The Legend of Genival
As I go thru life I find I do not have to be able to communicate with someone to call them a friend. When I was 22 and enrolled at Michigan State University I received a phone call in the middle of the night in late October from Mexico. It was an Ernesto Hays who owned a baseball team in Los Mochis, Sinaloa Mexico asking me with a heavy Spanish accent if I wanted to come to Mexico and play winter baseball their Liga Pacifica de Mexico. I had been going to college in the winters and playing minor league baseball in the Cleveland minor league chain for 5 years and had spent the summer playing for Elmira in the AA Eastern League. One of the American players on the team I had played against that summer recommended me when they needed a pitcher. I was mid way though the fall semester at Michigan State and asked him when they needed me & he said “yesterday” as the season had already started and one of their pitchers had had an injury. I wasn’t really interested until he said he would pay me $2,000.00/month and all living expenses thru the end of the year. Suddenly I was interested, as I had made $1,000.00/month that summer, 1972, playing AA ball and had to pay all my living costs. I discussed it with my wife who said if I really wanted to play Major League baseball, I could not pass up this opportunity. I flew to Tucson, Arizona 2 days later (while she packed the apartment up and headed to her parents’ place), where Ernesto picked me up in his 185 Cessna and flew me several hundred miles south of the boarder to Los Mochis on the Sea of Cortez. They took me to a hotel and dropped off this “never been out of a country where they did not speak English” person, with people that spoken only Spanish. I can remember going down to a little dirt floored place to eat, near the hotel of course so I wouldn’t get lost, looking at a menu and realizing I had no chance of ordering anything. I made my first friend that I could not communicate with when the waiter came by and realized my dilemma took me by the arm, walked me around to a couple of tables and let me look at several dishes until I pointed to one & of course I pointed to a beer too. When I was done I would give him an American green $20.00 bill and he would give me this funky looking Mexican currency as change, man could he have taken me to the cleaners…but he didn’t…or at least I don’t think he did!!! This is how this gracious man helped me eat for the better part of a month, the Spanish words I learned first was Amigo & “deme dos cervezas más por favor!” This winter ball baseball experience helped me to get to the big leagues in 1974 and stay there until 1986, as in the minor leagues they kept “good prospects” & high draft choices around if they did well or not. In winter ball you produced pronto or you were home in short order!
In 1997 I had taken several Texas Rangers baseball players to Brazil’s Amazon Peacock Bass fishing on an 85’ riverboat named the Amazon Queen. While there I made friends with the river boat captain named Genival and his young son Blackie. Genival was an indigenous Indian and I would think had very little formal education. I really enjoyed spending time with him in the wheelhouse of the Queen pointing to different things on the river and the rainforest and thru sign language and my little very limited Spanish, exchanging Portuguese and English words for them. We made a great pair, Genival at the time was in his 40’s I would say & might have made 5’ standing on his toes and I was 6”5”. In 1998 I was hired by Amazon Tours, a Brazilian based Peacock Bass fishing business that was owned and operated by an American, to develop an American marketing office in Texas for them. This necessitated me making one or two trips a year to Brazils Amazon to visit the Amazon Queen and the Rio Negro Lodge where Genival was always happy to see me and “point and recite” & watch his son Blackie grow up. I quit Amazon Tours in 2003 and became involved guiding at and managing a lodge in southwest Alaska for the next 7 years. I made one trip down to Brazil in January of 2006 to another mother boat operation and who was the captain…Genival! It was great to see him again and renew old friendships. In 2010 I was approached by the owner of Captain Peacock Yachts and Expeditions when I was down there looking to get back into booking for Peacock Bass fishing again. This gentleman had been a part time floatplane pilot for Amazon Tours when I was with them & in short order hired me to develop an American marketing office for his company Captain Peacock. On my first trip down to Captain Peacock’s 85’ mother boat the Captain Logan I see Genival again who was the pilot for the Logan & his son Blackie who is all grown up now and one of the guides for Captain Peacock. Some of my best times in the Amazon over the next 3 years were hand lining for bait fish or Piranha off the side of the mother boat or visiting Genival;s native friends with him in the villages after the fishermen had left the boat for the day. My Portuguese vocabulary had increased to maybe 25 or 30 words over the years and Genival’s English had to be up to about the same, as in very little! We still did more communicating in sign language than speaking, but it was sure a relationship I enjoyed. Blackie was rather impressive with his command of the English language and we could converse in English freely. I would always bring an IPod or something for Blackie and a watch or such for Genival and they would always have something like dried Piranha heads or fishing flies like the natives of the Amazon had tied for eons out of the inner bark of a particular tree or another native prize. We spent many hours telling lies the other could not understand and laughing like hell! We spent New Year’s night together on a remote Amazon sand bar with 10 guests and the staff of the boat, watching fireworks and all laughing at each other and celebrating the New Year, as very few Americans ever will. From somewhere he produced a bottle of Amazon home brew and he and I and at the stroke of midnight ran into the black Rio Negro. These are memories I will never forget….Genival called me his “Grande Amigo .”During the 2013 – 2014 fishing season Genival was the Captain of another mother boat and while in Santa Isabel fell from the gangplank, hit his head and drowned. About a month later I had a friend going down to fish with Captain Peacock and I was able to send Blackie several pictures of his father I had taken over our years of friendship. I have found out long ago, speaking the same language is not a prerequisite for friendship. Try interfacing with people that don’t speak your language with sign language as the Plain Indians of America communicated with each other and the white man for many, many years. It will seem silly at first, but being able to laugh at yourself is a big part of friendship and believe me, trying to communicate thru sign language can be damn funny at times! In this day and age of Facebook and Google Translate, I stay in touch with friends and past clients in Russia, Brazil, Japan and many other countries, I consider it Facebook Sign Language!
Jim Kern has a long history in the Peacock Bass world. Jim has fished in Brazil 32 times since 1997 with both fly and conventional tackle. Jim developed and ran the American office for Captain Peacock from 2010 thru 2013 was the Vice President and General Manager of Amazon Tours from 1998 thru 2003. Through Emu Outfitting, his outfitting company of 30 years, he managed Alaska’s Rainbow Bay Resort from 2007-2009 & Alaska’s Angry Eagle Lodge 2013 & 2014. Jim holds a Coast Guard Captains license, has been a registered fishing guide in Alaska, Montana and Idaho and has been a fly tier for 40 years. Jim also was a 3 time American League All Star baseball pitcher in 1977, 78, and 79 & the American League Relief Pitcher of the year in 1979.