by Daniel J. Smith

I was living the island life in the early 70s, spearfishing, surfing and scuba diving off the coast of Guam, when my dad turned me on to a book titled The Big Sky by A.B. Guthrie. I became fascinated with a world quite different from the humid sun-baked beaches of the Marianas Islands.

Nixon was president, B-52 bombers flew in formation over John F. Kennedy High School on their way to unload on North Vietnam, and we were immersed in the waning hippie culture and music of the time.

I played guitar in a rock band and often we were playing to hundreds of GIs on R&R at clubs like the Macombo on Naval Air Station or Anderson Air Force Base.  I remember from the stage looking down on a patchwork of fledgling male faces (there was not an XX chromosome in the house), boys my age or a little older - some outgoing, some painfully shy and scared, others with a brash facade you could tell was a combination of gung ho training and  underdeveloped brain bravado.  Each sat with a personal pitcher of some custom alcoholic concoction in front of them.  These guys were making up for lost time and, probably, lost friends.  We were playing songs from newly released albums by Led Zepplin, the Rolling Stones and Jimi Hendrix very loud and everyone was having a good time.

It was a surreal scene and I knew that soon my name would be thrown into the hat to possibly become a sarificial lamb for a cause I certainly didn't understand. Sure, the reason was obvious for entering WWII but has become increasingly muddier since the Korean conflict. My number didn't come up until the last gasps of the war and I was fortunate to draw a high number in the infamous draft lottery.

My family had moved to Guam in 1968 after spending the Summer of Love in State College Pennsylvania where the streets hummed with protest and raw unrest.  My dad had recently become a very early Public Broadcasting personality at Penn State University.  He hosted a world cultures program shot on 2 inch videotape in Black and White.  The cameras were the size of small refrigerators and the few pioneering directors, producers and on-camera personalities like my dad brought props from home and adlibbed to create a brand new media genre.  After about a year and 30 some world cultures programs in the can, an offer came to my dad that I can only imagine was, at first shocking, and eventually alluring.

In 1941, after Pearl Harbor, dad was, like so many boys of the period, itching to join the fight that was World War II. He was soon at Camp Pendleton in San Diego training to be a tank gunner in the Marines.

I graduated from John F. Kennedy High School in Tamuning Guam in 1972.  We had our own mini Woodstock that year complete with drug overdoses and persistent rain and mud. One of my classmates, a stunningly talented Phillipino musician who was the embodiment of Jimi Hendrix and could play guitar just like him including playing a right-handed guitar strung upside down, died of a heroin overdose.

After 10 years, I was feeling a bit claustrophobic on the little tropical island I later would find was about the same size as Flathead Lake.

But just beyond the thin line of silica sand surrounding Guam was a fantastic blue water world that a little boy from Pennsylvania had only dreamed of. Dreamed of as an adolescent while reading about the harrowing adventures of William Beebe and the bathysphere, and Jaques Piccard who rode the Trieste seven miles down to the deepest, darkest ocean depth, the Marianas Trench, just off the coast of Guam.

Now, the abysmal depth of the Marianas Trench was just a few miles from my island home.  So I learned to scuba dive and spearfish, and to partake in the ocean's bounty. If my parents knew where my dad's Palauan employee, Joe Ilengeleke, took my brother and I just off Cocos Island where the reef dropped off precipitously to a dark, murky depth - it's a good thing they didn't know. While Mark and I floated with mask and snorkel in an intimidating choppy ocean, we watched the lithe Palauan free divers descend on a breath down down until they dissolved into the grayness. And then, when their fate came into question, a swarm of telltale bubbles followed by a lean muscular apparition questing for the surface, kicking his fins, speargun in his left hand and a writhing 10 pound grouper skewered by the spear in his right hand.

Soon Mark and I were diving too with homemade spearguns carved from 2x4s with long sharpened steel rods from the hardware store knotched and drilled, and powered by 18 inch lengths of surgical tubing that could be drawn back to cock the steel projectile. A stainless steel spoon was fastened to the speargun, the tip on its handle bent 90 degrees to act as a trigger for the spear. Once cocked, the force on the spear was tremedous, the surgical tubing straining to thrust the spear forward. And the steel spoon tightly bound to the knotch by strips of innertube rubber. This was our ready weapon in the blue water and teeming reefs of Guam.

We learned early to bring speared fish to the surface and into a bucket in the center of a floating innertube to keep the sonar of a wounded fish from attracting sharks.  The sharks were always there tasting blood in the water but in all the years I dove there, they never bothered us.

Forgive my digression.  Back at the Macombo club, I met a young long-haired guitar player and classically-trained violinist and we began to play together.  His dad was stationed on Naval Air Station. I learned that he was from a little town in Montana with the somewhat strange sounding name of Bozeman. I had not heard of Bozeman, but it was in the Rockies, and I knew after reading The Big Sky that I had to go to the Rockies. As Summers the hunter bragged to Boone and Jim,

"I seen most of it. Colter's Hell and the Seeds-kee-dee and the Tetons standin' higher'n clouds, and north and south from Nez Perce to Comanche, but God Almighty, there's nothin' richer'n the upper Missouri. Or purtier. I seen the Great Falls and traveled Marias River, dodgin' the Blackfeet, makin' cold camps and sometimes thinkin' my time was up, and all the time livin' wonderful, loose and free's ary animal. That's some, that is." SUMMERS THE HUNTER

I had to see that country and it seemed that Bozeman was right in the heart of it. So I determined to follow my friend Bobby Wilson to Bozeman. One last diving trip to Truk Lagoon where the U.S. sunk an entire Japanese fleet toward the end of WWII. It was a fantastic trip with the most exciting dive off of an 80 ft sailboat on the barrier reef surrounding the lagoon.  This was the barrier to the protected lagoon. While just outside the barrier reef was the wild open ocean.  We dove several cuts in the reef where sea creatures and fish came in and out of the lagoon from the deep blue to the emerald green. The lagoon was 36 square miles, not a small body of water. In the cut, sharks were abundant looking from both sides of their snouts and seeming to be aware of everything in their wide perview. The corals were stunning on the vertical walls of these cuts that were probably 50 to 100ft in height. And in and out of the cut, schools of tuna and jack, and deeper, lumbering grouper and giant wras. All the while, the sharks __________ back and forth taking it all in and waiting for an opportunity.

Oh yes, as to what sharks and grizzly bears have in common, they are both endangered and severely threatened by the human species.