We called him "Flab" because he was overweight, and he was also stronger than the rest of the guys in our group. For two years all he talked about was Deep Sea Diving, until it became an obsession. One day he told me confidentially, "Morrie, with the material from my dad's hardware store and your uncle, the blacksmith's help, we can build a diver's helmet and rig." I didn't have Flab's enthusiasm, but I wanted to share his dream, so we proceeded on an adventure that affected both our lives.
We went to Woody's junk yard and found quarter inch flat stock for the top and sides of the helmet. Woody sheared the metal to size and left an opening for a glass window to view all the wonders of the depths. Next we had to convince my uncle to weld this wonderful piece of equipment together and put an air fitting on the top along with an eyebolt for lifting. He was amazed with our proposal and questioned the safety of the whole operation. Although he wasn't convinced, he used his expertise to make the thing watertight. We added padded shoulder braces and a bracket to hold a garden hose in position to communicate with the surface. A trip to the lumberyard and we had the wood and nails to build a diving raft. The raft had a square hole in the middle with a tripod over it to lower the diver. The weighted shoes and diving belt Flab had ordered arrived in the mail, and we danced around in Flab's basement knowing the time for the initial test dive was near.
The word was out that Flab and Morrie were going to make a test dive at Lake Louise on Sunday afternoon. Our parents were concerned, so my uncle decided to involve the volunteer fire department, and the local press decided to do a story. We had more publicity than we wanted. Sunday arrived and the crowd gathered on shore. We floated the raft and equipment out a distance of about 100 yards, and I placed the helmet over Flab's head and onto his shoulders. We were ready! Flab stepped through the hole, and before I could use the rope and pulley to lower him, he was gone! I grabbed the garden hose and shouted into the funnel on the end of the hose." What do you see Flab?" He said, "Nothing! I'm stuck in the mud!" I was the tender, and my diver was in twenty-five feet of water, stuck in two feet of mud. On shore my uncle hollered, "Is everything O.K.?" I lied, and hollered back, "Yes, everything is fine." Then I asked Flab what I could do to help, and he said, "Get me out of the shoes and we'll be O.K." I dove down and got one shoe loose and almost drowned trying to put it on the raft. I took a rope down and got the other shoe. I hauled the helmet and Flab to the surface, and the crowd on shore gave us a hand.
About a year later Flab broke my collar bone in football practice, and when I was going through the painful healing process, with a harness to keep things in place, I thought to myself, "I should have left him on the bottom of Lake Louise."
"Flab graduated from high school and went to the SPARLING SCHOOL OF DIVING located in San Diego, California and came home with a real diving helmet, suit and hoses. I was envious but couldn't afford the package.
Years later when I was inspecting the bottom of the hull of a ship for the Navy, using an air line mask, I thought of my friend "Flab" and how, influenced by his future wife and father-in-law, he had become a dentist. I thought, "What a waste. I should have left him at the bottom of Lake Louise." That would have been a bad idea however, as it would have deprived Watertown, South Dakota of an excellent dentist.
My friend "Flab" would have been good at anything he attempted.
©2001 Maurice D. Karst
Morrie & Flab
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