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  • Writer's pictureCraig Allen Heath

Papa at Cannon Beach

Hemingway Fans Write and Read in Beautiful Seaside Town

Cannon Beach is a lovely Oregon coast town with a lively cultural scene centered on their library. It is no exaggeration to say that the library is the heart of the town, holding many events large and small throughout the year. I had the pleasure of joining one such event this year - the 5th Annual Writer's Read Celebration.

Much to my surprise (and honor), my story, "Papa at Cannon Beach" (see below), was selected and I joined thirteen other writers in reading our works the evening of March 10. I could not intend in person, so along with three others I read from a Zoom connection and the library live-streamed the entire event. (You can watch a recording of the livestream here, download the event's program here, and grab a collection of all the selected stories here.)

Earnest Hemingway on the Pilar
Papa on the Pilar

When I learned of the celebration and it's theme, I could not resist the temptation to send an entry. With the story prompt, "What would Hemingway think of the North Oregon Coast?", and the rules allowing any submission of 600 words or less, I sat and feverishly typed.

Hemingway has been a god in my literary

pantheon since high school. In college, I tried to be him - I was editor of the school paper, wore a beret and spent long hours in an off-campus, brick-and-mahogany dive scribbling in little notebooks and sipping café crème.

In the mid-1980's, I entered the now-defunct "Bad Hemingway Contest" (International Imitation Hemingway Competition), with a mixed-bag parody of his Nick Adams stories and The Sun Also Rises. For Cannon Beach, I couldn't help but use The Old Man and the Sea.

Cannon Beach, Oregon
Haystack Rock at Cannon Beach - By DiscoverWithDima, CC BY-SA 4.0

I've never visited the lovely beach town, but bit of quick research paid off. Cannon Beach is known for: Haystack Rock - a monumental sea stack rock formation; A summer sandcastle building contest; and kite flying. So with a few dozen pics in hand, I worked in two of the three features (Haystack Rock and kites), and had an absolute ball. Writing it was fun, having it chosen was a thrill, and reading it to a full house of enthusiastic readers was an unmitigated honor.

I'll visit there soon, and fly "two big box kites and a dragon with a tail as long as Haystack Rock is tall."

Hope you enjoy!


Papa at Cannon Beach

He was an old man who flew alone every summer on the beach near Haystack Rock and he had gone eighty four days now without lofting his kite. The first forty days a boy had been with him. But after forty days the boy's parents had told him that the old man was now definitely and finally "windless", which is the worst form of unlucky, and the boy had gone at their urging to assist a young woman who could fly two kites at once and raised them on the slightest breeze. It made the boy sad to see the old man at the end of each day with his kite grounded and his line slack and he always went down to help him coil the line and carry the kite, which was the old diamond kind and was threadbare and patched and looked like a flag of permanent defeat.

The old man was thin and gaunt, and his cargo shorts hung baggy and low on his hips. He went barefoot which was the old way while the young new fliers wore Tevas and Birkenstocks and even Crocs made from crude oil, which the old man found distasteful. "A man should feel the sand between his toes" he told the boy often, "or he cannot properly find the wind and raise his kite as high as it can go." There had been years when the old man seemed to fly his kite on a whisper of wind and the boy believed him about the bare feet and took off his sandals and hid them in the rocks while he helped the old man the with extra reels of line and warned him of running into the other fliers. But those days had gone and now the old man had not lifted his kite from the ground for eighty-four days and so the advice about the bare feet seemed to lose all magic.

The sun fell low behind the big rock and the old man squinted his eyes toward the west, winding the last of his line slowly onto the spindle without knowing his hands were working. His kite lay still like a landed fish as he walked slowly to it, reeling the line as he had done since he first helped his father fly long ago. The boy watched him and believed he saw in his wrinkled face the many shapes and colors of kites he had flown over the years. He was old but undefeated.

"Sandy," the boy said to him as they walked slowly toward where the kite lay just above the line of surf, "I could fly with you again. Fraser gave me time off."

The old man had taught the boy to fly and the boy loved him.

"No," the old man said. "You're with a lucky flier. Stay with her."

“But remember how you went eighty seven days without a single lift and then you flew three at once, two big box kites and a dragon with a tail as long as Haystack Rock is tall?

“I remember,” the old man said. “I know you did not leave me because you doubted.”

“It was my parents who made me leave. They explained the situation to me very logically and patiently and we wrote a contract and signed it and so I am bound to not help you by my signature and the notary stamp on the paper.”

“I know,” the old man said. “It is quite normal.”

“They haven’t much faith.”

“No,” the old man said. “But we have, haven’t we?”

“Yes,” the boy said.


Blatant Self-Promotion Section

My first novel, Where You Will Die, is available now exclusively on Amazon in Kindle and paperback.

"This philosophical mystery will captivate readers thanks to a winning cast and setting."- Kirkus Reviews

"Quirky, engaging whodunit." - Rick George, author of Sinister Refuge

"An enjoyable ride with a satisfying end." - Helen Reynolds, Reedsy Discovery


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