An American Legend
There’s a serenity in the warmth of a Floridian breeze. It’s gentle, but lingering, relieving the insensitivity of the dense humidity that consumes the region. It’s peaceful here, under the sway of the native palms. The muffled crack of a longbow string breaks the silence as the whizz of an arrow fades into the thud of a target.
It’s a Tuesday morning and Flip Pallot is making preparations for the day’s harvest. This is a familiar ritual for him, as he humbly mutters, “I feel like the luckiest man in the world to have gotten to hunt or fish almost every day as long as I can remember.” For those who aren’t familiar, Flip Pallot is a legendary fisherman, guide, and avid outdoors enthusiast, becoming a household name in early 1980s thru filming fishing shows and appearing throughout various noteworthy programs and publications. He’s in his 70s now, and still strong as an ox. He is a lifelong entrepreneur, with dozens of successful ventures under his belt, from launching television shows to writing books to founding Hell’s Bay Boatworks, and now entering into the distilling business, co-founding a rum brand called Frigate Reserve – an exceptional new brand in the market, dedicated to producing the highest quality rum, matched with signature elements that encapsulate Flip and what he stands for. He has been called a legacy, a legend, a prodigy, and while all those are accurate representations, as you sit in the woods for a few moments with him, it’s not hard to call him “friend”.
After tuning his shot and showing off some of his techniques, we got up out of our CHAMA Chairs, began breaking down the telescoping legs, and my curiosity set in. “The world knows the Flip who has spent years on TV and has been the focus of interviews, radio shows, and newscasts,” I began, “but who is Flip?” He chuckled, recognizing the weight of my question, but knowing the simplicity of his answer. “Flip is old,” he said slowly, as he filed down the imperfections in the wood of an arrow, “but he didn’t start out that way. I’m a hunter, a fisherman, a dad, a husband, a granddad, and I try to be a good friend. Those are, I think, the most important things in the world.” I nodded in agreement and we began walking back toward his garage.
Flip popped down the tailgate of his truck, preparing to load his tools for the day. His distinct, deep voice started in, “You know, in a former life, I wore a suit and tie. I worked as a commercial banker for way too long.” I grabbed the two bags that encased our CHAMAs, made my way over to toss them into the back of the pickup, and rested my arms on the side of the truck bed, tuning in to what I could tell would be an iconic pivot in our conversation. “I had helped so many entrepreneurs chase their dreams, but every night I’d go home unfulfilled in my own.” He went on about his passion for pursuing a life of curiosity and wonder, working to fight against the fear of failure and letting yourself be vulnerable. Through his lack of fulfillment, he left his banking career to become a fishing guide in the Florida Keys. He’d earn his living doing what he loved. He spent over a decade as a guide, becoming prolific in the trade, but through the winds of change, their life took a turn. His career as a guide came to a screeching halt as Hurricane Andrew seized all their earthly possessions. Taking his airboat, skiff, truck, and tackle, he was left stranded and out of the guiding business, although their stroke of misfortune wouldn’t last long.
“There is an alchemy that happens on a skiff; a bond that transcends friendship,” Flip perked up as we make our way into the woods. “Things get said on a skiff that wouldn’t be said in confession.” Most of his life, he’s been recognized for his accomplishments as an angler, but we dedicate today to his other passion — hunting. As a craftsman, he’s built his own longbows, arrows, knives, etc. He starts in again, “Being on the water gives you a sense relativity. It forces you to understand how small and limited we are, yet how limitless we can be. Hunting, however, puts you in your place. You understand how vulnerable you really are when you’re alone in the wilderness.”
After the dismay from Hurricane Andrew, Flip and his wife, Diane, relocated to Central Florida where their life would take a turn of fate. A series of fortunate events would lead Flip to a career in television, where the world would soon come to widely recognize the name “Flip Pallot”. “We felt like we’d struck gold,” he said. “I never really did understand why people found so much amusement in watching a guy like me, but it gave Diane and me the ability to work hard and live the life we loved.”
Covered in a blind made only by the low hang of palms and the thick of the yuccas, we sat in our CHAMA Chairs at the ready. Today, Flip is in pursuit of a feral hogs. Years of hunting have turned his predatorial skills into an artform. His posture is relaxed and unassuming, but he is as still and silent as a rock. His pupils are dialed in, his eyes constantly surveying the subtlety in the motions of the wilderness. We wait in eager anticipation for the slightest hope of a harvest. The day drags on and nothing shows but varmints and frigatebirds. He gets up out of his CHAMA and restfully exclaims, “Successful hunt!” I laugh at the sarcastic expression, but I could tell it wasn’t completely sarcastic. So much more was gained today than a filled freezer.
Flip’s life amounts to so much more than the recognition of the man that many have come to know. As we parted ways, he left me with a final sign off that I will not soon forget. It was simple and seemingly unintentional, but was the summation of the man I’d come to know that day. He shook my hand, looked me in the eye and said, “Bye for now.”