As a chubby grade school kid I often went to the Collegian Theatre where I was enthralled by cowboys corralling dusty stampedes and gunning down grungy bad guys in the heat of a cow town day. Hunkered down in an overstuffed seat, my imagination throbbed as the silver screen transported me around the world. And one of the best things about it was that it was affordable, since all I had to do was grub around in the tall grass along South Duff and find a few pop bottles. The Little Store’s owner on Lincoln Way, a tall, bald, kindly man would give me two cents for each bottle, and usually I’d have enough left to buy a couple of Hostess cupcakes or something else in a major food group.
Then it was off to the Collegian and wherever it was beaming me that wonderful evening. Just entering the foyer was an adventure as implied by Anthony Capps’ fascinating article “A History of the Ames Movie Theaters” (Ames High School Alumni Association Newsletter, August 2014). What caught my eye upon entering was a collection of huge mounted saltwater fish that dominated the walls. Marlin, sailfish, tuna, and others captivated my mind and those images remained through the years. These memories were accentuated by teaching emingway’s Hemingway’s The Old Man and The Sea a few times when I became a big boy and taught college English for 37 years. Santiago fought desperately to subdue a humongous marlin with a hand line. That vicarious experience forever meshed in my imagination, embellished by all those movies at the Collegian, and kept an ember of those happenings alive.
In November, 2012, my wife, Sue, and I took a trip to Costa Rica, mostly to see some birds and we saw about 150, including the Resplendent Quetzal, but part of my eccentric mind(Read: English teacher) was still stirred by the Collegian Theater, the big fish therein, and Santiago’s struggle. With Sue’s encouragement, we rented a small boat, “The Mad Marlin”, with an expert crew, Captain Glen and First Mate Memo, and headed “Off Shore”.
Early the next morning we met Leanne, the owner of the boat, still decked out in her crash helmet from the motor scooter trip over from her ocean front office. Both crew members were fit and alert and the boat was immaculate and well equipped, with the rods sporting bright, stout brass reels secure in their holders. The sky was overcast and the sea calm and gray as we burbled away from the dock and out into the impassive and mysterious Pacific Ocean.
Captain Glen settled The Mad Marlin into cruise and chugged for about an hour which definitely got us “Off Shore”. Then Memo placed the rods and we trolled. In short order a huge, bullet headed fish leaped out of the sea, firmly connected to my line and after a strong, five minute struggle, Memo hoisted a four and a half foot Dorado(Mahi Mahi) into the boat, the biggest fish I’d ever caught. It was exciting, but my dream was to have a huge, sword billed monster soaring out of the ocean, fastened to me by a thin piece of string, so on we trolled, fortified by Memo’s gargantuan Po’ Boy sandwiches.
The boat toiled along under the silent, sodden sky, and then suddenly the leaden mirror of the ocean was shattered by a long, sharp bill followed by a thick, dark body as the Captain said, ”It’s a big fish”. I ground on the massive brass reel for all I was worth, but still, as he leapt again and again, he gained line against the drag, and was five times farther out when he jumped one last time and I reeled him in. Memo slid him up for a picture and I marveled that my seven decade fantasy, born in the foyer of The Collegian Theater, had turned to reality. The whole experience was much richer because Sue supported me and was beside me all the while. My prize was a nine foot eight inch, 100 pound sailfish, which swirled powerfully into the endless deep as Memo patted him lightly on the back and we released him.
Cole N. Foster, ‘55
August 15, 2014