Digest>Archives> November 1998

When Cupid Was a Pup

By Richard English


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Farallon Island Lighthouse, California from a ...

A true lighthouse story

Editors note: We found this old story at an antique paper show. We believe the story appeared in an issue of the Saturday Evening Post sometime in the mid 1940's. Not only is this story worthy because of its historical value to lighthouse history, it is a story of romance, love and caring that you are sure to enjoy.

Max Schlederer and his wife who have spent their entire married life stationed at bleak lighthouses had a strange courtship.

They first met while Max was on leave from his Farallon Islands post twenty five miles out of San Francisco. Returning to his lonely lighthouse post, he began to court Jackie by mail. About that time-it was April-the great seal herd made its annual appearance around Farallon. Later, according to the seasonal custom, it pushed off, 8000 strong, for the Arctic, leaving a blind little "pup" behind on the shore, cast aside in the process of the survival of the fittest.

Max heard the thin bark one night and found him in a rocky crevice. One glance in the light, and Max decided Oscar was the only suitable name for a seal with so much personality. That was the beginning of long letters to Jackie about the tender nursing of Oscar into self-dependent adult sealhood.

First there was Oscar's blindness to cope with. Oscar wanted so much to see! Tenderly Max doctored his pet, laying poultices of boric-acid solution over his eyes. The medication began to work.

Meanwhile there arose the serious problem of feeding. In the first six weeks a seal depends for nourishment on its mother; a thin membrane holding the tongue to the lower jaw prevents its eating solid food. Obviously the choice for Oscar was between an operation and starvation. So, with the Coast Guard crew acting as surgical nurses, Max severed the membrane with his penknife. A few minutes later the patient was showing his appreciation by timidly trying out a little bread and milk. Delightedly, Max wrote Jackie to tell all about it.

When Oscar's eyesight was normally keen he wouldn't sleep in the coal shed anymore. He barked and nuzzled his master until Max gave in and carried him upstairs to sleep under his bed. From bread and milk, his diet advanced to fish and abalone.

Oscar's a Big Seal Now

Oscar grew and grew. Eventually Max wrote Jackie that he was beginning to worry about whether he was teaching his pet the things every young seal ought to know. One day his worst fear was realized when he dumped Oscar into a pool at the water's edge and with a terrified bark the seal went down like a stone. Stripping off his jumper, Max leaped in and saved him from drowning. After that, Jackie got many letters about how the progress of swimming lessons, telling finally how nature asserted itself and the pupil began splashing around more expertly than any human being could do.

By now Oscar knew more about the lighthouse than Max did. Unable to manage the steps that climbed 382 feet above the sea to the lighthouse, Oscar worked out a tortuous path up the clifflike hill. But he kept figuring out new shortcuts and one night he got himself trapped on a perilous ledge. Next day, the letter to Jackie told how all regulations went by the board as the rescue was affected. The station crew rigged a block and tackle to the lighthouse and the smallest man was let down the cliff. When he reappeared, Oscar was licking his face.

It was in Oscar's eighth month that Max went looking for him one evening, worried that he hadn't put in a mealtime appearance with his usual punctuality. But everybody in the lighthouse crew had known this day was coming. Max never found his pet. Somewhere, out there on the dark swell, Oscar was looking for the herd, nosing his way instinctively toward the Arctic.

In losing Oscar, Max had won a wife. Jackie had made up her mind that the gentle, kindly nature from which had come those letters about Oscar belonged to the man she wanted to marry. So Jackie went to live at the lighthouse. And every April, when the seal herd came bobbing in on the surf, they stood and watched and talked about Oscar. They thought he came back each spring to see whether everything was all right with them. But they never knew.

This story appeared in the November 1998 edition of Lighthouse Digest Magazine. The print edition contains more stories than our internet edition, and each story generally contains more photographs - often many more - in the print edition. For subscription information about the print edition, click here.

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