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A fallen pirate and a loving town

Jeffrey Bergeron
Vail, CO, Colorado

Keeping with a July Fourth tradition, Caleb Potter, dressed as a pirate, sauntered down Wellfleet’s Main Street.

He sported a three-cornered hat, a long yellow beard, eye patch and carried a Jolly Roger flag.

Many along the parade route recognized the 25-year-old oyster fisherman. Caleb grew up in that close-knit Cape Cod community and was well-known and well-liked.

I can’t be sure what Caleb was feeling that day, but I can imagine.

He was in a place he cherished, around people who cared for him. He was young, handsome, and enjoyed his work. I would guess that on that day he felt, safe, loved and lucky.

Caleb Potter worked and played on the water. He was a surfer, fisherman and sailor; he also loved to skateboard. He had the rugged good looks of a young man who spends his days outdoors and uses his strong body for both work and play.

Though I live 2,000 miles away and two miles higher than Caleb, I would bet his and my Independence Day were much the same. We both might have pursued our particular recreational passions in the morning, he on water, me in mountains. We both participated in our local parades, and we both enjoyed the aftermath of the celebration with friends and family. As the sun was setting, I remember riding to yet another barbecue on my motor scooter, my mate on the back, reminding myself drive carefully. I didn’t want to ruin a good day.

If you have your health, are loved and know what makes you happy, you are blessed. Both Caleb and I were blessed that day.

About the same time I was heading to Psycho-Dave’s house for another party, Caleb was on his skateboard being pulled (skitching) behind his friend’s pick-up. That is when the commonality of our respective days ended.

One moment Caleb was laughing and waving at friends, the next his skateboard slid under the truck’s rear tire, and the young man crashed hard.

His head injuries were extensive; the doctors at Cape Cod Hospital didn’t expect him to live. When he made it through the night, they informed his family that his brain damage could be “unthinkable.”

It seems Caleb beat the odds. Though he has lost the sight in one eye; the good news is he already owns an eye patch. What’s still undetermined is how quickly – or if – he can recover from his brain injury. Will he return to Wellfleet the same person who marched down Main Street as Yellowbeard the Pirate?

At last report, Caleb has begun to communicate to friends and family with notes and hugs ” and has actually been able to walk short distances.

What’s as remarkable as Caleb’s speed of recovery is the town of Wellfleet’s response to a favorite son in need. There have been many benefits, concerts, clam bakes and countless prayer circles to help with his healing. I was recently sent a picture of 125 surfboards forming a prayer circle offshore in the fallen surfer’s honor. If a town could be judged by its collective kindness, Wellfleet could be designated the compassion capital of the East Coast.

To learn more check out http://www.calebpotter.blogspot.com.

I have never met Caleb Potter. What I have told you is just about all I know of this injured man. I was recently sent an e-mail with his story by a mutual friend, and I searched online for some more information.

But we all know someone like Caleb. Someone whose life was fine and fun then, in the blink of an eye, everything changed. In Caleb’s case, everything also changed for his parents, his friends and his home town. Like Caleb, they too will never be quite the same. I think it’s safe to say they will be stronger, more loving and more appreciative of their life and their community.

Is there a lesson to be learned?

Yes, but it isn’t to be more careful, take less chances and never skitch a ride on your skateboard. The lesson is that, no matter how you live or what you do for joy, your life can change in a second. So do what makes you happy, laugh like a crazy person and remember to appreciate every mountain, wave, sunset, smile, friend, lover and parade.

Jeffrey Bergeron, under the alias of Biff America, can be seen on RSN TV, heard on KOA radio, and read in several newspapers and magazines. He can be reached at biffbreck@yahoo.com.

Biff’s book “Steep, Deep and Dyslexic” is available from local book stores or at Backcountrymagazine.com.


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