Here's a photo of me commercial fishing at age 24, holding a Red Snapper. My boat is tied up to an oil rig.
I was 16 years old, and lived on the Gulf Coast in Texas. I was hired as a deck hand/fisherman for a commercial fishing boat. The job was hard, with long hours, rough seas, and minimal comforts. We would get about four hours of sleep at night, stay out to sea four to five days depending on how long supplies would last, or how fast we filled the boat with fish. The lessons I learned during my experiences fishing have stuck with me even today. Every few days we would return to port, offload fish, refuel, resupply and head back out. A lot of times, we would drop a deckhand, only to replace with another. I got to meet quite a few guys, and wondered why they didn't stick with us. Our captain was an "old salt", meaning he was a tough, seasoned fisherman. He wanted things done his way, and you'd better fall in line fast or else you were dropped at the dock with your walking papers! He knew the business inside and out. His wife ran the fish house back on land in the town where we lived, Port Aransas, TX. There was always work to be done, and we worked long hard hours on land and at sea. The job had its rewards too, as we were fishermen, we would catch FISH! I've reeled in 200+ lb. Warsaw Grouper, along with 30 + lb Red Snapper, 90+ lb Ling, Shark, Barracuda, Amber Jack, Mahi Mahi, and Wahoo, with many more species included. Sometimes fishing was good, other times great. I can remember having snapper biting so good that we couldn't stop for hours, filling the deck of the boat knee deep, before we just had to stop and start cleaning them and pack them in ice. Those are the days you don't eat, or you just get a can of soup, pop the top, hold it in one hand, a fishing rod in the other and down it as fast as you can, not hot, cold. It was so fun to wonder what was on the other end of the line, and witness what it was at the surface. I loved watching the sunsets, moon rises, and the water sparkle with neon greens. I also loved the sunrises, and the water with deep blues, emerald greens, and the salt smells as the breeze picked up. I enjoyed the peacefulness, no other boats, no street signs, speed limits, fixed roads or pathways. It felt like real freedom, to explore and was a new adventure each day.
One trip sticks in my mind to this day. We were about 115 miles offshore, myself, the Captain and one other deck hand. We'd been out for three days already, and supplies were getting low. A storm blew in at about 6 pm. We tried to head away from the storm with no success, and had to tie up to an oil rig and wait it out. The waves grew to 6 feet, then a few hours later, they grew to 10 feet, with 45 knot wind speeds. As night came, the seas were 17 ft, close together, crashing over our boat, and 35-40 knot winds sustained. Our boat was tied to an oil rig about 90 miles offshore. During the night, about 2 am, our mooring line snapped in half. We were now adrift, totally powerless to the storm and the sea. There was zero visibility, no radar, and just a compass to watch bobble. Our engines were running at idle to give us onboard lights, and running lights to help others possibly see us and not crash into us (we hoped). We drifted from 2 am, without visibility until about 7 am. As the visibility improved, the waves did not lay down, and the electronics were wet causing our motors to run poorly. The motors would run fine at idle, but would not turn up any RPM's to push us against the giant waves. We had to putter over to another oil rig, and tie off. I began to work on the engines and could only get one running properly, as the day went on, the seas laid down to 2-4 feet, and that allowed us to limp on the one good engine and start toward home. As we began our journey, our radio began to work, and we called in a mayday to the Coast Guard, but could not get a response. After a couple of days of slowly motoring, we made it into about 37 miles from home with the one good engine. Suddenly, it just quit, The other engine that would only run a little above idle got us over to the oil rig where we again tied up, and tried to repair the engines. We continued to call in a mayday to the coast guard for help, and again, no response. We shut off the engines, and tried to repair wet wiring, clean up connections, and get them running again, but the batteries were dead. We were in a real jam now, and totally out of food and water. We did have fish and ice, so we would be alright for a little while, but who wants to eat raw fish and drink fishy smelling ice water? We did what we had to do! We spent two days and another night tied to that oil rig. Time seemed to drag on, ever so slowly. We fished, and read books, and talked, trying to do anything to pass the time. We hoped someone would come - airplane, another boat, helicopter, anyone! I just kept working on the wiring, and engines. I finally got one of the batteries to give enough power to run the radio and we began calling in for help to anyone that might hear. Again, for awhile no responses, until a voice came over the radio. The voice was very loud and clear, and the feeling of joy so overwhelming! I knew right then, we were going to make it! It was a captain of a fishing boat that took tourists day fishing. We called them "head boats" on account of the 40-50 people it could handle taking onboard. The boat was called the Gulf Eagle, and they were en route to pick us up! My friend and I couldn't wait, we saw them coming from the distance, the boat looked so small, and we dove into the water and started swimming toward them. We made it out to about 2,500 feet from our boat, and they saw us, did an about face, backing up toward us, and put their engines in neutral. The deckhand was a high school friend of ours. He opened the tuna door for us, and helped us aboard, with a huge smile on his face, shaking his head. He said, " only you two would I believe this could be happening to!!" As we boarded the boat, I looked back toward our boat, and couldn't see it. Maybe due to salt water in my eyes, or it was just that far away. Either way, I was headed to the tower for a comfortable ride home, and cold glass of water!
