My Grampa’s a sailor, the sea’s in his veins,
He’s visiting us on the great Western Plains.
He’s crusty and musty and wrinkled and small,
But as tale-tellers go, he’s the tallest of all.
He nabbed me this morning, that feisty old fool,
Installed in his chair while I headed for school.
A newly-read letter had dropped to the floor;
I glanced at the letter… then gramps… then the door.
“What’s up you old codger?”, I finally gave in,
“You’d better sit down,” he replied. “I’ll begin.”
“This letter’s from Bill, who lives by the sea,
Least he did ‘til last week.” (His eyes widened at me.)
“Bill went with his buddies to fish at the shore,
He cast his line sea-ward, but the sea was no more!
Now Bill nearly died when he surveyed the scene
And saw the dark hole where the ocean had ben.
There’s not a drop left, not a puddle, or pond,
It’s just muck and mire to the strait and beyond.
“I’m serious now! Don’t you waggle your head!
The whole ocean’s gone… it’s dried up and dead!
That Billy’s no liar, I trust him you see
He’s a fisherman, boy, and a brother to me!
“Yes, dead are the fishes, the dolphins, and whales,
The scallops, the shrimps, and the Maritime tales.
Gone are the shanties, the reels, and the rounds;
Gone are the squid from the squid-jiggin’ grounds.
No food for the fishers, no wages, no toil,
No food on the table, no lobsters to boil.
No feathered high-fliers, no gulls, and no pipers*,
No dabblers*, no divers*, no aerial snipers.
“Uncle Billy and me, now, we’re old; we need drugs
That come from the sharks… kelp… sponges… and slugs.
Our prescription’s expired, it can’t be refilled,
Those sea-going critters have now all been killed.
“Now, sure, you remember our trip to the coast?
The snorkelling and fishing and fishing with Billy, our host?
Imagine vacation without a seashore!
Without rocks and beaches – tide pools to explore.
No natural treasures like starfish and crabs,
No million small creatures, just ready to grab
Your toes when you’re wading in clean, salty pools;
No jillions of fishes all swimming in schools.”
(School! Oh no! – I’m going to be late!
I’m trapped here with Grampa, a tale to relate.)
“Another thing, sonny,” he poked at my nose,
“Those lovely new sneakers that cover your toes.
They’re shipped to us, lad, like your stereo there,
Like our cars and their oil – and that oil in your hair!
The TVs, the CDs you use every day…
They’re shipped ‘cross the ocean from far, far away.
“And the life-giving rains that help our crops grow
Start out in the ocean, as I’m sure you must know.
Those trillions of plankton recycling the air,
They can’t do their job if they’re no longer there.
The carbon is building in our atmosphere.
The climate is changing. It’s too late I fear!”
I eyed my old Grampa. Was he telling the truth?
Or just spinning tall tales and mocking my youth?
Then his stern look dissolved amid deep hearty laughs,
His old shoulders shook, and his breath came in gasps.
I don’t think he’d ever enjoyed himself more,
That salty old sailor, so far from the shore.
“There’s more truth in that tale,” he went on, “than you’d think,
The oceans and prairies, though distant, still link.
All things that we do on this flat dry prairie
They have their effect on that old salty sea.
So, remember the treasures the ocean gives you,
And always give credit where credit is due.”
So today I give thanks for the ocean’s great gifts;
Food, songs and critters we get from its depths,
And the one special gift I’m most grateful to claim…
My salt-water Grampa – the sea in his veins.
-Dave Gibson and John Bird, 2003
*Dabblers – Dabbling ducks; divers – diving ducks; pipers – sandpipers
© Canadian Wildlife Federation
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