Life on Utila – Doc Rail

Last night I went out to see the sunset and grab a beer with friends. We settled down just before sunset at SkidRow, a local restaurant/bar. We pulled two tables together and each made our place to our seats. Conversations ranged from mothering to cleaning up the beaches to island conflicts to photography. As I looked around all of us girls were expats and each has their own unique story of how they made it to the island and what makes them stay.

Before long, an older gentleman made his way to our combined tables and pulled up a chair. Several of the girls greeted him and then introduced the newcomers. Doc Rail. Funny, I had just heard his name the previous night from an island friend who said her dad had worked for Doc Rail when he was a kid. Actually the story was more interesting than just that. Her dad had left the island in his teens to go work for Doc Rail. Doc had a unique career going in the States. He organized and put on water skiing shows. The kind of shows with girls formed as pyramids as they cut through the waters. I’ve never actually seen one of those shows. I don’t even know if they even have that kind of thing anymore. But in the 70’s it was big entertainment.

So, within seconds of being introduced to Doc last night, he grabbed his chair and pulled it right up next to me. He had a knife in his hand and about 8 stems from a palm branch. He wasn’t holding a beer or a wallet or an iPhone. I immediately noticed his beautiful hat “Korean Veteran” and thanked him for serving our country. He dismissed the compliment by saying he was drafted. I repeated my gratefulness and left it alone.

Doc and I engaged in conversation for over an hour, all the while he was whittling away with the knife and palm branch stems. He asked if I wanted a bird? I said absolutely. Not only did he make me a little bird, but when I left SkidRow I had a parrot fish and an angel fish. When I asked him if he charged for his craft. He laughed. It was like he was offended at the idea because he loves to do it and he enjoys conversing with people while he does it. I heard later that he regularly visits the bars and restaurants looking for newcomers to chat with and make them his beautiful handcrafted birds and fish.

Thank you Doc Rail for your kindness and creations!

Doc Rail making me a bird, parrot fish and angel fish out of palm branch stems.