Many of the details are lost in time, but the meeting is still fresh. It's not often you meet a woman in a suit with all of her makeup perfect and covered with blood.
A glance had told me none of the blood was hers.
I was cruising in my sailboat and headed south the Firday Harbor via the Inside Passage and had tied up at a dock on one of the several inhabited islands along the British Colombia coast.
I had met a local and he offered me a ride to another town to pick some stuff up and had taken him up on it. It was decided I could hitch-hike back to the ferry to return to the island.
I had the things I needed in my day pack and wandered into the rough ferry terminal and met Danni, covered with blood.
"It's a good thing you didn't get a ride back with me," said a voice from behind her. "You'd likely be dead."
I looked up and behind Danni there was the guy that had given me a ride into town. He was covered in his own blood and bandaged.
The bandaging looked excellent but not like he had been to the hospital.
"Ran off the road," he explained. "Side window shattered and cut me pretty good. Danni saw me and patched me up."
Scalp woulds bleed pretty profusely. Today's trucks have glass that crumbles when it breaks. His truck was ancient then and this was thirty years ago.
The first thing Danni said to me was, "Do you know how to get bloodstains out of cotton?"
I turned to the guy. "Looks like you owe her a new outfit," I said.
"I can get it cleaned," she said.
The three of us got onto the ferry and went back to the island. I went to my boat and sacked out.
The next day Danni showed up on the docks and boarded a pretty little utile salmon boat and I swung by to say hello. Hello turned out to be the better part of the day.
She in her mid 30s, divorced or widowed, I have forgotten. It's odd, but life was cheap back then. I was 35 and had more dead friends than living thanks to commercial fishing, airplanes, drugs and other accidents.
Danni had inherited the boat from her husband and was making a go of it by fishing salmon for a living. We worked on the boat and chatted. I marveled at her skills and pitched in because my boat was up and running and I had the time.
She could do mechanical work, gear work, paperwork and generally run a fish boat like an old salt. It was interesting to watch her talented hands work. I marveled at the incongruity of seeing such feminine hands with manicured nails mend fishing nets and change a generator on a diesel.
When she was done with the mechanical work she simply sprayed her hands clean with starting ether and then worked lotion into them to keep the ether from drying her skin out.
She fed me a wonderful lunch and invited me over to her place for supper. When I got there she was dressed in a nice (for island living) outfit and had a wonderfully civilized table set.
She was not a hard person, nor a softie but someone that seemed to be able to handle what life hit her with with nonchalance. I learned a lot from her in the following couple of days I spent with her.
Later I figured her out when I read a Robert Heinlen quote.
"A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly."
I do believe she could do all of these and she taught me that competence is independence.
Her dinner also reminded me that civilization could be brought with someone anywhere. It helped me re-civilize a bit after too long in wild places.
When I left port a couple of days later before sunrise I left a bottle of wine and a forwarding address on her boat. A few months later a nice card caught upwith me thanking me for the help and the wine. She also mentioned that she got the blood out of her outfit.