Nov. 20, 1999 started out as any typical day would for ****** (aka Hoghead). Waking up with a hangover and complaining that he felt like he was "coming down with the flu" the Hoghead staggered towards the kitchen to fix a sausage sandwich and a pot of coffee. Soon, events would unfold making this day a most unforgettable one in the life of the Hoghead.
Today, the Hoghead planned on doing something he was no longer
accustomed to, physical exercise. A dive on the phosphate dock
was planned later in the day, at high tide, with the Hoghead's
long time friend, Mr. X.
The morning was spent looking for the Hoghead's swim fins. After concluding that either Ms. A (the Hoghead's girlfriend/cleaning lady) had hid them, Gator (the Hogshead's dog) ate them, or ------ took them by mistake, the Hoghead borrowed a pair of blue toy swim fins from Mr. Y.
As the Hoghead and Mr. X approached the dive site both realized they had miscalculated the tides and would be diving on an outgoing tide. Undeterred, the Hoghead geared up and quickly entered the water with Mr. X. Wearing only minimal dive equipment, no snorkel, no wetsuit, no BC, underweighted with a set of toy swim fins, the Hoghead began a long swim to the end of the docks and back to shore.
The events from here on out become sketchy and often confusing. Hospital records, police reports, eyewitness accounts from Mr. X and Mr. Y along with testimony from anglers fishing the Boca Grande Pass and the Hoghead's own account of events have been compiled in an attempt to make some sense out of exactly what happened on Nov. 20th. The latter two sources of information (anglers and the Hoghead) are often prone to exaggeration and should be taken with a grain of salt.
Apparently, the dive went as planned, with no problems, until the Hoghead and Mr. X were about halfway back to shore and the tide picked up. At that time, the Hoghead started having trouble swimming and quickly became physically exhausted. Mr. X surfaced to find the Hoghead clinging to a piling with his legs and arms cut and bleeding from the barnacles encrusting the pilings. Like a kid on a jungle gym set, hand over hand the Hoghead tried to pull himself back to shore on the supporting deck beams of the dock. At some point along their trip back to shore Mr. X encountered a school of needle fish and jokingly yelled "GARFISH, and they have teeth". When the Hoghead put his head in the water he found himself surrounded by needlefish and panicked. Dropping his weightbelt the Hoghead started swimming full speed away from the needlefish and toward the center of Boca Grande Pass. Bleeding and belching out chunks of sausage sandwiches, the Hoghead continued to swim until he was in the middle of the Pass and exhausted. Realizing he was in deep trouble and would either drown or have a heart attack if he did not slow down, the Hoghead rolled over on his back and tried to relax. Still wearing a scuba tank, mask and the blue toy swim fins, but no longer wearing a weightbelt, the Hoghead floated like a cork on the outgoing tide. Not being one too ever have trouble relaxing, the Hoghead quickly fell sound asleep.
Visions of the good life on Boca Grande soon filled the Hoghead's thoughts as he entered a deep dream state. Sunday afternoon football games on the TV, his reclining chair, ice cold Budweisers, boiled peanuts and Gator. Images of the Hoghead's girlfriend, Ms. A, cleaning the house, taking out garbage and cooking briefly interrupted his dreams.
The sun was setting lower on the horizon as the Hoghead began snoring loudly and peacefully drifted out to sea. A flock of seagulls, looking for a place to spend the night, found a safe roost on the Hoghead's stomach while a school of baitfish gathered around his head. The wind died and the surface of the Gulf now looked like a sheet of glass. The Hoghead's snoring and an occasional jack crevalle breaking the surface were the only sounds that could be heard for miles.
Suddenly, and without warning, the stillness of the evening was shattered when Mr. Y and several fishing buddies returning from a day of grouper fishing in the Gulf ran directly over the floating and sleeping Hoghead. Terrified, seagulls took off squawking, baitfish jumped out of the water and the Hoghead woke up, lifted his head from the water and quickly feel back asleep. Someone on the boat yelled "what the hell was that" as Mr. Y turned the boat around and shined a spotlight on the Hoghead.
