I visited with a Florida native today about the coming elections — Tuesday’s Florida Republican primary and November’s general election.
I crossed paths with this Floridian when he was on his way to work. He’s a fisherman, in the later years of his life. He’s conservative. He works hard, has all his life, gets no handouts.
He’s a single-issue guy — it’s all about the environment for him.
He can’t vote. He has no photo ID, no green card, no street address, no fingerprints. He has a dorsal fin. He’s strong, fit, about seven or eight feet tall — or long, I guess.
He’s a dolphin. He’s for Florida, not for oil. He’s pro-life, not pro-consumption at any cost.
I was kayaking near our house, paddling just off the shore of the Gulf of Mexico. I looked west and saw a large dorsal fin coming my way. After nervously hearing a little “Jaws” music in my head, I heard the blow — fast exhale/inhale — and relaxed in the company of a dolphin. He crossed right in front of me, heading for the shallows where so many fish had been jumping they’d made a symphony of splashing. The dolphin chased fish in two or three feet of water, circling tighter and faster to rodeo the fish in the center and grabbing one or two that didn’t leap out of the way. He was magnificent.
After a few minutes he headed out to deeper water and I paddled around a little mangrove island. Ten minutes later I heard him splashing again on the other side of the island, paddled close to him once more as he stroked his way into the shallow fishing ground again. For the next half hour I watched from 10, 20, 40 feet away as he circled, flapped his tail, chased his dinner and graced me with the closest view of a dolphin in nature I’ve ever had.
The Gulf water was crystal clear. The mangrove shallows were burgeoning with life. These coastal marshes are rich nurseries for fish, shellfish and birds. They are glorious, fragile and threatened.
After catching several fish — he needs about 30 pounds a day — the dolphin swam about 50 yards off shore and rested, belly on the shallow bottom, blowhole rising above water every 30 seconds or so. He was tired. I suspect he is old. Many of us down here are.
We talked. I listened. Really. He’s tired of the threats to his home. He asked me to vote for Marjory Stoneman Douglas, the great Florida environmentalist. Or for Sigurd Olson. Or Edward Abbey. Or Aldo Leopold. I told him all these people are dead. He was sad to hear that.
He asked me if we humans don’t realize that this environment we’re ruining is our home too. I just floated near him and had no answer.
We were quiet together, then I thanked him for the gam, and he turned to deeper water.
Three words I did not hear from the dolphin:
Drill Baby Drill.
— Bruce Benidt
(Photo from keywestdivecenter.com)