The Night Orion Fell
By Abigail B. Calkin
Fern Hill Press
Softcover, 239 pp., $18.95
If you read Oregon dragger Larry Hills’ first-person story of survival in the July issue of National Fisherman (“Lost and found,” p. 26), you’ll have a nearly blinding example of why they say truth is stranger than fiction. Larry’s is certainly an unbelievable tale of survival against all odds.
Tired from four days of fishing short-handed, beating a winter storm home, across the bar, to Garibaldi, Ore., Larry and his deckhand got pinned to the net reel on the haulback — first his deckhand, Dick Cooley, and then Larry as he tried to come to Dick’s aid. They wound around the winch, getting more and more strapped and pinched under the wires until the gear fouled and snagged. That’s when Larry realized Dick had been killed in the entanglement and that he himself was stuck.
And then came the storm and Larry’s 40 hours of hell waiting for rescue.
But what happens on the boat is only one part of any fisherman’s life. Abigail B. Calkin writes “The Night Orion Fell” with painstaking and page-turning detail that brings the reader home with Larry to this small fishing town, his family and the people who rescued him — from the Coast Guard to the medical staff that helped him with his long recovery.
Every year, we publish our annual Pilothouse Guide as a reference piece and in reverence of the stories of old from West Coast and Alaska fisheries — the unique perspectives of the Alaska Fishermen’s Journal. It seems especially fitting to me to pair that with a survival story. Larry’s account not only serves as a warning to stick strictly to safety measures onboard, but also as a testament to the human spirit. Larry willed himself to live so he might see his wife and young son again. But of course there’s no surviving this predicament without a white-knuckle Coast Guard rescue. With smarts, will and support (and perhaps a few doses of good luck) a fisherman can get through the year safely and successfully.
From the shore, we wish you well — all season, all year.