Be Like Reggie Fountain

How old boaters can remain young at heart.
Recounting a memory of Reggie Fountain
Reggie Fountain teaches us all that age is only a number. Tim Bower

I have the Google, so I know it was film icon Bette Davis who observed that old age ain’t no place for sissies. I’m not saying that my good friend Chuck Larson is a sissy, but he sure has been complaining since he hit the Medicare milestone this summer. When he came limping into the Lake View Inn last week, I was prepared for the griping. I slipped onto the adjacent bar stool and asked, “How goes it?”

“Oh, you don’t know the shape I’m in,” Chuck said. “My big toe’s been sore for a week. Turns out, I have gout! Who gets gout? Didn’t Henry VIII have gout?”

“I think that’s treatable,” I replied.

“Sure, it is. Doc says just cut fish and vodka out of my diet,” Chuck said. “While you enjoy your Friday fish fry, I guess I’ll just nibble on the cheese curds. It’s just one thing after another. There’s gout. The optometrist says she detects creeping cataracts. Marlene keeps nagging at me to get to Costco for hearing aids. And now she’s joking about the benefits of a testosterone patch. Out of nine lives, I’ve spent seven.”

“Are you sure she’s joking about the patch?” asked Wally from behind the bar. “At least she still cares.”

Unlike our weight or height, I think age is subjective. We each have a date of birth, of course, but what really matters is how old we think we are. Research is revealing that our subjective age is the reason why some people flourish as they age while others fade, and having a younger subjective age might lower the risk of dementia and stave off mortality.

I have to occasionally remind myself that when I flirt with the young waitress, she sees a gray-haired codger, not a dashing 36-year-old marine journalist. It was just this past April that Chuck dialed back his subjective age and squeezed into a wetsuit to lap the lake on a slalom ski. But now gout and the rest have advanced Chuck’s subjective age beyond his actual age. I want to encourage Chuck to change course in this regard.

“Chuck, have you seen Martha Stewart on the cover of the new Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue?” I asked. “She’s 81 years old.”

“Oh, I love Martha!”

“Who doesn’t love Martha? But when she posed in that swimsuit, I bet she was 50 in her head. You need to change your mindset again and start thinking you’re about 40.”

“I still had a full dose of testosterone at 40,” Chuck said. “And I could hear out of my left ear.”

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Then I told Chuck about my ride this past April in a 33-foot Executioner with racing champion and fast-boat legend Reggie Fountain—on his 83rd birthday.

“Reggie did not hop off the dock into the cockpit,” I said. “He’s flipped over a few tunnel boats in his life, and it shows. But he took command at the helm, and as soon as we got on plane, Reggie had the throttles to the wall, the boat trimmed pretty and running 90 mph like it was still 1980. I looked at his hands on the wheel and saw the age spots, but there was a nice grin on his face. He was so diggin’ it. It was one of the best moments in my career.”

Stop thinking old. Be like Reggie.