"Looks like a manatee, maybe a turtle or a jewfish" someone else yelled. After some discussion they determined it was probably a jewfish an angler caught in the Pass and did not properly let the air out of before releasing, since it appeared to be bloated. Maneuvering the boat alongside the "jewfish" Mr. Y and the others on board grabbed oars and gaffs and began beating on the bloated stomach of the "jewfish" in an attempt to "knock the air out of it and get it to swim down". After several minutes of frantic beating the Hoghead woke up only to see his friend Mr. Y swinging an oar directly at his head. Instinctively, the Hoghead rolled over, stuck the scuba regulator in his mouth and dove below the surface.
Apparently, all the beating with the oars and gaffs dislodged some gasses built up in the Hoghead's lower intestines. Just before the Hoghead's rear end disappeared below the surface he let loose with an enormous fart. Believing they had just deflated the "jewfish," Mr. Y and crew resumed their journey. The Hoghead surfaced in time to see his assailants heading away in the direction of Miller's Marina slapping each other on the back, convinced they had just done their good conservation deed for the day by saving a protected species. Something nagged at Mr. Y's thoughts. As the "jewfish" disappeared below the surface there was a blue flash form the tail fin that somehow looked familiar. Probably just bottom paint from when he ran over the "jewfish" he thought.
Dazed and confused the Hoghead now worried about his physical condition. Still bleeding from his encounter with the barnacles on the phosphate dock he now had several broken ribs and a half dozen deep prop scars across his stomach and chest as a result of Mr. Y's actions. There wasn't much the Hoghead could do about his injuries now so he decided to relax and try to get back to sleep and the pleasant dream he was having before being so rudely awaken.
Soon, the Hoghead fell asleep and resumed his dream. The Gators were playing the Seminoles, it was the 4th quarter and the Gators were ahead 34 to 0. Ms. A had just opened another Budweiser and a fresh bag of boiled peanuts for the Hoghead. Seagulls came back to roost on the Hoghead's stomach, baitfish once again gathered around his head and a school of dolphin, attracted by the flashing blue swim fins, slowly circled keeping all sharks away. By now the tide had changed as the Hoghead floated back into the Pass, rounded the northern tip of Cayo Costa and headed in the direction of Bokellia.
Meanwhile, an all out search had begun for the Hoghead. The Coast Guard, Florida Marine Patrol and the local Sheriffs department were all searching the surrounding waters and local bars for any sign of the Hoghead. Mr. Y, returning home from a successful day of fishing, turned on the TV to catch some of the day's news and learned of the search for the Hoghead. Immediately, Mr. Y realized the significance of the blue flash he saw as the "jewfish" disappeared below the surface. The creature he ran over was not a "jewfish," it was the Hoghead and the blue on the tail fin was not bottom paint, but those blue swim fins the Hoghead had borrowed from him earlier in the day. After making a phone call to the local Sheriffs department and giving the last know location of the Hoghead, Mr. Y decided to break the horrifying news to Ms. A.
Arriving at the Hoghead's residence at the same time as Mr. X, the two quickly compared stories downstairs agreeing that the Hoghead was probably dead. Since both felt responsible for the misadventure, it was agreed that both should go upstairs to explain the situation to Ms. A and incur her wrath. To their amazement Ms. A took the tragic news surprisingly well. Her only comment was "I suppose I can clean the boiled peanuts, smoked sausage and Budweisers out of the refrigerator and take the dead animals off the wall". Mr. Y mentioned he would like the boiled peanuts and Budweisers and Mr. X said he would like any archery equipment that might be discarded. Both said the smoked sausage should be discarded. Later that evening, the bereaved Ms. A was seen dancing and heavily drinking at South Beach in an apparent effort to forget her tragic loss.
