My brother-in-law, Bernard Redman, always had a “sixth sense” when it came to detecting potentially hazardous situations. He was trained as a pediatric emergency room nurse and loved to fish. So we frequently worked together on a myriad of fishing trips and adventures.
In the summer of 1998, I decided to attend the University of Pennsylvania Radiology meeting in Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts. I invited Bernie and my sister-in-law, Alice, along for a family trip so Bernie and I could go striped bass fishing in the evening. My wife was highly interested in the Kennedy family and we spent the week in Martha’s Vineyard hoping to catch a glimpse of John Kennedy Jr., who frequented the island. Jackie Onassis, also, had a property in the Martha’s Vineyard countryside. However, the entire week had almost passed without a Kennedy sighting.
On the last evening of the trip, Bernie and I were surf fishing near the Gay Head Lighthouse on the west end of Martha’s Vineyard. The fog was rolling in thick from the Atlantic and we could barely see 2 feet in front of us. One of the reasons I had brought Bernie on the trip was his innate ability to handle live eels. This was the preferred bait for striped bass and anyone who attempted to grab a live eel knows that it is like grabbing the slimiest snake you could ever think of. Eel slime can remain on your hands for weeks. Bernie was along because he was an expert in handling live eels and baiting the hooks. That foggy damp evening we had caught several striped bass. We were contemplating how good they were going to taste when Bernie thought he heard an odd noise. As usual, his sixth sense was in high gear. I dismissed it, however, as I did not hear the noise, which he described as a low-level droning. We were about to pack up and leave when a giant light shined on us, on the beach, from the ocean. A large Coast Guard Cutter was proceeding along the shore off Gay Head Beach. What could this possibly mean? We assumed they were looking for drugs, but that seemed unlikely near the wealthy island of Martha’s Vineyard. We dismissed the Coast Guard craft as a routine patrol and headed on home.
The next morning I loaded my family and headed to Martha’s Vineyard Airport. Bernie and his family went to the ferry, as they had driven to Martha’s Vineyard. As I walked into the very small, quaint, Martha’s Vineyard Airport, I saw it was overrun with news media and reporters. I couldn’t believe the large crowd. I wondered what could be going on. I asked one of the news media people and they said John Kennedy Jr.’s plane just crashed last night off the west end of Martha’s Vineyard at Gay Head Beach. I was stunned and overcome. It was a “Forrest Gump” moment for me. The low-droning sound Bernie had heard was the sound of John Kennedy Jr.’s plane wandering in the fog before it crashed. The Coast Guard vessel had been desperately searching for the remains of the plane, and Bernie and I had been the closest people to the site of the crash without even knowing it. The irony of having spent the whole week with my wife looking for him, only to have his plane crash near my fishing spot in the middle of the night was more than bizarre. When I called Bernie, it didn’t surprise him, as he thought the low-droning sound felt to him like a plane in distress.
Earlier that week, we had hired a guy to take us surf fishing in Martha’s Vineyard, and it turns out that this guy was very opiniated on Teddy Kennedy and the Chappaquiddick incident. Apparently, he had pulled Mary Jo Kopechne’s body out of the vehicle at Chappaquiddick the next day in what he said was 2 feet of water. He felt there was no way she could not have been rescued. We visited the bride on his recommendation. I was stunned at how small the bridge was and how shallow the water was underneath it. I had always imagined that this was a large bridge and Teddy had no option but to save himself. After this trip, I began to respect Bernie’s sixth sense about certain situations.
Our next adventure was a family trip to Ennis, Montana, where I own property. Bernie and I would float the “world famous fly-fishing “ Madison River with my guide, Jerry. It is one of the few rivers in the United States that flows completely in a northward direction through the pristine Madison Valley. On this particular day, we had been fishing for almost 6 hours with the wind howling out of the north slowing our progress in a McKenzie drift boat. Normally, Jerry would row the boat to slow us down because of the rapid current. The wind was so strong that we had made very little progress. Our float distance was approximately 20 miles and we had covered barely 10.
We came to the next to last bridge. Jerry informed me that there was no way we could make our pickup point before nightfall because of the wind. He chose instead for us to get out at the next bridge and he would attempt to hitchhike down to the lower base pickup vehicle. As there was no cell phone service in the wilderness, this seemed like our best option. Jerry, Bernie, and I sat beside the dirt road for what seemed like an eternity before a truck appeared in the distance. As it approached, it seemed unusual. It was a flatbed truck loaded with hives full of bees. Apparently, there were beekeepers in the Madison valley. The truck stopped when Jerry held out his thumb and asked if he needed a ride. Jerry was about to hop on the back of the truck when Bernie grabbed his arm and stopped him. Once again, Bernie sensed that something was wrong. He had noticed alcohol on the breath of the bee truck driver and got a really bad feeling. He convinced Jerry not to get on the truck, which seemed like a poor decision in my opinion, even with the alcohol on the breath of the driver. Jerry was agitated by how much longer we might have to wait for another ride. Eventually, a rancher appeared that Jerry knew and took him to the pickup point. We later found out that the man in the bee truck was drunk and had ridden off a cliff along the Madison River. He had to be air-vac’d to the trauma center in Billings. I am not sure if he lived or died. Once again, Bernie’s sixth sense had quite probably saved Jerry’s life.
