We hadn’t expected him. I had called to cancel the trip. The night before an intruder had robbed us. We had no money, no passports. I’d spent the last three hours cancelling credit cards.
Now Ansil Saunders stood before us – a wiry brown man with white, white teeth and strong hands. He smiled showing all of his teeth and brushed the events away with a swish of his hand.
“I will take you for free.”
We followed him like children to his big American car that seemed out of place on an island where most people traveled by golf cart. The thief had made his escape in a golf cart. – putting up the narrow Queen’s Highway along the rocky beach.
We were quiet as Ansil drove us to the spot here his boat was tied. It was a beautiful boat – wooden – made with his own strong hands.
“Do you have any hardboiled eggs or bananas…those are very bad luck on a boat, you know” We had neither but his words reminded us how hungry we were. We hadn’t had breakfast. As if reading our thoughts, he pointed to the picnic basket beside the boat. It was filled with fruit, bread and water.
Ansil guided us through the mangroves. My mind fidgeted but my eyes found his hands and they focused there. I watched as his hands on the oars guided the wooden boat through the mangroves. Soon my mind joined my eyes and forgot to worry. I was present. For the rest of the day Ansil guided us through the shallow waters, through the mangroves as we tried to put the events of the previous night behind us and concentrate on spotting the nearly invisible bonefish. We quickly learned that the best approach was to stop trying to see the fish ourselves and to just cast where and when Ansil pointed. When we did that, we caught fish.
Ansil brought us to an open space in the mangrove. “They call this Bonefish Hole…” I looked around. I saw no hole and I saw no bonefish. He continued “…but I call this Dr. King’s Creek of Peace.” Ansil went on to tell us about the first time he brought Martin Luther King to Bonefish Hole. Dr. King had come to Bimini at the invitation of Adam Clayton Powell for a rest and to work on his acceptance speed for the Nobel Peace Prize. He had spent the day with Ansil not for bonefishing, but for relaxation. I wondered how long it had taken his mind to stop fidgeting and focus with his eyes on Ansil’s strong hands.
Ansil stood in the bow of his boat resting his chin on his oar. Then, with one arm, he gestured to the sky, the water, and the mangroves. “Dr. King asked me what I told people who came here and still doubted the existence of God. I told him I didn’t have an answer for him then, but I would when he returned to Bimini.”
Ansil kept his promise. He wrote a Psalm. The next time Dr. King visited Bimini Ansil had an answer for him. While John and I sat in the back of his boat in the middle of Dr. King’s Creek of Peace, Ansil recited for us the Psalm he had written for Dr. King. “…and God made the fish that swim in the ocean, the cows the graze on the hillside and the stars the shine in the sky…” As he spoke he gestured to the Ocean, the shore and the sky. I knew that no one could sit in that boat in that beautiful space and watch this beautiful brown man reciting this psalm that had sprung from his soul and doubt the existence of God.
That was Martin Luther King’s last trip to Bimini. A short time later he went to Memphis where he was shot to death.