Minutes turned into hours as the Hoghead drifted up onto the flats surrounding Jug Creek. When the Hoghead crossed the shallow water, still sound asleep, his scuba tank became tangled in an illegal gill net set for pompano by two commercial net fishermen out of Bokellia. Dawn was still several hours away as the two fishermen struggled to pull in their 500 yards of net, heavily weighted with pompano, sharks, snook and redfish. When they came upon the Hoghead, floating belly up with the fresh prop scars clearly visible the two fishermen thought they had caught a manatee. "That sure is a big bastard" one fisherman commented.
"Must have just got runned over. Look at those fresh prop scars on its back" the other fisherman replied. Both agreed that they should keep the manatee. Since they were illegally fishing anyway what would be one more charge be if they were caught. Besides, neither one had eaten manatee or even turtle since the net ban went in effect.
The Hoghead woke up as the two fishermen struggled to pull him over the side of the boat. Suffering from hypothermia and too exhausted to move or even speak the Hoghead watched helplessly as he was thrown on the deck and covered with netting and fish. Finally, the last of the gill net was on board and the two fishermen headed back to the dock. On the way back they talked about the feast they would have and all the beer they would be able to buy with their illegal profits. Fried manatee, collard greens, corn bread and ice cold Budweisers. All this talk made the Hoghead hungry until he realized that he would be the main course unless he could escape.
Terrified beyond description the Hoghead was now hallucinating. Visions of being hung up by the hamstrings, skinned alive, cut up into steaks to be fried and eaten among by the commercial fishing community of Bokellia is not how the Hoghead thought the end would come. He had to escape, but how. As the two fishermen docked the boat then quickly ran off to get more beer before unloading their catch the Hoghead found himself alone. Now was the time to escape and get to a pay phone to call for help.
Somehow the Hoghead found the strength to crawl out from under the pile of netting and fish and pull himself up onto the dock. Crawling on all fours, with the netting still attached to his scuba tank, the Hoghead inched his way down the dock dragging the gill net and all it's contents behind him. In the darkness the Hoghead failed to see a missing board on the dock, slipped and fell headfirst into a flats skiff, knocking a large chunk of gel coat and fiberglass out of the deck, but only suffering a small scratch on his forehead as his prescription swim mask shattered. The Hoghead struggled to regain his footing. Crawling on top of an igloo cooler and reaching for the dock he slipped and fell backwards ripping his bathing suit off on a boat cleat and spilling the contents of the cooler on the deck of the skiff. At least a case of ice cold Budweisers and a half dozen freshly made sandwiches lie scattered on the deck. All thoughts of escape and calling for help evaporated when the Hoghead saw the treasures spread out before him.
Within 15 minutes, the Hoghead had drank all the Budweisers and eaten every sandwich. Re-energized, completely nude, and almost totally blind without his prescription mask, the Hoghead sprang to his feet, jumped up on the dock, and marched, head back and chest out toward town in search of more Budweisers. Still dragging 500 yards of gill net loaded with fish behind him the Hoghead was now strutting, like a spring gobbler, down the center of the main road in Bokellia wearing only the blue swim fins and a scuba tank. Directly in front of the Jug Creek cottages he encountered the two net fishermen (now drunk) returning with their beer.
"What the hell? That sum-bitch is stealing our net and all our fish" one of the fishermen yelled as he drove his pickup truck directly into the Hoghead knocking him onto the hood, over the cab and into the bed of the truck. All the commotion woke up one of the resident managers of Jug Creek cottages, Ms. B. As she looked out her window she saw a pickup truck traveling at a high rate of speed dragging a net with someone standing, nude in the bed yelling "stop this truck or I'll whip all y'alls asses." Immediately, she called the police. Soon, there were half a dozen police cars following the trio.
The Hoghead quickly found the stash of beer (long neck Budweisers) the fishermen had iced down in a fish cooler. Immediately, the Hoghead started drinking their beer. Still standing and dragging the gill net wrapped around his scuba tank, like a cape festooned with dead fish and assorted marine debris, the Hoghead continued drinking Budweisers and throwing the empties at road signs as the truck sped down state road 767 in the direction of Matlacha.
