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Bramson’s Beach & Ballsy Banter


By Bennett A. Bramson, MPA

While growing up on Miami Beach, one of my favorite pastimes was fishing.

Living on Biscayne Point (BP) we were surrounded by the bay and canals (though my home was one of the few on the island that was land locked).

Every morning before school I set my alarm two hours early, often for 5 am.

I would leap out of bed, brush my teeth, throw on my shorts, t-shirt and sneakers, grab my trusty rod with my Garcia Mitchell 300 or 304 reel, my little tackle box and off I sped the two blocks to the 81st Street bridge entrance to the island (that bridge and entrance are long gone).

For an hour or so each day (usually seven days a week, weather permitting) I would take my choice of artificial bait (lure, fly, jig, spoon) and begin stalking my fishy favorites from the seawalls behind the houses on that portion of BP, or behind the homes on Crespi Boulevard, across the canal. The homeowners were accustomed to seeing me fishing out there early in the morning, quite accommodating and welcoming.

Almost always, the goal was the hard fighting Jack Crevalle (which swarmed the canal in schools, crashing the sea wall, while attacking the minnow or finger mullet baits) or on occasion, I was lucky enough to land a prize Snook, which may have been lingering around the bridge or dock pilings. Once in a blue moon, I’d land a Lookdown (or Moonfish, as we’d call them).

The Jack I caught (mostly in the five to seven pound range) were always returned to the water to fight another day; the Snook, if they met the minimum size of 18,” came home with me to be consumed for dinner and what a delicious meal they made.

One Thanksgiving morning when I was about 9 years old, as I prepared for my daily excursion, my dear loving Mother said, “It’s Thanksgiving, sweetheart, you don’t have to fish today.” But I was incessant that I shouldn’t miss a day of angling. I was so addicted to this routine that I swore the fish would be disappointed if they didn’t see me.

When I arrived, there was another boy whom I didn’t recognize casting along the Biscayne Point side of the wall and I thought, “maybe here’s a new fishing friend,” so I joined him.

I couldn’t help but notice his unusual casting style which led me to stand a few feet further away than I might under normal circumstances, as my usual fishing buddies and I cast directly overhead (unless under a tree or obstacle).

After a few initial casts, we had each caught a nice sized Jack or two, which we fought a few minutes, pulled to the wall, lifted and removed the fly or lure from their mouths, and returned to the water.

Suddenly, as he made his next cast to the side, I felt a hard object strike me on the side of the head and a sharp pain in my ear.

I was uncertain what had just occurred, but I reached to my ear and felt his fly, with the yellow feathers dangling and the hook now firmly embedded through the center of my ear.

He screamed in horror as he saw what he had done and the blood began to stream from my appendage, down the side of my face, and onto my shirt. He began to cry.

I was always a pretty tough guy, with a high pain tolerance, and I fought back the tears (actually not tears of pain or of bleeding), but the thought that my Mom had told me not to come and now I was injured, which was of greater concern, and I was certain I would face the guilt of “I told you so.” Jewish Mother’s guilt has a way of striking fear into the hearts of every son.

I tried in vain to remove the fly from my ear myself, further exacerbating the wound but just like when you’ve hooked a fish, the barb was well set in my ear.

I never thought to get his name or information but knew I had to get home to tell my Mom, who had begun our Thanksgiving meal preparations.

So, he cut the line and with my rod, reel and tackle box in hand, I sprinted the roughly 200 yards home.

I dropped my stuff on the front porch and rushed into the house, the side of my head and shirt well soaked in blood.

“Mom,” I yelled, “I got snagged.”

My Mother, never one who tended to hysteria, and who had grown accustomed to my breaks, bruises, scrapes and injuries, strode calmly towards my location by the front door.

Fearlessly and with her most soothing voice, she told me to come to the bathroom where she gently washed my ear in soap and warm water, made her careful motherly observation, and pronounced that we needed to go to St. Francis Hospital (on 63rd Street across from Allison Road).

BUT first I was required to put on a new t-shirt because she didn’t want all the hospital people (as accustomed as they were to working with blood), to see my other blood-soaked shirt.

Let me digress for a moment to provide an insight of my Jewish mother – this was a woman who insisted I wear clean underwear in case I was in an accident and they had to cut my pants off!

With a clean shirt and a towel wrapped around my ear, off we sped in her old Chevy Bel-Air to the emergency room. I remember parking on the west side and walking to the emergency room door, which faced north.

I was always amazed with the efficiency of St. Francis’s ER Services. Unlike Mount Sinai, which seemed to be the ‘big city’ hospital, always busy, where you could wait interminably for emergency room assistance (that’s for another column), St. Francis seemed to be a more caring, devoted hospital and on my frequent visits, I was greeted personally. “Hi, Bennett – welcome back.” As I got older, I think my Mom had signed a permanent waiver, liability release and permission approval to examine me, operate, put in stitches, or remove any unnecessary body parts.

On this fishy occurrence, we were greeted immediately, and the first nurse called out loudly to the other staff and doctor on call – “I’ve got a boy with an earring here.”

I didn’t appreciate the humor, but it had all the adults chuckling.

They speedily put me on a gurney and wheeled me into a nearby exam room. My thoughts immediately ran to “how will they remove this without cutting my ear off?”

But I’m sure Miami Beach physicians saw this kind of accident regularly.

The doctor looked carefully at the fly and said you’ll feel a little pinch while I give you a shot. (Unlike most kids, shots never bothered me – I actually kind of like them…and still do). Within moments my ear was numb, and then he took out a large metal clipper and proceeded to snip off the barbed end of the fly and simply slide it back out from the direction it went in.

But, the initial tugging at the time of the accident and my attempt to remove it had created too great an opening to heal on its own.

And, so for the first time in my life, I had stitches…12 of them, to put my ear back together. It was my first real “badge” of courage.

Once I returned home, there never was any “I told you so” admonition or Motherly guilt session, though I was asked how I enjoyed my Thanksgiving Day of fishing. That may have been the subliminal message of guilt.

The accident never hindered my love of fishing and later in life I enjoyed greater deep sea battles in the Abacos and off the coasts of Florida with Grouper, Dolphin (not the Flipper type), Sharks, Barracuda, Tarpon, Sheepshead, Yellow Tail, Redfish and more.

Today, I live in Basalt, Colorado, the only town or city in North America located at the confluence of two (2) Gold Medal trout fishing rivers.

I am often asked, even by my college students, if I like to fly fish, to which I respond:

“The idea of standing in waist deep freezing cold water in a pair of rubber waders up to my belly button, casting a small weightless fly 1,000 times with pinpoint accuracy, to catch a 12” trout that I fight for three minutes and then release is NOT my idea of fishing. I’m from South Florida where we catch major fighting game fish we battle, sometimes for hours, and most come home as meals. That’s my idea of real fishing.”

Of course, I never share the story of Thanksgiving Day and how I may have been the first boy in the U.S. to wear an earring (unintentional or otherwise).

But not a Thanksgiving goes by where I’m not reminded of one of the greatest fish tales of my life.

Until next week, keep bantering!

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