The event that made me most appreciate Bernie’s intuition occurred several years later in the Grand Canyon. I had arranged a fly-fishing trip along the north rim of the canyon on the Colorado River, based in the town of Lees Ferry, below the dam of Lake Powell. I had Bernie and his family, and my wife and daughters on this adventure.
We had hired jet boats with guides for the fabulous fly fishing, and would at the same time get scenic views of the upper Grand Canyon from the water. This particular day, they brought my two daughters, Bernie and myself into the upper Grand Canyon on a jet boat.
We anchored on an island in the river, where the guide said fishing would be great. The guide tied the boat to a tree. Excited I could hardly wait to get out and fish a pool at the upper end. Along with my older daughter, Katie, and the guide, we grabbed our gear and began hiking up the island.
My younger daughter, Caroline, had virtually no interest in fly fishing or the beautiful Grand Canyon. She was sitting in the jet boat immersed in her Seventeen Magazine. She stayed in the boat, which was still in the river shallows, tied to the tree.
Despite wanting to go with us, Bernie’s intuition took over and he decided it was best that he stay and fly fish near the boat, where Caroline sat reading, rather than hike with the rest of us to the pool on the north end of the island. About 10 minutes had passed when Bernie looked up and noticed that the jet boat had come untied from the tree and was beginning to drift into the Colorado River rapids. Instinctively, he dived head first into the river wearing chest waders and grabbed the end of the rope. With all of his might, pulling the jet boat against the current, he somehow managed to drag it ashore, completely drenched and drained. Unbeknownst to my daughter, she just missed becoming the first 12-year-old to attempt to complete a solo voyage of the entire Grand Canyon in a jet boat, through multiple-stage 5 rapids by herself. This would have been a national news story if Bernie hadn’t stayed with the boat. Instead, my daughter didn’t seem to notice all the pandemonium around her and looked up from her magazine and said, “Bernie, why are you all wet?!”
I heard the commotion from the north end of the island and ran back and instantly became aware of what just happened. I was livid! The guide should have done a better job of anchoring the boat. I could have been standing on an island in the middle of the Colorado River, with no cell phone service, watching my daughter float away. Needless to say, I let the guide shop owners know about this potential tragedy. So, yet again, Bernie saved the day.
I returned with my family and in-laws to the lodge on the south rim of the Grand Canyon, and prepared for a hike on the Bright Angel Trail. My wife, of course, decided her time would be better spent in the gift shop.
With my two daughters and my in-laws we headed to the Bright Angel Trail. This is the same trail, as a young man, I had hiked out of the Grand Canyon on a single-day trip (see Chapter 8). I knew the Grand Canyon well and knew the limitations. However, now I was in my late 40s - not 24. I had calculated that we could go approximately 3 miles before we would have to turn around based on the physical limitations of my “crew.”
The biggest problems with the Grand Canyon, unlike most hikes, you begin the hike with a descent and then finish with an ascent – the exact opposite of everything that goes up must come down. It is very deceptive to realize how far uphill you have to hike to get back to the rim.
My crew cruised the 3-mile route down as I had “calculated,” without much difficulty. We were slowed by several mule-pack trips which I had previously experienced, requiring hikers to get out of the way and stand on the ledge to let them pass.
We reached the turning around point with the Colorado River was clearly visible in the distance.
Suddenly ensued an argument, my sister-in-law, Alice, looking at the river said “oh we can easily make that and get out.” Everyone was getting mad at me for being a dictator. Bernie’s intuition was agreeing with me, he knew it would be very bad if we didn’t turn around. After a much-heated debate, my crew acquiesced and begin the hike back up to the rim. My daughters and I cruised out in about an hour. When we got to the rim of the canyon, we noticed that Alice and Bernie were nowhere in sight.
Almost 2 hours passed before their figures came into sight. By the time they reached the rim, they were completely exhausted. I had made the right decision on when to turn around based on my prior experience. Had we gone much further, it might have resulted in another infamous canyon airlift. Bernie’s intuition about turning around had been right. He knew it was better to let me be the bad guy and enforcer for this excursion. The other problem with the canyon is the lower you descend, the hotter it gets. This being in the heat of the summer, the temperature on the rim where we were was in the low 90s but where Bernie and Alice were, down in the canyon it was approaching 100.
Bernie passed away several years ago and I miss his presence, his sixth sense - after all, it helped save my daughter’s life.