The Essence of Life

The Essence of Life

Sunday, May 26, 2013


You never played dominoes like this!

A certain day, several years ago, my father decided to go fishing for peacock bass in the "Represa de Tupaciguara", a very large man-made lake formed by the Paranaíba River to supply the 2,082 MW Itumbiara Hydroelectric power-plant.

In the best expeditionary spirit my father invited a friend and frequent side-kick nicknamed Mr. Leitão to join him in the adventure and started preparing all the gear for the trip, from an eighteen feet aluminum boat called Midu, named after my daughter, powered by a fifteen horse-power Evinrude outboard, fishing gear wich included my father's famous (or infamous) wooden fishing box, and finishing with two rather large swim-pool white plastic chairs. Whatever did not fit on the boat was loaded on the bed of the GM truck. 

At that time my sister and her husband, not counting their children and eight or ten dogs, lived on a farm not far away from the lake, and my brother-in-law Ângelo was to come along with another friend on a different boat.

Upon arriving at the lake the brave fishermen met their respective guides (in Brazil they are called "pirangueiros") and started gearing up the boats for a long day of fishing, and my dad had specific plans about the set-up of his boat.

After fixing the outboard and its fuel tank, fishing gear, a very large beer cooler (the idea was that as they drank the beer, they would make room for all the fishes in the lake), the famous wooden fishing box with all its mysterious contents, and some life-jackets as Mr. Leitão did not know how to swim, my father insisted that the two large chairs be placed on board so that he and Mr. Leitão could fish from a more confortable position than what was offered by the boat's simple aluminum benches.

As my father, Mr. Leitão and the pirangueiro boarded the boat, Ângelo expressed his concern that Midu might be overloaded as it sailed away with no more than an inch of free board. Of course my father dismissed the warning just like Titanic's Captain Edward Smith ignored icebergs.

By now you can imagine that soon after leaving shore Midu went down like a rock, but luckily not with all hands. I never could get a good description of the actual sinking, I just know that my father was able to keep Mr. Leitão afloat with the help of two life-jackets and then drag him to shore which was not that far away. And soon afterwards a couple things started to happen: apparently my father was mad at his son-in-law for letting him sail in such overloaded conditions and the plastic chairs and beer started floating.

The second boat was commandeered to rescue the beer, and if possible the chairs, and then Ângelo was told to volunteer as a diver to salvage the boat, motor, and whatever else  he could find.

The depth of the wreck was deeply disputed between the parts involved in the incident. Some say no more than ten feet, Ângelo swears that it was over twenty. I don't think that we will ever know for sure.

But anyhow, Ângelo had to strip and start diving and what he could not carry up was tied to a strong line and dragged to shore. There is also disagreement on how long the salvage operation took, but less so than the depth mentioned above.

After several "diving sessions" my father told Ângelo that his fishing box was missing, and that it contained some very important items, and that he would have to go down again until it was retrieved.

Eventually the fishing box came up, full of water but with all its contents, and Ângelo questioned my father about what so important in that box. The answer was: "The dominoes that my cousin Maria Helena gave me on my ninth birthday in 1954!" 

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