The lesson I most value on this particular adventure, was the realization that I'm NOT in control of anything, but myself. I could choose to be upset, scared, or I could choose to be calm and think in the moment and work toward what I wanted in the future. And what I wanted, was to get home, no matter how, or by what means.
Our experiences in this life may not always be pleasant,but if we look for the valuable lessons within these experiences, they become essential in growing and developing to become better. In horsemanship, I've become better for having the opportunities to experience many situations out of my control, evaluate those experiences, and apply what I learned to horsemanship. Remember, we cannot CONTROL the horse, but we CAN control ourselves.
To be continued next month.....
Last Month's Roundup
As most of you know, we have been building the infrastructure at American Mustang School. Some of the things happening are tree removal, fence building, and site preparation for the barn. We have been super busy with networking and creating a presence here in North Carolina. One of our main goals is providing more equine assisted therapy to our veterans. We have attracted a few sponsors and will be sharing those with you soon. Many of you have donated to help with our mission, and we thank you so much. If you'd like to be a part of our team providing horsemanship therapy programs, let us know.
AMS Adventures - Here's What's Coming Up
It may still be winter in NC but it's a great time to improve your horsemanship skills.
We are offering monthly horsemanship clinics beginning this month. These can be taken as one-ofs or, for maximum benefit, all in the series. Here's what's in store for February.
Other monthly clinic dates TBA. We are going on adventures as we learn about our horses.
Here's what we will encounter...
Solving world problems through Horsemanship
Prepare for the trail
Conditioning, mind and body
Log pulling, obstacles
Confidence on the trail
Exploring and adventure
Trail riding with a group. Trail etiquette, dos and don’ts
Moss Foundation trail riding
Camping with horses
Prep to camp overnight
Therapy for others with your horse.
Therapy for the therapy horse.
We Are Looking For a Few Good Horsemen and Horsewomen
Not a member of our private Facebook group -Adventures of the Enlightened Horseman yet?
Please consider joining because every dollar goes toward providing Veterans and First Responders (and their families) Equine Assisted Therapy - at no charge to them.
In return, Justin shares his knowledge of Bitless, Spurless, No pain, No fear Horsemanship with you.
A win-win that will save someone's live and enrich your horsemanship!
American Mustang School Horse Spotlight
Name -Golden Sunshine
Hes the newest addition to our American Mustang school herd, and he's been with us for almost three years now. Sunshine is from Sand Wash Basin in Colorado, and is son of the famous wild stallion Corona.
Favorite activity -His favorite activity is trail riding, exploring new areas. He loves to go! He's been recently introduced to assisting with therapy for veterans with PTSD and was a rock star! We are so very proud of Sunshine. If you'd like to sponsor him, and help us, help those in need, please donate. Any amount helps.
Best adventure with Justin -He loves to explore so much, we took him to New Mexico and did a three day adventure with overnight camping and riding the desert in the back country. He loved it!
Sunshine is special because -
Sunshine is an em-path, he can read emotion in people better than any horse I've ever had the privilege to play with. He is acutely aware of his surroundings at all times, and commands that I be in the moment with him. He's taught me so much about myself and I learn something new each time I interact with him. He absolutely loves children, and is very patient with adults in therapy.
Sunshine is the American Mustang School mascot!
Horse Fun Fact
Mustangs have one of the greatest varieties of size and color of any horse breed.
A Mustang may be as small as 13 hands or as tall as 16 hands. They may weigh as little as 700 pounds or may be closer to 1,500 pounds for the larger stallions. Every equine color variation that is known is also part of the Mustang breed.