Barb Koski researched and wrote over 300 biographies of maritime life savers of the Keweenaw Peninsula.
Writers responded with fictional tales of life savers, and what follows is a collection of perspectives in 99-word stories arranged like literary anthropology.
We dedicate this collection to Barb’s memory and to the real stories she saved from oblivion.
Those published at Carrot Ranch are The Congress of Rough Writers.
Seamen’s Sacrifice by Chel Owens
Ship askew ‘gainst pounding waves
We crew all stand, aghast
Our hearts aren’t nearly in their place
A-beating in our boots.
What foul-steamed beast have we released
By testing ice-tipped lake
What curse by hist-ry’s seamen have we
Raised by braving boats?
A-tempted by the calmer shores
We think to stay a-moored
When cry comes over radio:
A hapless vessel sinks.
“Remember Barb!” reminds the crew
A-bolstered, we set out
Our matron of the sea now scares
Away our shallow fears.
“Remember her!” beat hearts, returned
Whilst sea spray hisses by;
Remember seamen’s sacrifice
To rescue all in need.
Surfaces by Bill Engleson
The eyes, if they’re eyes, stare along the cresting water.
The head, if it is a head, bobs.
“See?” she says. “There!”
“Kelp bulb,” I state. “That’s all.”
“Let’s get closer.”
The sea is enraged.
The wind is rising up.
Ones balance, hard to maintain.
“Are you coming?”
“Don’t be foolhardy,” I howl, whilst the furious wind works overtime to drown me out.
“Fine! Stay put. But I’m going closer.”
She moves out of my reach.
Towards the waters edge.
I am transfixed.
She strips to the essentials.
“NO!” I scream.
She dives in.
Life Saver by Doug Jacques
Around midnight, he would walk down to the bridge and wait, with one foot resting on the bottom rail, staring into the tidal shift below. He would wait for a stranger to appear at the other end of the bridge, mirroring his stance. ‘Time to go’ he would announce and hoist himself onto the second rail. The stranger would come running, yelling ’What are you doing?’ ‘Ending the pain’ he would say. And the stranger would pull him down and take him to the all-night coffee stand just off the bridge. He’d lost count of the lives he’d saved.
Slippery Rocks by Simon
As he laid down on the beach, he stared at the beauty of cloudy day. Stared at the sun that hides behind the clouds he witnessed the beauty of birds flying in group towards the north, he started walking, little did he noticed he was about to fall in a hole beside a rock, and the next moment he was drowning, he tried his best to keep the head out but the waves pushed him down, he witnessed a push and in seconds he was up beside the rock, an old man shivering said slippery rocks son, be careful!
The Blessings of Ziva by Colleen M. Chesebro
“Hurry or we’ll be late, Bisera. We have to be there before sunrise,” called Emika.
Bisera balanced the jug on her hip without spilling a drop. “I’m right behind you, Emika. Did you remember to bring the apple?”
“I found the last red apple in the bin. The apple and the water are our offerings to Ziva, the ancient goddess of water.”
Bisera reached the river and tumbled toward the icy depths. “Help me.”
Emika grabbed the girl’s scarf and saved her from harm.
“Thank you, Emika. The goddess put you in the right place at the right time.”
Grace Darling to the Rescue by Anne Goodwin
Father lowered the telescope. “Ship’s hit the rock a’reet. No survivors but.”
Grace pulled the shawl around her shoulders. “There’s movement!”
“We can’t risk it. Storm’ll make matchsticks of the boat.”
“We can’t let them die.”
Grace bailed while her father rowed. Gusts slapped hair across their faces and buffeted the boat. A symphony of huffing, splashing and a wailing, carried on the wind. Biceps straining, Grace took the oars as her father leapt onto the rock.
He chose the weakest and the strongest, returning later for the rest. He chose the mother, left the bodies of her bairns.
Coastal Tales: Diamante by Saifun Hassam
Stormy seas abated. Diamante knew storms could turn deadly for those at sea. Three fishermen were missing.
Diamante watched from atop cliffs near the ancient temple. This morning he saw a fishing boat desperately turn past the promontory. He struck the temple bell thrice. The villagers raced to the boathouses. Diamante and the rescuers rowed rapidly, fighting the restless seas.
A rogue wave lifted the fishing boat, smashing it on rocks close to the cove barely ten miles from their village! The rescuers did not hesitate.
Three figures struggled in the churning waters. Dominic and Yusef survived. Carlos disappeared.
