This goes back a ways as all good stories are supposed to but, I just didn't want to start with "Once upon a time" even though this maybe something of a fairy tale. None the less it happened and happened to me.
It was in the late 60's and I was making a few extra dollars on the
weekend by diving for golf balls. Hey go on and laugh but that was good
money and it gave me a chance to get wet and make some money. My god does
this qualify me as a dive professional?
In any case, this particular day I was working for a golf course located in a park in Cook County, Illinois. Back in those days this was home and an area filled with history and a certain aura that was always exciting. You know, Chicago that coddling town, the home that Billy Sunday couldn't shout down. Al Capone, vote and vote often and several serial killers. Ah big cities how I love ya!
But I digress, this particular Saturday my then brother-in-law, a
non-diver who I was introducing to diving (no he didn't get a share of
the profits), and I were working this mammoth water hole. Now I had been
doing this kind of extra work for awhile and this hole was a bit unique.
First it was large, one of the bigger water hazards I had seen, and
two it was dark and murky. How murky well how does zero vis sound. I have
been in water with little or limited visibility before but never one with
none. I don't know if you have ever been in a situation where your mind
was freaking because it couldn't handle the situation, but for me this
was one of those times.
Here I was swimming along the bottom reaching out with one hand and scooping in hundreds of golf balls, eyes wide open and yet nothing. My brain was going nuts; it just couldn't understand why I couldn't see anything. I took my free hand and put it right in front of my mask and zip, nada, nothing. I couldn't even detect the motion of my hand moving back in forth. Scary!
Ah, but I had a solution that took care of the situation totally. I merely closed my eyes. Once I did that my heart rate slowed down, the adrenaline flow dropped to normal, and all was right with the world. I guess my brain isn't too bright, once I closed my eyes it just figured hey you aren't supposed to see with your eyes closed so this is okay.
From that point on until a little later everything went smoothly. After being down an hour or so I surfaced and swam to the shore where my brother-in-law, Gary, was waiting. He helped me out of the pond and while I got out of the gear he took the balls I collected and deposited them into the cans we had to hold them.
While he collected the assembled golf balls I noted that my suit, which had a textured surface, was impregnated with mud. The stuff was so sticky that I couldn't even rinse it off with fresh water. Damn it was going to take a lot of effort to clean. I wondered if I could con my brother-in-law into doing it. Well no time to worry about that now I had lots of time to come up with a plan.
I stripped the wet suit tossed it at him and told him it was his turn. While I rigged the next tank I remembered to tell Gary about keeping his eyes closed. Thinking that this should be interesting. Gary had never been wet before and this was not an ideal situation for a beginner but what the hey, it was a job and I needed the help.
Well I got Gary suited up and restated my suggestions about keeping his eyes closed shoved the reg into his mouth and pushed him into the water. Splash, in he went. He swam on the surface for a bit and then dove down to start his "shift".
Me, I stretched out on the grass letting the bright warm summer sun
take the chill from my body and closed my eyes for a little nap. Okay so I
am not, or at least wasn't, the best dive master going. Give me a break it
was only a brother-in-law and I had several of them. In any case, the gods
weren't having any of it.
Right about the time I was dreaming of Farrah Faucett and I cuddling on a tropical beach, I heard a cry for HELP! There was Gary flailing on the surface screaming for assistance and for a moment I could almost swear running on top of the water. He was definitely distressed about something but what?
Once on shore he told me that while following my advice and searching the bottom mud for golf balls with closed eyes he came upon something unexpected. Now during my dive I found a used grocery cart, some household furniture pieces but nothing like what he was about to divulge.
Seems that as he swam along he reached out and grabbed a ... well a hand. Yep right there in this nice quiet setting he found a body on the bottom of the water hazard on the 15th hole. Great not exactly what we had been expecting.
While I calmed Gary down, a not too easy task, I decided that I would have to gear up and go down and get the corpse. No I am not a sicko or weird, not too at least, I, at that time, was a regular diver on my hometowns rescue squad. Unfortunately I had plenty of practice on bringing bodies to the surface. But never alone in a dark, murky pool even with my prior experience the thought of retrieving this one made me shudder a bit.
Need less to say I was surprised, yes this was Cook County and yes there was a Mafia in the area but did I expect to find a sample of their work at the local golf course. No, not me, no way I was looking for golf balls and that was all.
First thing I changed the tank, even though Gary had only been down about 15 minutes I wanted to make sure I had sufficient air for the task at hand. I also, but don't tell anyone, was stalling. I had to get myself mentally set for the "rescue", I always laughed at the term "Rescue Divers" we never rescued anyone. Inevitably we just brought back the evidence of someone else's stupidity. But more on that aspect some other time now I will just recall the golf course event.
I entered the water and swam on the surface to the spot where I had just moments ago observed Gary make his spectacular return to the surface. On arriving I did a 360 to get my bearings and flipped over and began my decent. The depth was nothing, maybe 20 feet or so but the vis that was another thing. Again I could see nothing. I forced my eyes to close and began a structured search.
My hand swinging out back and forth in front of me reaching out to find the remains of someone who had come to this untimely and unseemly end. It didn't take long less than 5 minutes actually and I found the hand reaching up looking for some unknown object. My hand grasped the wrist tightly and something wasn't right this didn't feel like it should. I began to grasp around and tried in this inky mass discern what was going on.
Finally, I figured it out, and while I didn't expect to find a dead body today I also didn't expect to find and recover this either. I took hold of the arm and began to swim to the surface slowly keeping my emotions in check kicking and praying for the sun that would make the dark sightless environment disappear.
As I broke the surface somewhat near shore I began to drag my discovery back to the beach. Gary was, while somewhat agitated, waiting to offer whatever assistance I might need. Once the water was shallow enough I stood up pulling the body with me. Standing erect I held the body in front of me and asked Gary if this is what he had found?
You see it was a body, a female in fact, but human, no way. It was a store manikin. Yep someone had deposited their somewhat used store dummy into the pond and it is was our good fortune to discover it. Ah another day in the life of a would be Mike Nelson.
Oh and to the best of my knowledge my ex-brother-in-law never dove again. I wonder why?
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