The next morning we trolled half the triangle to the Joulters, chasing for a mile or so a huge whale that had sounded in our path and was frolicking just ahead of us. When we were near enough to the reefs Frank and I left the Queen B to try the flats with Curtis. The wind was shifting around to the north—not a good sign. Bill was not as confident as before. He talked of past triumphs, of victories in bonefish tournaments in Florida. In his haste to get us to the flats he misread the clarity of the water and twice ran full speed onto sandbars—shlumph!—sending Frank and me sprawling into the bow.
The wind, now stronger, dipped into our collars, chilling us as the afternoon wore on unproductively. A norther was coming up for sure. Bill was glum, but he diligently poled us over the abandoned flats. All was silence, except for the swish-swishing of his hands on the long pole. The tide was going out. Suddenly there was before us a small school of bonefish, but they spooked at my clumsy cast and were gone in an instant. There were no other sightings. We got out and walked along the stark-white sand off one of the cays, for no reason except to walk. (I will always have this picture of Bill Curtis: pants legs up to his knees, that plantation overseer's hat tilted dangerously to one side, his large, callused hands digging into the sand for crabs.)
At dusk we rejoined the Queen B at anchor off Morgan's Bluff on the northern coast of Andros, 37 miles east of Nassau. It was this shelter that the pirate Henry Morgan was supposed to have used to count his caches, but we were enjoying no such pleasures. What was wrong? Frank suggested that we line up and count toes, and the person with three on each foot should be thrown overboard. Exhausted from the pounding of the Whaler, I fell into an uncomfortable sleep and dreamed of gripping the trolling rod and reeling so hard that I was actually pulling the boat toward the fish. Jimmy O'Neill was at my side, Bill Curtis' overseer's hat pulled down over his ears, shouting encouragement—"It's a big one! A record marlin!"—until he dissolved and I was found to be hooked to the Dade County courthouse, and we were aground on Flagler Street in downtown Miami. It was an unmanageable dream, one I might have missed had I known that tomorrow we would at last have Rudy Knowles on our side.
Curtis had made the arrangements. Granville Knowles (whom Curtis had known from a previous trip to Andros) or his son Rudy would take us to the west side—the unknown side—of Andros for duck and, if time allowed, wild boar. In the morning four of us made the 20-minute run around Money Point to Lowe Sound. The good times that have come to most of the Bahamas have not come to Lowe Sound, but a hurricane did come last fall and there are still evidences of its lingering fury: busted frame houses, irreparable boats flipped up on the shore, uprooted sea-grape and coconut trees.
Granville met us at the dock, which was coming apart, and there were others smiling their greetings, including a very large, laughing woman Granville identified as his wife. "A big woman the best kind," he said. "They do much work." Granville is a buoyant gray-haired man of modest dimensions, a barefoot pillar of the community second only to the mayor—who also has fishing boats and sells lumber—in the social order. Granville took us up to his shop, a single-room shed, which had a faded sign, "C. Knowles and Son, 1912," hanging over the door. "My father have the guide business," he said, "and his father before him."
The son, Rudy, came out of the shed's darkness. He was a head and a half taller than his father and, though he was skinny everywhere else, his shoulders were astonishingly broad. He was wearing a brownish-green, two-piece rubber foul-weather suit and no shoes, and seemed at first to be aloof to our presence. Then someone said something that made him laugh, and he revealed a large expanse of gum between his front teeth. His laugh was high like a schoolboy's, spontaneous and relaxed.
It was agreed that we would take two boats—Rudy also had a Whaler, and Frank and I would ride with him. Frank suggested we first make a pilgrimage to the local grocery store for fruit. The grocery was also a single room, 10 by 10 or so, unlighted except through the open door, with a huge picture of John F. Kennedy on one wall and an advertisement for Colt 45 beer. The ad included a picture of Gomeo Brennan, the welterweight boxer from Bimini. Gomeo, by inference, trains on beer. The nearest thing to oranges and apples Frank could acquire, however, was 10 Coca-Colas and a jar of strawberry jam.
We joined Rudy in the boat, and I asked him if he were Granville's favorite son. He said he was the oldest son, age 31, and was unmarried. "I do not care to be married," he said.
"That's too bad, because you will miss the joys of having children," I said solicitously.
"Oh, I have seven children," he said. "They live here with me in my new house. I have three women. Two women here, one in Nassau. The one I have now—she not a woman, she just a girl of 25—she have four of my children. She big with child again."