During the Miami Boat Show in February, a most unusual incident occurred. It’s no secret that Capt. Peter B. Wright and I have never seen eye to eye. Our petty skirmishes back and forth in Marlin and Sport Fishing magazines have been going on for a long time.
When I entered the Big Game Room at the show, Peter was on stage, about to give a seminar to some 50 to 75 people. At first he didn’t notice me. Then I heard Peter call, “Hey Tred!” and he walked down from the podium to spend some 15 minutes with me on ideas for how my fish-fighting harness system could work better for me to fight big fish. The harness was made by AFTCO, and I believe Peter had helped design it.
For two men who have never played well together, it was really quite remarkable. One of the people in the crowd awaiting the seminar asked Peter when he was going to start, since the seminar was running late. To my amazement, Peter turned and said he’d start when he was finished talking with Tred Barta and not a moment earlier. Several people clapped.
I consider this a life-altering moment: We had put aside our differences and Peter generously offered me what I really need most in life — help.
On TV, I’m a fireball of energy. When I fish, hunt, scuba dive, ride my horse and ski, people don’t see the dark side that all paraplegics suffer to hide. About 95 percent of the thousands of e-mails I receive every month are positive, thanking me for inspiring those in need. I always respond as upbeat and positively as I can.
Truth be told, I can fish for five hours in the hot sun, but then need to lie down on my side, getting the weight off my rear end. My feet ache, as does my lower back. My doctors tell me I’m in denial and depressed. I don’t believe them. But when I’m alone and off camera, and I see someone surf fishing or running on the beach, I often break out in tears. Self-pity I guess.
I have Waldenstrom’s blood cancer and need intravenous chemotherapy every two months for the rest of my life. After the chemo, I feel so terrible for a day or two, words can’t describe it.
My wife, Anni, did not ask for this overwhelming job of caring for me. It hurts me to know how much I’ve changed her life. I constantly feel guilty over that.
When fighting a big fish, I need four knowledgeable people to help: One works my shoulders, because I have no stomach muscles; the second helps me reel, late into the fight; the third repositions my body during the fight; and the fourth wires the fish. I break every IGFA rule in the book. It makes me sad to need so much help.
I’m a fighter, and I will never give up. But I’m not the real hero. My wife Anni is. Without her, I would not be alive. Without Anni, I truly believe I would have given up. Loved ones, family and caregivers are the real heroes to the impaired.
I am truly sorry that I never before had the guts to make peace with Peter. His unselfish act of kindness toward me showed him for the compassionate gentleman that he is. Truth is, we are all vulnerable. We all have our good points and bad points. Some of us are abrasive or loud or opinionated. Some just like stirring the pot. That description sure sounds like both Peter and me, but we are brothers in blue water. Capt. Peter B. Wright will always be a good and kind man whether we agree or not. I will always appreciate his act of sincere generosity. The hatchet is buried.