Columnist Danny Henley writes about the different types of sharks he observed while on vacation.
What’s a vacation without a few regrets?
Some people wind up regretting not generously applying sun screen on their first day outside. Some drivers will regret not listening carefully enough to the trip’s navigator when he or she says to take the “I-whatever” exit up ahead. Some folks regret letting their teenage son consume a second super chili dog and then not responding immediately 20 miles down the road when he first mumbles, “I don’t feel so good.”
After my recent family vacation in South Carolina, my lingering regrets are few and insignificant:
• Always filling up the van with $3.87 a gallon fuel only to discover gasoline 10 cents a gallon cheaper just five minutes down the road.
• Not having any lightning to photograph. While thunderheads appeared from time to time, I never saw a single bolt while there.
• I’d hoped to see an alligator in the wild. But all we ever saw were signs warning us to leave the ill-tempered reptiles alone if we happened upon one.
While I never saw an alligator, I did see some sharks, which typically are not something you want to view near where you or loved ones are frolicking about in the ocean. However, one evening at dusk, as my son Caleb and I were looking for shells along the shore, that is exactly what we spotted.
It’s a definite sign that I’ve watched too many nature shows on sharks when at a glance this Missouri boy immediately recognized the form of a shark dangling from a fisherman’s line in the fading light.
As we approached, the fisherman was more than happy to show us the 6-inch, black-tipped shark he’d caught. After taking a picture of the shark with his cell phone, the fisherman took it off the hook and asked if I’d like to return the shark to the ocean.
The fisherman and I waded out about knee deep into the surf before I lowered the fish into the water. With a flick of its tail, it headed back out toward the ocean before suddenly pulling a U-turn, which prompted the fisherman and me to perform high-stepping retreats out of the water.
Not 30 yards down the shore, another fisherman was showing off to a crowd of curious onlookers a small, black-finned shark he’d just caught.
“He’s little, but he’s got sharp teeth. Wanna feel?” the fisherman asked.
I smiled but shook my head no. My momma raised ugly kids, not ones dumb enough to put their fingers into the mouth of a live shark.
As it turned out, those were not the only sharks I encountered along the Carolina shoreline.
Almost every morning, I’d rise early to see if there was going to be a sunrise worth photographing. One morning, as I took close-up photographs of some beautiful red flowers covered in water droplets, a woman in her 30s approached me. She told me the name of the flowers I was photographing, adding that the leaves were poisonous.
With the ice having been broken, she complimented the large beach house where we were staying and asked if it was mine. I told her we were only there for a week as guests of my in-laws who had rented the house. At that point, she abruptly headed for the beach.
I’ve never claimed to be the sharpest knife in the drawer, so it took me a couple of moments before I realized that I’d just encountered a different kind of shark. She was looking for a “sugar daddy” in which to sink her teeth. After learning I lacked the financial means to rent, let alone own, a big beach house overlooking the ocean, all interest was lost in me as prey.
The last I saw of the woman, she was seated on the beach, conversing with two silver-haired gentlemen. Turning to walk away, I realized the famous theme music from the movie “Jaws” was playing in my head.