Reporting from Foley, Ala.—The charter boat captain they called Rookie made his home back where the oak and pine woods humming with cicadas meet the Bon Secour River and where the asphalt peters out into a dead end.
This is where friends came to ask how William Allen "Rookie" Kruse was doing, back in April, when the Gulf of Mexico oil spill ended his $5,000 fishing trips for marlin and red snapper and put a crimp in his wife Tracy's seafood business.
They asked again after the man who earned his nickname working fishing boats in the 1960s became frustrated with the hoops BP representatives kept making him jump through to get work on the cleanup.
Still fine, Kruse said.
On Wednesday morning, Kruse reported as usual to the Gulf Shores marina to work for the company that had ruined his fishing. His two deck hands said that when he sent them on an errand before 7:30 a.m., he seemed fine.
But shortly afterward, Kruse climbed up to the wheelhouse of the Rookie, retrieved a Glock handgun he kept for protection and apparently shot himself in the head.
His family and friends say he is the 12th victim of the April 20 Deepwater Horizon rig explosion, which killed 11 crew members. And they worry that there will be more among the captains idled by the worst spill in U.S. history.
"But for the oil spill, I don't think he would have done this," said his identical twin brother, Frank Kruse.
Families here are not apt to call out captains who withdraw or put on a brave front. The Kruse family is counting on the close-knit community of fishing captains to care for its own.
"Somebody's got to get past that 'I'm fine'," Frank Kruse said.
Rookie Kruse, 55, did not leave a note, only questions.
Tracy Kruse, 41, noticed that her sturdy husband had started to lose weight and was having trouble sleeping. He usually spent at least $30,000 outfitting his two boats for what he had thought would be a bountiful summer guiding his loyal clientele to the best fishing the rich gulf waters had to offer, said brother Marc Kruse, 52, who works for a corporate manufacturer in Mobile, Ala.
Two weeks ago, Kruse went to work for BP, turning his 50- and 40-foot boats, the Rookie and the Rookie II, into what the oil giant calls Vessels of Opportunity. He was never given a day off.
"He told me he hated it," said his 12-year-old stepson, Ryan Mistrot. "He hated going out for BP." Marc Kruse said his brother thought the Vessels of Opportunity were just BP window-dressing.
His mother recalled the day last week that Kruse told her his chickens were hungry.
"They always are," Ryan said, as he played with Kruse's Jack Russell terrier, Isabel.
"Yes, but what he was saying was, 'I don't have food for them'."
Frank Kruse, who lives in nearby Fairhope, Ala., said he watched his brother's spirit shaved down by the relentless bureaucracy of BP, heaping concerns on a man who for years had never worried about much except the weather.