Stand by Me
Nantucket Essays Nantucket Voices

Stand by Me

by Steve “Tuna” Tornovish

There’s a scene at the start of the fantastic 1986 movie “Stand By Me” where Richard Dreyfuss is sitting in his car, trying to come to terms with the death of one of his childhood buddies. As this character looks up from the newspaper article that had delivered the bad news, he sees two kids who look about thirteen pedaling by on their bikes. We see the Dreyfuss character immediately taken back in time, back to that age, back with his neighborhood gang. It’s a poignant moment that starts this brilliant coming-of-age movie (based on the Stephen King novella The Body).

I got to feel a similar jolt to my past recently. It started with a call from Tammy King: “Hey Cuz—there’s these kids I just ran into at the tackle shop. They all ride their bikes to the beach with their fishing gear, and they’re awesome!” Tammy told me that the kids looked to be about 13 years old. She was completely smitten by their enthusiasm. Based on Tammy’s enthusiasm, I figured that I’d have to find out more about these mystery kids at some point.

The image of kids who want to fish that badly activated my flashback mode to our Hooper Farm Road crew when I was that age. Saturdays in the spring and early summer were dedicated to pond fishing, after cereal, cartoons, the Three Stooges, and professional wrestling, of course. Those days spent fishing Miacomet Pond with my neighborhood buddies were some of the greatest days of my life.

A day or so later I received this text from my brother Bill: “Hey Steve, there’s five kids fishing out here at Point O’ Breakers. They’re local kids, and they’re out here all the time having a blast. I got their names for you. I handed out a few metal lures to them. They loved it!” I asked Bill if all of the kids had fishing gear. “Yes: they have tackle, fishing rods, and short attention spans. They’re having a good time. They’re like the kids from “The Goonies!” All right, destiny, I can take a hint. It was time to track these kids down.

I decided to utilize a tried-and-true detective technique: I put it out on Facebook. I typed a quick post to say that I was trying to identify and locate a great crew of kids who bike out to the beaches with their fishing gear. I added the first names and last initials of the five that brother Bill had provided. I had a reply in minutes—work smarter, not harder, right? A friend texted me to say that one of the youths (or yutes, to borrow from “My Cousin Vinny”) was the son of his buddy. I was off and running.

Stand by Me
photo by Steve Tornovish

This friend was Cameron Mooney, father of Weylin. Cameron told me that Weylin has been crazy about fishing for years now. I recalled that I had seen Weylin and one of his buddies at the North Head of the Hummock one cold afternoon. The two kids were having an absolute blast. One of my friends said, “Yeah, that’s Cam Mooney’s son.” Ok then! Cameron told me that the boys were actually heading back to Point O’Breakers that afternoon. Destiny was putting the pieces together pretty quickly. I tossed my fishing gear in my truck and headed out. (You didn’t think I was going to bike out there, did you? C’mon now!)

Upon my arrival, I saw five suspects (sorry: cop flashback), I mean five kids who seemed to fit the description. Three of the kids were already at the water’s edge, throwing metal lures. I hit up the other two and verified that yes, indeed, these were my mystery fishing yutes. “Oliver has already caught like three fish!” I was directed to a teen who was casting nonstop.

“I’m here with my dad. He’s over there with my sister. I caught a couple of bluefish already. And a shad!” Oliver was nonplussed by the old dude bothering him while he was focused on catching his next fish. I decided that it was always best to introduce myself to the parents first, so I left the very dialed-in Oliver to his quest for fish number 4.

“I don’t really know where it comes from: the kid just loves to fish!” Sean Sullivan was beaming as he told me about Oliver. Sean had been fishing for a couple of hours and had joined Oliver in catching a few fish. He told me that he was grateful to be out on the beach with Oliver and his six-year-old daughter, Stella. “Look at her cast: she’s got it!” Sean was not wrong! Little Stella was determined, firing her lure a pretty good distance for someone of her stature. “Oliver is using a rod that I found somewhere. I think that reel is one that I dug up from my dad’s stuff in his basement. I don’t really know how this all started. I’m not a real good fisherman. I think Oliver is showing me how!”

Camden Carson was silently casting away, motivated by some jumping baitfish in the distance. Camden was the biggest of the crew, standing a full head taller than his buddies. He evoked a steadiness that quiet leaders bring: that important intangible for every great team that we hear expressed as “He’s a great locker room guy.” Camden talked about Oliver’s fish from earlier in the day, trying to focus the spotlight elsewhere. He humbly deferred to their friend Rojus as being the best fisher amongst them. (Rojus wasn’t at the beach this day, but he should know that all of his buddies said the same thing!)

Stand by Me
photo by Steve Tornovish

Lucas Miskinis was leaving the beach as I was arriving. He had an infectious smile and a very fun demeanor. Lucas also had a Plano tackle box full of gear, something of an exception for this crew. It was obvious that the four other Musketeers loved to fish with him.

Beau McKechnie was casting like a wild man, utilizing an exaggerated sidearm motion. Beau was the smallest of the five but also the feistiest—I could relate to him instantly. I asked him if I could show him a little bit about casting more overhead than sidearm. Beau listened intently and then worked on the technique that I had demonstrated. He told me, “We’ve been getting up at 4:00 a.m. and biking out. Our parents are ok with this and they like that we can do this ourselves.” Beau had the true Goonie spirit – “Goonies never say die!” He was clearly very fun to be around.

Weylin Mooney was thoughtful. He had seen the baitfish jumping and had retreated to go through his tackle to see what might lure would better suit the conditions. I had brought some Island X Hellfire 180 lures for the crew and handed them out. I told the five that this was my absolute go-to all summer long and how it mimicked so many food sources for the blues and stripers. I could see Weylin immediately picking up on the value of this versatile lure. He put one on his line and got busy.

“I fish three or four days a week. I like the ponds. I just love to reel them in!” Weylin gave his dad, Cameron, credit for showing him how to cast and what to look for when fishing. “Stripers are my favorite to catch.” I thought about that day that I had first seen Weylin at the North Head. His love for fishing was very evident that day, as was his joy of being out with his friends. Wow, these five kids are just as cool as Tammy and brother Bill had told me!

Stand by Me
photo by Steve Tornovish

So are these kids the Nantucket equivalent of The Goonies? Yeah, I can see the comparison. Much like The Goonies, these guys stick together. They have amazing spirit and a wonderful respect for each other. They are capable and determined. And they never say die! And just like their cinematic counterparts, these kids have discovered the “rich stuff”—not in pirate treasure, but in the beauty of the Nantucket waters.

I relate more to the crew from “Stand By Me,” however. I know that a group this tight at age 13 will grow so much through their shared experiences: traumas, hopes, fears, and finding the courage to face those fears. They will develop their moral compasses together, testing and refining them as they move forward.

Meeting these awesome kids made me recall the words that Richard Dreyfuss spoke to close “Stand By Me”: “Friends come in and out of your life like busboys in a restaurant… I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was twelve.” So very true. Fish on, kids!

Steve “Tuna” Tornovish is a Nantucket native who has spent his life fishing from the beaches of his beloved island. He loves to introduce clients to the joy of fishing with his Nantucket Island Fishing Adventures:

Articles by Date from 2012