SPAIN: The Flower of Spring

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Dark clouds hung low on the rugged Cantabrian mountain peaks, and storm warnings were posted all along the Spanish coast. Out in the Atlantic, aboard his 32-foot trawler Flower of Spring, Fisherman Candido Solana Hoz listened to the radio while he scanned the seas with practiced eye. Of all the captains sailing out of the little Basque village of Santona, Candido was the ablest. For 50 years he had followed the sea, and with his three husky sons Ricardo, Constantino and Manuel for a crew, he seldom failed to bring the Flower back with a fine catch. As the storm whipped the seas around him, however, Candido put aside all thoughts of the catch. "We will make for home," he told his sons.

All went well until they stood a mere mile from Santona's lighthouse. Then the Flower's engine sputtered to a stop. The youngest son tinkered with the dead machinery. "Quick, Manuel, or we'll be caught," urged Candido. But the helpless craft was already broaching to the sea. As the other boys tried in vain to rig a sail, the waves were already crashing on the deck. Ashore, where the lighthouse keeper had spread the alarm, Santona's fishermen tried to launch lifeboats, but the angry seas tossed them back like corks onto the jagged reefs. Behind them black-shawled women gathered on the beach to kneel and pray in the driving rain.

The helplessly drifting Flower was only a few hundred yards from the harbor when Candido called to his sons, "Try to swim it, boys. Leave me here. I'm all right." But before the boys could reply, he slipped and fell to the deck. Without a word, Ricardo, Constantino and Manuel went to work. They seized fishing nets bordered with cork buoys and tied them securely around their father. A moment later a huge wave broke over them. On shore, the praying watchers-gave a cry, and the village priest made a sign of the Cross. Neither the Flower nor her three crewmen were seen again, but soon afterward a coast-guard cutter, steaming belatedly from Santander, spied a white head bobbing in the water. It was Candido, battered but still alive.

"My boys!" mourned Candido next day as he lay safe at home in his iron bed, surrounded by grandchildren. "My boys! They should have let me go down."