Life Saver by Anita Dawes
Jack and I decided to hire a small speedboat
Try to find the mysterious island
Said to appear at odd hours
Best time would be before dawn
Begging Jack to keep his speed down
Too late, he hit a wave
Throwing us over the side
The cold water caught my breath
Struggling to reach the surface
I couldn’t see Jack, I was drowning
No boat above me, no sign of help
There came a great moment
A feeling of peace
I felt a hand drag me above the water
Breaking the surface
I was alone close to the shore…
Muddy Water Memories ( Part I) by Sue Spitulnik
The band was packing their instruments when a young man approached Mac. He stuck an old photo of two men, one supporting the other, in a muddy rice paddy apparently in Vietnam in front of him. “I’m wondering if that’s you on the left?”
Mac stared at the photo…”Billy Metott.”
“My grandfather. He says you saved his life that day. I wanted to tell you he’s doin’ well and say thank you.”
“How did you find me?”
“I’m attending college near here. He saw the bar’s name when he passed by and thought it must be you.”
Muddy Water Memories ( Part II) by Sue Spitulnik
Mac handed the picture back, wiped the tears from his eyes, and finally looked at the young man. “The truth about that day is nobody lived without the help of a buddy. Why didn’t Billy stop in?”
“Fear he was wrong. Memories.”
“That I understand. Your name?”
“Colm, after my father.”
When the band members heard the name, their curiosity peaked. They heard Mac say, “Sorry about the name. I’d like to get together with your grandfather. Maybe we can save each other from some future bad dreams.”
“He’ll agree to that. I’ll let him know.”
“Thank you, Colm.”
Life Saver by FloridaBorne
I don’t regret making the choice that fateful day.
Lester sat next to me on the dock when that horrid politician yelled out, “He doesn’t belong here!”
Yes, the same politician who raised our taxes so that she could afford a fancy yacht.
When she ran toward me, Lester lunged at her. Both fell into the water. Who know a politician that fat couldn’t swim?
I jumped into the water and helped Lester onto the dock, ignoring the woman’s screams for help. Thank God she’s dead. Police found evidence she was taking bribes.
I petted Lester and asked, “Would the best doggie in the world like a treat?”
Damned Family #5 by JulesPaige
I decided to stay an extra day at the motel. I hadn’t gotten much sleep, and in my quest to do something, anything I unpacked and repacked my luggage. Odd that I never used the outside pockets – but there was a journal in one of my suitcases. Ships at Sea! The writing was in my ex husband’s hand. My eyes blurred, filled with tears. How was I going to read this – especially now? After I claimed I didn’t know who the dead body was that I found yesterday.
coasting on cold waves
an anchor of memories
a hidden journal
Mr Dunk Saves The Day by Geoff Le Pard
‘Logan, there’s a pool. Let’s go swim.’
‘No thanks. I’ll catch forty winks.’
‘I’ll go for a walk later.’
‘This is America. No one walks.’
‘I’m not swimming.’
‘I’ve a spare cozzie.’
‘I’m not wearing your clothes.’
‘Come on. It….’
‘What’s got into you?’
‘I can’t swim.’
‘What? The superheroic Logan is scared of water?’
‘I nearly drowned. Mr Dunk saved me.’
‘I’d given up. I was going down for the third time.’
‘Mate, I didn’t know. Anyway, time you got back on the horse.’
‘I’m not doing that either…’
Into the Storm (Part I) by D. Avery
Through rain pelted windows Marlie’s tree fort hove into view. Marlie read, curled up with Daisy on the couch.
“Remember when she used to sail in weather like this, captaining a mighty ship?”
“Remember when she made Tommy walk the plank?”
“Do you miss Tommy, Liz?”
“For better or worse, I do. I miss our opportunity to give Tommy a respite from his family. The great unmasked… What’s Marlie researching now, Bill?”
“The candy? Or health care workers?”
“Life savers— nascent Coast Guard.”
Putting her book aside Marlie donned her foul weather gear. She had to go out.
Into the Storm (Part II) by D. Avery
“Who will rescue us, Bill?”
“What? Are we a wreck?” He crowded into the window seat. Beyond the steamy window, Marlie braved the high seas to pluck Destiny from the surf.
“Not us. Us. /U/ /S/. Of A?”
“Oh. Ship of fools. Headed for the rocks.”
“We’ve been commandeered by pirates, with a fool spinning the helm. I’m scared Bill.”
“Oh! Marlie! You’ve returned.”
“We’re huddled in our lifeboat, Marlie. Get in.”
Marli climbed in with her parents and assessed their circumstances. “It’s going to be rough. But we’ll make it. All storms peter out.”
Outstretched Arm by Goldie
Veronica’s been struggling with the large waves for too long. They have smacked her around mercilessly, making her crash against rocks a few times.
She tried to grab onto some of them, but the waves pulled her right back into the ocean. The cuts on her hands burned in the salty waters.