Soon, there were half a dozen police cars following the trio. The police, thinking this must be some sort of bizarre demonstration being staged by the commercial fishing industry in protest of the net ban, followed closely. Just as they entered Matlacha the Hoghead ran out of beer. Feeling no pain and knowing no fear, the Hoghead decided to get a good look at his attackers. Slowly and carefully the Hoghead pulled himself across the roof of truck and pressed his face against the windshield straining to see their faces. The driver immediately recognized the Hoghead and yelled, "Oh shit, that's our buddy Ole Hoghead" and slammed on the brakes sending the Hoghead cartwheeling across the hood and over the railing of the Matlacha Bridge. Stunned by what they had just witnessed, the two fishermen sat motionless in the front of their truck as cautious police officers approached. "Where is your nude beer drinking buddy" one officer asked.
The fishermen just pointed to the railing of the bridge and said "he jumped off the bridge and we think he drowned." Several officers walked to the railing and looked over seeing no sign of the Hoghead until one officer looked straight down. Suspended in the darkness gently swinging back and forth like a pendulum, just above the water with one end of the gill net wrapped around his scuba tank and the other end around a road sign in front of the Mullet Inn Restaurant there hung the Hoghead.
"There he is" one officer yelled as everyone, including the two net fishermen, ran over to the railing and started pulling the net with the Hoghead up to safety.
Still wearing the blue swim fins and completely nude, the Hoghead was hauled over the railing of the bridge. Once the Hoghead was on safe footing he looked around at his rescuers, trying to find a familiar face. He did no recognize any of the officers, but the two fishermen looked familiar. Although, he could not recall their names he remembered them both as old beer drinking buddies from South Beach.
Finally, one of the police officers said "just what the hell are you drunken idiots doing?"
The Hoghead told the two fishermen, "Don't y'all worry about anything, let me do all explaining." As the Hoghead began to recant his adventure, starting with the dive at the phosphate dock the officers listened carefully and when he finished all police officers broke out into uncontrollable laughter.
One officer, barely able to stand up he was laughing so hard, said "That might be good material for a Carl Hiaasen or a Randy Wayne White novel, but we don't buy it." "Shut up and get in the back of the patrol car y'all are going to jail. Better drop the bald headed pervert with the blue swim fins off at the hospital first, he looks pretty bad."
EPILOGUE: One week later
The Hoghead, recovering from his physical wounds, has been transferred to the mental ward of the hospital and is undergoing intense psychiatric evaluation. It is unclear at this point if he will be able to return to his job as a ******. Charges have been filed for indecent exposure, public drunkenness and illegal net fishing.
The names of the two commercial net fishermen still have not been released, but they remain in jail charged with drunk driving, illegal net fishing, and numerous other outstanding warrants.
Mr. X and Mr. Y are frantically running around Boca Grande talking with anyone that might be able to validate the Hoghead's story and get all charges dropped.
Ms. A, anticipating the Hoghead's eventual return, has restocked the refrigerator with boiled peanuts, smoked sausage and Budweisers. She is still searching for some dead animals to hang on the wall to replace the ones she threw out in the garbage.
Carl Haaisan and Randy Wayne White have intervened. They have hired high profile Miami defense attorney Ellis Ruben to assist the Hoghead with his legal problems. Ruben has demanded a formal apology from the Lee County Sheriff's Department for the arrest of the Hoghead. In addition, he is suing the department for mental anguish, embarrassment, etc. incurred by his client. The exact amount of the settlement is undisclosed, but rumored to be a 6 digit sum. Half of the proceeds will go into a fund to maintain and preserve the phosphate dock. The other half will be donated to the Save the Manatee club. In exchange Haaisan and White are requesting exclusive rights to the Hoghead's story. The two plan to co-author a series of adventure novels titled "The Adventures of Hoghead."
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