On the Discovery Channel’s Deadliest Catch, crab fisherman Captain Johnathon Hillstrand has a reputation for being a tough, rugged dude. But his career has taken a new, unexpected twist. The surly fisherman has written three children’s books, mostly about crabs and pirates.
“I never ever thought I’m going to write a kid’s book. I got really hurt and broke four ribs in twelve places, punctured a lung. I was in the hospital and a lady goes, ‘I think I’m supposed to give these to you.’ She gave me a bunch of Sharpies in every color and two note pads. So I start writing a little story for my grandkids. I’ve got these two beautiful grandkids. Turned out to be about a little bird who wanted to be a pirate.”
Two and a half months later, the Captain was back in the hospital with another injury, and during his eight weeks of recovery he churned out two more books.
“The first one just came to me, I don’t know why. I draw all the time on the boat, you know, little doodling. I draw pirates and ships and girls and stuff. I never really did anything with my drawings until I got hurt. If I would have never got hurt and the lady would have never gave me pens, it would have never happened. Craziest thing, I end up with three books out of two tragic accidents.”
Captain Hillstrand wrote and illustrated the books himself. The colorful drawings of crabs, fish, birds and pirate ships were all hand colored with Sharpie pens. The first book is called, Adventures of Little Bird, Pirate Dreams, and it’s about a bird who wants to be a pirate.
“Little Bird went to Edgar Crab’s house,” Captain Hillstrand reads from his book, changing his voice for each character. “‘I’m going to be a pirate!’ ‘Ha ha ha ha,’ Edgar Crab laughed. ‘That’s a nice dream, Little bird, but you’re too small. Birds can’t be pirates anyway.’ ‘Yes they can! I would work for crackers to be a pirate!'”
The Captain says the moral of the story is if you put your mind to something, and you work hard, there’s nothing you can’t accomplish.
His second book, Adventures of Joey and Andy Crabs is about a pair of crab brothers who get into trouble because they didn’t listen to their mother. Andy and Joey are based on The Captain and his brother.
Writing these books has been a shock to all of his friends and family, and also to himself. Captain Hillstrand says he was never too into reading or writing.
“I never write or read. I read Playboy or Penthouse out on the water. I don’t read too much.”
So, he reads the articles?
“No, no. It got me through a lot of hard times out there on the water.”
He says his grandkids ask him to read the books over and over again.
“I read that second book right there to two kindergarten classes. To keep 24 kids quiet for 20 minutes? They all got ADD. That book kept them all quiet so it’s gotta be something good going on there.”
The Captain says his life is just like his character, Little Bird’s – he tried hard at something he’s never done before and achieved success.
“Just because I’m a tough guy doesn’t mean I couldn’t write a great kids book. I ended up with three. Come buy the damn book or I’ll find you!” He continues in a gravelly pirate’s voice. “I’ll come find you! Arrrrgh! Don’t make me go all captain on you!”
Click here to buy his books.