So close to solid ground, yet so far. Veronica had to fight. If not for herself, then definitely for her toddler.
But she couldn’t. Not anymore… She was too spent. Closing her eyes, she gave up the fight.
“Veronica!” the monster pulled her out of the tub.
Water and Rescue by Frank Hubeny
When Lydia was playing in a shallow pool about four inches deep she stumbled and fell face down into the water. The problem is she did not stand up. She kept her face submerged in the water. She was very young.
Her father was watching her and saw what happened. He got up out of his chair, stepped into the water and lifted her. He and his wife wiped off the water. Lydia smiled. That was enough water play for today.
It wasn’t a dangerous rescue. Some rescues are routine, but imagine the consequences if they had not happened.
Lifesavers by Hugh W. Roberts
Is it only humans that save lives?
Cindy-Rose already knew that she wanted to follow in the footsteps of her father and save lives at sea.
“I’ve just saved Teddy and Giraffe from going underwater, Daddy.”
“I know, I saw you save them from falling into that big, strange puddle left by last night’s, weird storm,” responded her father.
“Thank you for saving our lives,” whispered Teddy into the ear of its owner. “Giraffe and I will always save you.”
Smiling, Cindy hugged her toys and counted down from her age of four before jumping into the puddle.
Only her yellow wellington boots and rainhat resurfaced.
Oreos and Milk Save the Day! by Liz Husebye Hartmann
The boat tosses and turns, water crashing over its bow, threatening to tip the tiny crew into the roiling waters.
“I can’t hold our course, Captain!”
“Look alive, Fishlegs! The deadly virus cure’s gotta get to Littleton before sunrise.”
“Aye, but the Great Kraken of the deep haunts these waters. I have a bad feeling about this!”
“Courage, Fishlegs. We’ll save the day, or my name isn’t Cap Moira Janesway!”
Suddenly the deep rumbles: heels hammering from beneath. The boat capsizes as two brown knees break the froth.
“Bath time’s over, Moira. Time for jammies, snack and something calmer.”
Rescue 116 by Gloria McBreen
Irish Coast Guard helicopter
Called into the night
Black ocean swells
Rocky terrain in sight
Find Blacksod Bay
Refuel at the lighthouse
Where the keeper awaits
No mayday distress
Black box tells
Of that early misty morn
Winchman yelled ‘come right’
Duffy said ‘we’re gone’
Didn’t make it to the lighthouse
Hit Blackrock instead
Two were lost at sea
Two were found…now dead
Father of three
Lived for family
Captain Dara Fitzpatrick
Mother sister friend
Captain Mark Duffy
All heroes till the end
The nation mourned
We’ll never forget
Saviours we never met
In Remembrance by Charli Mills
Beatrice Hayes served Coast Guard Station Portage for three years, respecting the deadly furies of Lake Superior. Cruising the canal on a clear day, she could spot old shipwrecks below the water’s surface. To the west, she assisted in setting up the buoy system. When she heard kayakers were gathering to honor a local historian who researched her historical predecessors, Beatrice mustered the fleet from cruisers to icebreaker to Kodiaks and posted an honor guard. Women in kayaks tossed daisies, reciting the names of life savers who had served these waters, ending with the woman who wrote their biographies.
Whiskey in a Storm by D. Avery
“Ah, Ernie, you’re a lifesaver!”
“It’s jist whiskey, Pal.”
“Yer a port in the storm, Ernie, a safe haven as I go a-sailin’ back ta the Ranch.”
“Thinkin’ ya might already be three sheets, there, Pal. An’, ya look like ya seen a ghost.”
“I did, last week. It was spooky. Afore thet I worked my fingers ta the bone doin’ chores at my cuzzins’ turnip farm, an thet dispite wearin’ kid gloves.”
“Speakin’ a which, where’s Kid at?”
“Dunno. Took separate trails fer our vacation. Mighta saved Kid’s life, thet break.”
“Missin’ Kid, ain’tcha?”
“Been a long month.”
Bacon in a Storm by D. Avery
Though spooked, Kid made it back to Carrot Ranch. Kid had never been so long and far away from the barns and bunkhouse without Pal; the whole month had seemed like one long dark and stormy night. Now the sun rising over Shorty’s cookhouse was like a lightbulb overhead. Idea!
By the time Shorty came on the scene, Kid had stacked large rocks in a circle.
“Buildin’ a fire ring?”
“Foundation fer a lighthouse. Thinkin’ we need a beacon.”
“The Ranch is a beacon, an’ a safe harbor. Come on, Kid, I’ll fix ya some bacon.”
Kid lightened up.