John, Paul, George, and Ringo became rock and roll royalty as the Beatles sang their way around the world.

If Bob Dylan was the poet laureate for my generation, the Beatles provided the soundtrack for a generation that grew up on this music in the middle and late 60s.

The Beatles broke up after the 1960s ended but John, Paul, George, and Ringo each had successful solo careers. As the Beatles, they rocked the world with innovative and original sounds. Each time they released an album, fans lined up to see what 'the boys' produced this time.

John and Yoko moved to New York City, a place they loved. John said he could go out and walk the streets and besides saying hello, people let him have his space. He could walk into a restaurant, get a cup of coffee, and except for people saying, 'Hi, John,' in passing, he had privacy.

After five years as a househusband, without recording or appearing anywhere, John Lennon was back. He had a new album and the music would was a buzz with what was coming with John back on the scene and making music.

A man who shouldn't have had a gun silenced John forever.

It was a familiar story. Good men who wanted to help the world become a better place, gunned down by men who hated everyone.

Lennon's death could have been one more shooting death in America but he was no ordinary victim.

The world stood still to cry at the news of his death.

John had been missed. His return had music lovers giddy with anticipation. The hope, the inspiration, the thought of more songs of peace and love died Monday night.

I went diving early Tuesday morning. Our beach was off the beaten path. I rarely had the urge to listen to the news to find out what was going on out there. I had my own life to take care of. The madness in the world had nothing to do with me, until Monday night, when the madness hit too close to home.

I noticed nothing unusual. The cove was just waking up as I sailed into the Gulf. As with most of my dives, I was in the Gulf early. I'd be back in time for lunch after spending an hour underwater.

I noticed the Cove Dive, Surf, & Bait Shop wasn't open. The lights were off. The Daddy-O was there. Ivan's Buick wasn't.

I drove home to shower and to have lunch. I wondered where Ivan was. He hadn't mentioned going anywhere.

Lucy met me at the front door.

She'd been crying.

"Isn't it terrible," my sister said.

"What's terrible?" I asked, immediately thinking of Dylan.

"You don't know? They killed John Lennon last night."

It was like one of my nightmares. He wasn't really dead. Lucy wasn't really there. Why would anyone kill John Lennon?

I was dreaming this. I had vivid dreams, but this was no dream.

I was stunned as the truth sunk in. I needed to be with Ivan. John was one of our favorite musicians, but he was far more than that. We grew up on the Beatles music. Most kids who were kids in the 60s grew up on the Beatles and we followed John Lennon's transformation from rock idol to activist and Vietnam War protester.

I knew where Ivan was. I walked up the beach toward his house.

I heard Rubber Soul, his favorite Beatles album, blasting out into the Gulf. I could see Ivan sitting on the deck, his feet on the railing.

I went inside and up the stairs to sit beside him.

He took my hand, looking at it as he intertwined his fingers in mine. Tears were rolling down his cheeks. His cheeks were stained from tears already cried. He leaned his head on my shoulder and I put my arm around him.

For the rest of the day we listened to one Beatles album after another. They hadn't recorded as the Beatles for ten years and the music was still as great as ever.

I'd forgotten how much they had to say in their songs.

The question often asked in music circles, 'When will the Beatles get back together to record again?' Had been answered.

For two days we listened and cried and we hardly spoke.

Only John Kennedy's assassination came close to this event.

At thirteen I wasn't at connected to politics or to Kennedy. He had a nice face and he spoke well. He seemed smart. Shooting him sounded extreme and people stopped on the street to cry then too.

1980 turned out to be a great year, until just before it ended.

I felt fortunate to have the life I had. I had love. I had a beautiful son. My family was always the best part of me.

I loved my work and I looked forward to the future.

Life was good, even when, from time to time, I needed to face the harsh reality in the world beyond our beaches.

I was thankful to live on the Gulf near the cove. Even when we had trouble, it was trouble we got through and found a way to end.

1980 was done.

I was hoping 1981 would be a real good year.

We all did.

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