An Old Salt is a storytelling mariner.
There are people who live by the sea, in our case the Gulf, and there are people who are defined by it. The saltwater and wind is on the breeze and in their hair. Their eyes reflect a treasure trove of memories and tales waiting to be told. There’s no place they’d rather be than in the water or on the nearby shore.
The wisdom they’ve gleaned on life and purpose has come with the tides and been guided by the stars, of love and loss. Their stories, laced with half-truths and even bigger fish, told to friends around campfires and down by the dock fill the hearts of those lucky to know them.
In days gone by, Old Salts were simply a product of their environment – perhaps a boy who never let go of his heart for adventure and a longing for connection. But now, with technology and a life built on automation instead of survival, the seaside sages have nearly disappeared.
But there are those of us for whom the “sea” will always call, regardless of the distractions of life. We may not be out there every day, but it is where we are the most alive.
Wes Dannreuther is one of those people. A child of the coast, he spent his life going to Horn Island and Petit Bois, off the Mississippi coast, south of Pascagoula – barrier islands that are part of the Gulf Islands National Seashore.
The landscape of those islands is teaming with terns and plovers, gulls and alligators. Horn Island and Petit Bois are undeveloped and protected wildernesss perfect for anyone hoping to primitive camp or find solitude.
Not only were these the backdrop of Wes’s life, but the scene for his newest book, “South Toward Horn.” His first book, “Horn Island Dream,” introduced us to both books’ main character, Jimmy O’Connor.
Jimmy longs for adventure with the mysterious Horn Island in mind. When Wes was doing a book signing for that first book, an attendee told him to stay off “his” land. Knowing that Horn Island was a part of the Gulf Islands National Seashore, it would have been easy to shrug it off as an odd comment.
But as any curious writer is compelled to do, Wes couldn’t let it go and dove straight into finding an explanation for this real-life threat. As it turns out there was plenty of history and big emotions and fallout behind the privately held barrier islands becoming part of federal safekeeping. This research and its uncovering influenced the plot for “South Toward Horn.”
I’ll admit I am often apprehensive about reading something only on account of it being written by a local author. In this age of self-publishing, anyone with a computer can spill out some words and wave the Amazon wand, producing mediocre or less materials.
But by Chapter 3, I was hooked. Workplace tension for Jimmy, a welder, lays the foundation for his search to learn the truth about his father’s death. Perhaps it was the awkward relational dance between Jimmy and his mother that made me pay a little closer attention.
But I really leaned in when Jimmy gets a hold of his father’s journals and begins uncovering secrets he’d never before heard. The accuracy of the details surrounding the workplace is shaped by Wes’s own once-upon-a-time job in the shipyard.
With familiar details of coastal life, this mystery of a father’s death and its influence on the present will keep readers engaged and please anyone who wants to read good writing.
It’s no surprise the book is written as well as it is. Half a lifetime ago, Wes thought he would be an English professor. But as happens in life, the English major had a business opportunity that redirected him toward entrepreneurship and Intracoastal Outfitters, which launched in 2008. The store was once located downtown behind Lee Tracy, another family endeavor started by his wife’s parents in 1978, but relocated to its current location at the Pensacola Beach Boardwalk. Lee Tracy is a clothing and accessories boutique located at 701 E. Gregory in Pensacola.
Wes and his family have two additional Lee Tracy stores and three hospital gift shops in Mississippi. Wes manages the financial aspects of those businesses as well as completely runs Intracoastal Outfitters, the store he calls, “his baby.”
Wes also enjoys blogging where he shares more stories of friends and experiences that are fun for him to recall and for the reader to discover. To follow Wes, visit https://www.downislandwriter.com/ where you can read his blog and purchase a copy of his book.
Wes and his wife, who met while students at LSU, recently celebrated their 27th anniversary and have three sons.