June 24, 2015's Weekly Slap:

“Beach Slapped” is what it is because from the moment I first came to the Oregon Coast, most every moment I lived here, and even my last hours here, it was always about the beach. That wasn’t always true of my life, and perhaps that’s been my problem.

Growing up in Colorado, I was a long way from the beach. I don’t care what anyone says, lounging next to a giant lake/ civic water supply is not the beach.

BartonGroverHowe.com:Where to keep up with humor writer Barton Grover Howe. Here, you'll find all of his Beach Slapped columns from The News-Times in Lincoln County, Oregon, excerpts from his latest books and the occasional random musing that would get him fired if he published it in a family newspaper.
The Flying Starfish of Death
- November, 2005
When I first moved to the Oregon coast, I immediately became aware of some of the dangers that lurk in that large blue thing to the west.

            First I saw billboards warning me about beach logs. Then I heard about shark warnings for surfers. I even saw that other Newport sea lions had sunk a boat.

            But no one told me about the starfish.

            This story does not begin as these stories often do: with a bottle of Tequila and a case full of Jimmy Buffet songs. No, this story begins with my editor telling me I should go out and about the area and shoot some scenic pictures for the paper. I presume if she had known I was headed for the Yaquina Bay jetty she would have warned me about the starfish.

Then again, it’s hard to say with editors.

            I should also in all fairness note anything related to the ocean seems to hate me of late. My fiancee and I are trying to wedding, and between our upcoming wedding and honeymoon we’d made plans for Cancun, Cozumel and New Orleans. Until the very waters of the ocean rose up and smote them from the earth, that is.

            So to be honest I probably shouldn’t have been going near the ocean, but it’s pretty hard to take scenic pictures around Lincoln County if you leave that out. (Yes, I know, Toledo is pretty, but you’re missing the point.) So, mission in hand, I headed out onto the north jetty to get some pictures of seagulls, waves and sunets.

            The waves were hitting pretty hard, so I stayed in the middle of the jetty, which is where I was when the wave hit. I knew I was far enough from the water, but nonetheless, I wrapped my camera up tight in my arms.

            And that’s when it attacked.

            Flying out of the wave, a starfish slammed right into my calf knocking my feet out from under me on the wet rocks. Unable to use my arms -- heck, unwilling; at least my body’s insured -- I crashed to the rocks, drawing blood from both knees and legs.

            I looked like Sylvester Stallone at the end of a “Rocky” movie, assuming he’d been boxing an elf. I hadn’t been this badly beaten up since I was hit by a bus. (Don’t ask.) Maybe I should have brought that bottle of Tequila.

            The first thing I did was call my fiancee, who took the time to tell me to get some disinfectant on it before she broke down in hysterics with her co-workers. She even called me later just to tell me she and her co-workers decided I had been attacked by a “shooting starfish.” (Did I mention they’re all editors?)

            Needless to say, I’ll probably skip the worker’s comp claim, to save myself the humiliation of explaining how I was attacked by a starfish. This from someone who has been clocked in the head by a 97-mile per hour fastball while at work and once got a concussion on the job after being hit by an anorexic woman dressed as an octopus. (There’s the ocean thing again.)

            This is not that bad, in so far that I’m not having hourly dizzy spells. (No more than usual, anyway.) But I will say I pretty much hate starfish now. That story about how if throw a starfish back in the ocean it’s start on making the world a better place? Hogwash. The only place I’m throwing a starfish I find on the beach is in a chowder bowl.

            In fact, pithy moralistic stories aside, I find it rather wonderful that when you find a starfish on the beach it does no good to throw them back because it’s already dead. Ha! I’ll even go so far as to admit the logical part of me knows the starfish that flew out of the sea at me was likely already dead.

            Too bad that’s smaller than the bitter part of me which knows it attacked me on purpose. “Estrellas De Mar Del Vuelo De La Muerte” I call it. And if you do a little research you’ll find the “Flying Starfish of Death” is responsible for hundreds of ankle and knee injuries every year, as well as the sinking of the Andrea Doria.

            OK, perhaps that’s a little much. I’ll admit I talked to dozens of people at the Oregon Coast Aquarium and they all think it was a freak occurence. (Or a freak on the jetty.) One guy even suggested the starfish might have been dropped by a passing seagull that picked up more than it could carry.

            Maybe. But that wold mean the creatures of the ocean AND air are out to get me, and I just don’t think I could handle that.


Post Script: The starfish in question is still in my freezer -- and on this website.