Thursday, August 8, 2013

Jimmy Olsen Shares Stories from Blind Pig Island, The Dominican Republic...and other Island Locations...

"The old man studied the boat awhile. "Chase boat," he said.
"Houseboat's probably towing fishing boats and canoes. Water slide on back, all that. They'll part somewhere for the
night so they can play."
"Do you think they'll want to park here?"
"Maybe. Too bad we got her first." He smiled. 

"Might eat another one of those wieners."
The Hero of Blind Pig Island
 and other Island Stories

By Jimmy Olsen

Reviewing an anthology is different that a novel. There are 12 stories in this particular one, all of which deserve mention. But that's forcing a very short synopsis. What I do instead is pick out my favorites to share with readers... The author lived in the location of all the stories and has obviously loved the Islands--it shows in his writing. Some are about his work while he was there; others talked about the people.

When a man wants to be a hero, there isn't anybody better to have think of him that way, than a grandson... Dusty loved going fishing with his grandfather and they were all set, having stopped for lunch to roast hot dogs! But they had gotten to a beautiful spot on Blind Pig Island and were concerned when they saw a group of boats heading their way. Now, there was no way that Dusty was ready to leave, so he looked to his Grandpa and, for sure he knew just what to do... That husky young man who had tried to bully them out of their location didn't know what he was getting into when Dusty's hero set out to keep this favorite spot!

Then there are others, such as "Wormwood" or should I say, worms in the wood found inside a cabinet in the kitchen of an apartment where the building owners sneaked in to steal the coffee grounds each day...which you really have to experience to understand... LOL. Let's just say that living in a different climate must be just like my living in the woods, where new bugs visit me inside every day...  It gives a new meaning to those who become landlords...

"I don't think we can go back home again," Albert said suddenly.
"Well, I mean we do go. To visit our congregations and show slides to their mission committees, and for
fun raising, but that's only a few weeks every four or five years. We don't see much but highways and
church basements. And that's the best of it. The rest is shocking, like someplace really foreign. More
foreign than anything here."
"Things change," I said.
..."I suppose people aren't content just to make a living from the land any longer," I said. "They want
what's on TV. What everyone else wants."
"Of course. It depresses us, Mr. Bushnell. If you watch a thing change it affects you gradually, but if you
go away and come back to find everything different, well then, it's like it happened all of a sudden." 
He drained his coffee. "I think you see it more clearly then. Abandoning the rural life is dangerous.
Next to God, the land is our greatest heritage. We turn our back on it at our peril...
"it's the poor families who understand this best. Without land they don't eat. We Americans I'm afraid,
are so awfully fat we can't see the ground for our bellies..."


When Albert and Harold Gustafson came to visit, he was expecting somebody like the gentleman in the video-- missionaries are always doing something and needing financial support to do it, so he was willing to listen at least. Still when these two "old school" men came in, looking thin, almost fragile, with an unhealthy pallor, he was surprised... He was also surprised when they indicated they wanted nothing more than to talk to somebody from near home--he was from Minnesota, they were from North Dakota and hoped he might be Scandinavia.

He had prepared food and drink, which they ate thankfully and quickly. Albert was very gracious; Harold not. At one point, he thought they were playing "good missionary and bad missionary..."

He lied and told him that he had an appointment, so he drove them home. He asked more about their work--they had no church, they worked on the streets, and then they invited him in to see where they lived...

There is life, death, joy, sadness in this book, told by one who faced each of them often. The ending story was fitting, I thought, for those that loved to dive, to explore... "Wet Passage" tells of the last excursion for two men.
"Their descent was accelerating again.
"Carl reached for his knife. He used the tip and tried to pry
Lester's index finger from the deflator button. If he moved
it, he could hit the power inflation and that would be enough.
He didn't want to cut Lester...
"...Nitrogen levels in his blood were making him silly, slowing
his reaction time, fogging his mind.
"Finger, finger. Dirty finger. Finger, finger. Bony finger."
There was a tune too, and he wanted to rhyme something
with finger. What rhymed with finger? Binger? Dinger?
Linger? That was the word Linter...
"Carl carried an expensive, stainless steel knife and kept it
sharp. He'd cut the finger off and put it in his BC pocket.
Lester could have it back later..."
One was Lester, a man in this 70s, but still involved and diving. Carl Boe was taking a group out and would dive in various places, but the last dive would be near a deep drop-off and the depth they would be permitted very controlled, with a buddy system mandated.

Soon, Lester's partner let Carl know that Lester had dived deeper than allowed. Carl set out after him, but when he caught up with Lester, his fingers held tight to the deflator...Carl pulled on Lester's grip but he wouldn't let go...

I wondered at that time whether Lester wanted to forever be underwater and had chosen his own end...


Other stories include a tale of a party girl that made the tour of locations--while out cold! LOL

There there were the teachers who were tired of being bullied--yes, I said that right! And they had their revenge!

Twelve short stories that will make you laugh, cry, and learn much about those that live and work near islands, enjoying their bounty! Highly recommended...


Jimmy Olsen didn't start writing fiction until he was well past 40. In the tradition of American writers like Jack London and Louis L'Amour, Olsen spent much of his life seeking adventure. He began scuba diving in 1961 at age 13 and continues today. A machine-gunner in Vietnam, after two tours he settled down awhile, married, started a family and graduated college with a BS in English. Still at college, he published his first national story in a diving magazine. 

A year later he moved his family to Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic where he taught at a private American school and started the Republic's first professional diving school, Scuba Dominican, C por A. Hearing rumors of shipwrecks and gold, Olsen and a small group of adventurers discovered the site of the French Man-O-War Imperial and several other vessels. 

After five years in the Caribbean, Olsen completed his MA at the University of Alabama and returned to writing, taking a job with a daily newspaper in Athens, Alabama for a year before becoming an editor back home in Minnesota. This lasted four years before the thirst for adventure overtook him again and he was back in the diving business, traveling to dive destinations from the Caribbean to the South Pacific. 

The snorkeling scene in Thing In Ditches comes directly from the author's own rich experiences. Jimmy Olsen has written two additional novels, Scuba. a Vietnam seafaring adventure set near Da Nang. In addition, he's completed 20 short stories, some set in his native Minnesota and others from around the globe. Several of these have recently been sold and will soon be in print. 

Olsen continues to travel extensively, returning to the Dominican Republic to dive his old haunts only hours before Hurricane Georges. Equally at home at the keyboard of a computer or his ancient Royal, Olsen spends his writing days in a north woods setting without even the basic comforts such as running water or electricity and at his modern office in the city. He has three children, now grown, and lives with his wife in Minnesota.
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