My younger brother turned seventeen in Alaska this summer. He and I – both barely of eligible age for the task – were hired to work sixteen-hour shifts in a seafood processing plant for the month-long salmon season. Though he worked in the Egg House, grading roe and hauling baskets, while I ran a line in the Cannery, a break in our shifts overlapped once a day and breakfast in the Galley became a family affair. It was over a hurried plate of hash browns one morning mid-season that he told me this incredible story:
He recounted the crisis as if it were a lark –described the substance of nightmare with a laugh, so I laughed along with him, missing the significance of the story and taking him at his word that “it was no big deal”.
His supervisor later approached me and asked if I’d heard what happened in the Freezer. I must have hesitated because she launched into a story very similar to my brother’s, but one that incontestably amplified his heroism. According to her, He’s assumed control of the situation – distributing baskets, brooms and orders with spirited confidence. His expediency and leadership saved the day, she said. His coworkers reported that the broken belt would have been one of the most traumatic, disgusting, terrifying events they’d ever undergone if not for my brother’s encouragement of the team.
“Your brother was handing out back-pats and thumps-up left and right, like, he obviously grasped the urgency of the situation… but it didn’t stop him from cheering us all on.”
It was later estimated that he probably handled ten thousand pounds of wayward fish guts, but for his attitude, it could have been ten thousand pounds of puffy cloud.
On the question of whether leaders are born or made, science claims that nature is responsible for a third of leadership, while nurture is responsible for the rest. I’d like to think leaders are born; genetic factors would mean that I have a chance of becoming the exemplar that my brother already is, but then again, if leaders are made - they’re made in Alaska.
Happy Birthday, Cameron.