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Terry Tomalin tales: Everyone has a story

Terry Tomalin was a man of many stories and adventures. The Tampa Bay Times outdoors editor died Thursday, and we asked some of his friends and fellow adventurers for their best Tomalin tales:

William Darrell "Darry'' Jackson, owner of Bill Jackson's Shop for Adventure in Pinellas Park:

"We were cruising down from Cedar Key to Anclote Key in a dug out canoe and it was a tough day. We had 5-foot seas with water coming over the top. We were exhausted. It was late in the day and we were trying to find a place to camp. From Anclote Key north there are very few beaches. It's very hard to find a place to camp.

"We pull into Aripeka and there's this private boat ramp with a sign that reads 'No Camping. No Overnight Parking.' I'm thinking, great, this is going to (stink). We have no other place to go. I go inside and there's this old guy behind the counter. I said, 'Hi, my name is Darry Jackson.' He said, 'Is Terry Tomalin with you?' I said, 'Yes, you know Terry?' He said, 'No, but I read all his stories. I love them.' I told him we were looking for a place to camp and he said, 'You're welcome to camp here as long as you introduce me to Terry Tomalin.'

"I thought that was pretty cool. We ended up having a little street party with all the people in the town.''

Zack Gross, owner of Z-Grille in St. Petersburg:

"This was about eight or nine years ago. (Former Salt Rock Grill chef) Tom Pritchard introduced me to Terry when we had the old restaurant on Central (Avenue). Terry came up to me and said, 'Hey, you ever cooked alligator?' I had just moved from California a couple years earlier so I said, 'No, but I can cook anything.' He said, 'Well, I'm going alligator hunting for a story and I'm going to get some alligator. Can you cook it?' I said, 'Of course.'

"He told me to do whatever I wanted with it, just make sure I get to try some of it. So I get this alligator and I don't know anything about what to do with it. So I figured I'd make gator tacos. I do a little research and come up with this buttermilk batter. I usually like to wing it, but since it was Terry I figured I should at least do a little research.

"So I make them and then I call him and say, 'Hey, come on down for lunch. I'm putting them on special.' He didn't just give me a little bit of alligator, he gave me a boat load. So I make it and I'm waiting for Terry to get here and I'm seeing this line out the door. Everyone is ordering these gator tacos. We get to the end of the day and Terry comes in and says 'I'm ready.' I didn't have any left. I sold them all out. He was like 'Dang it!' But he was cool with it. He said, 'Were they good at least?' I said, 'They were awesome.'

"He did something really nice for me and I wasn't able to repay him for it. That kind of goes back to losing him like this, I never got to say thank you.''

George Stovall, St. Petersburg chiropractor:

"One thing you may not know about Terry is that he knew every word to hundreds of songs. He had a photographic memory when it came to knowing the words to songs. And he had an amazing voice. It was remarkable.

"There was one time when we were on one of our harrowing trips, we'd paddled the length of the Suwannee River and we were trying to make landfall near Cedar Key at about 3 in the morning. We'd been paddling for 14 hours. We were tired. It was around Christmas time, and all of the sudden Terry starts singing Christmas carols. He's singing Deck the Halls and all that. Then he starts singing Silent Night. He knew every word to every verse. So there we are, out in the middle of nowhere trying to find land, and Terry's singing Silent Night. So we all start singing Silent Night and I really think it helped. It calmed us down, and sure enough we found land. That's Terry.''

Ed Walker, area fishing guide and longtime friend:

"It was 1990 and we went to Homosassa for a tarpon story. He was new at the time and I was just starting out as a guide. He saw a picture of a kingfish that I caught and he wanted to know if he could run it in the paper. So I brought it down to the paper, but I also slipped a few other pictures in there. He saw a tarpon picture in there and he said, 'Man, I'd love to catch one of those.'

"So we set up a trip to go to Homosassa, where all the record tarpon were being caught on fly rods. It's a who's who of tarpon fly fishing from all over the world that time of the year. I'm kind of new to the whole thing and I was hoping we'd catch one, but I wasn't an expert. He brought Maurice (Rivenbark) as the photographer. We start poling around looking for fish and while we're doing that I said, 'Let's throw a few practice casts.' I quickly find out that Terry's not a great fly fisherman. He's having a hard time getting it out there as far as it needs to go. We spend a few hours practicing because there are no fish. It gets late and things are looking kind of grim.

"All of the sudden, here comes a big, single tarpon. It's approaching the boat and Terry starts swinging the fly back and forth. It's just not going out there and he's flinging, flinging, flinging. I said, 'Okay, just let it go.' It was like the hand of God dropped that fly right on the tarpon's nose. He gave it two little twitches and that thing looked up and gulped it. It was a miracle. That thing stands up out of the water and Maurice gets the shot. To this day, that was one of Terry's all-time favorite fishing photos.''

Aaron Freedman, friend and frequent member of adventure trips:

"This last trip we took into the Everglades, it was me and Terry and George Stovall and (Tomalin's son) Kai. We were driving back and Terry and I were in the front and we were chatting about business and life and leadership. The next day or two, two books show up at my house. They were about leadership and life. I'm looking at them and wondering who sent them to me. I texted Terry and said, 'Hey, if you sent me these, thank you very much. It means a lot to me.' He texted me back and said, 'Yes, they were. Enjoy my friend.' He must have gone right home and ordered those books. That meant a lot to me.''

Terry Tomalin tales: Everyone has a story 05/23/16 [Last modified: Monday, May 23, 2016 8:57pm]
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