About Me

My photo
Edinburgh, United Kingdom
Gary Mackean, The Boy Who Draws Monsters, is the creator of the gremlin webcomic Barnaby and Loaker, Angus the Haggis Slayer and many other characters. Gary is an Edinburgh cartoonist and illustrator and is available for commissions and projects. garymackean@aol.com

Monday, 6 December 2010

Illustration Friday- Prehistoric

The One we let away



Walk into any old pub along side the banks of the river Tay and you’ll hear plenty of long tales. The “It was THIS big” lines and “The one that got away” fish tales from any of the hardened old fishermen now selling their glory days and fishing trip stories for pints of ale and hard whisky from the tourists. I guess this tale could be no different from the others and many might believe that it should just float happily along with the rest of them, that is if it weren’t absolutely and completely true.

The year was 1997 and that summer I had just turned the grand old age of ten and to celebrate my old man decided to take me further up north on a fishing trip. I was later told that it was something of a family tradition to go on a father and son fishing trip up the Tay.

Around that time there was a rumour…or rather a legend swimming among the locals. The legend being that some ancient giant fish was lurking beneath the surface of the great and wild river. From what Dad told me years later, I was a bit too young to remember at the time, it was said to have been four metres long and as strong as ten men. By the legend it was said to have massive grip hooks for fangs and a stare that would paralyse a man for three hours straight. It went by the name of Lock-Jaw, on the account of its apparent snap shut locking jaws.

It had only been spotted twice by the residents of the town. The first encounters was retold by Joseph Caslin, a regular at the local pubs and famous exaggerator who described the fish as being similar to that of a prehistoric dinosaur he had seen in a magazine one time. The wider believed story was from Tim Kirkwood, an avid fisherman and landowner of a nearby farm. Tim was said to have wrestled with the giant fish for four hours straight until it finally overpowered him by prodding its head far enough up to lock it’s jaw onto Tim’s hand and rip away his rod and three of his fingers. In some way they both left their mark on each other.

As the villagers retold us the stories, my dad and I soon decided we weren’t too bothered about some urban legend of a giant prehistoric fish even with the evidence of Tim’s missing fingers. We headed out into a shallow quiet area a little bit away from the stronger tides of the river Tay. We sat there for what seemed hours talking about everything from different fishing tips to how school was going. Little did we know what lurked beneath us. We never once wondered why the water was so quiet; it seems strange now that I think back.

The day was darkening and the wind was chilling enough for us to decide to call it a day, pack up our rods and sail back towards the boat lodge. My dad had just packed up his rod when mine gave the slightest tug. We both turned around to examine the twitching rod. I remember Dad saying something like “Probably just caught on a reed” until the tugging suddenly moved in a completely different direction and increased to the point where the rod was almost being pulled into the water. We both leapt on it to stop it and that’s when the rod, the entire boat and ourselves were dragged violently towards the wilder stronger currents. My dad, with all his might, pulled the rod upwards until near snapping point. Just when it seemed that the rod would break the tension abruptly loosened to the point where it was completely slack. We breathed heavily and then the powerful tugging began again, this time from the other side of the boat which started twirling and spinning rapidly in a circular fashion. I remember it was the first time I had ever seen fear upon my dad’s face.

The dreadful fear soon turned to sheer amazement as Lock-Jaw, the fish, the dinosaur, whatever it was, leaped upwards through the water high into the air attempting to capsize us and drown us in the process.

Either fate or just plain luck must have been on our side that day because the fish instead of landing on the other side of the water plummeted onto the middle of the boat wriggling for freedom. Looking down at this once mighty king of the river, it didn’t look as monstrous or even as large as it was described when we were back on land. Even still though, it must have been heavy because the boat was creaking awfully under its weight.

I looked up at my father smiling gleefully at me. We were going to be famous, we were going have our picture in the paper and we were going to have our story told for a generation about how we- father and son- caught the legendary ancient Lock-Jaw.

But then staring down at this legend, at this dawn of time creature wriggling and gasping out of absolute fear and certainty of death we soon realised that Lock-Jaw wasn’t some reward or prize for us to catch. That wasn’t why we came out here. And even if Lock-Jaw was something to be caught and mooned over, we hadn’t caught him fairly; it was all due to a miscalculated leap. If it did deserve to be caught then it wasn’t like this.

I remember I didn’t even have to ask him the question for Dad had the exact same sad thought. We lifted Lock-Jaw together, it took both of us to be able to lift him and slide him back into the water. Our hearts full of regret and happiness, we rowed back to land. The villagers were sneering at our lack of catch while we smiled on the inside knowing the truth.

The drive home was quieter than the journey up. I remember the last thing I said before I dozed off, I said “Atleast we have a story unlike any of the others” to which my dad replied “Yeah what’s that” and I said snoozily “the one we let away”.

1 comment: