Face in the crowd: diver Zachri Johnson
A Clear Lake profile from Chronicle correspondent Kim Morgan:
Zachri Johnson likes to tell people a shark got him, and that's why his foot looks scarred and is missing a couple of digits.
His story is a credible one: He's a deep-sea diver who hits the water for both work and pleasure.
But the real story is Johnson, a 35-year-old Clear Lake-area resident, lost two toes as a child during a lawnmower mishap.
And then when he was 16, he was in a car wreck that sliced that same foot right off. Doctors were able to reattach it.
As for the diving, the deepest Johnson has gone is 250 feet, but he likes to hover around 120.
You can get some really good-sized fish there," Johnson said. I spear them, bring them home and eat them."
A shark may not have taken a bite of his feet, but Johnson is no stranger to the carnivorous creatures.
I've been bumped a few times, spooked a few times," he said. The worst so far is when I was hit in really dark water. I turned around to feel what it was. It was only an alligator gar, about 8-foot. They're big and ugly but harmless. I went back to work."
Even mako sharks don't faze him.
You get a mako come up on you and you have speared fish, you want to get out of there as quick as you can."
Johnson launched Dark Water Diving and Salvage a few years ago. His work mostly involves unclogging stuff" on yachts, cleaning underneath boats, fixing boats, making inspections and salvaging.
There's not much I won't do," Johnson said, except the (oil) rigs. The big boys can handle that."
He recently answered a call from the Houston Police Department to haul a truck out of Dickinson Bayou.
The guy said (the truck) just rolled in all by itself," Johnson said. It didn't look that way to me, but I'm not there to ask questions."
Johnson said he was kept busy after Hurricane Ike, patching boat holes, pumping water out of boats and hauling them back into the water.
Born in Amarillo and raised in Idaho, Johnson moved to the Galveston area when he was 19 to indulge in surf and sand.
He worked offshore as a sports fisherman for five years, carrying people out to fish as far as 100 miles off the shores of Galveston and Freeport.
After that, Johnson went to work for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and trained astronauts in the pool.
Johnson was at NASA for five years, but was among those laid off in 2003, shortly after the space shuttle Columbia broke apart over Texas during its approach to land.
The unexpected turn of events returned Johnson to his first love: music.
I took a leap, signed a million-dollar contract and did that for three years," said Johnson, lead singer in the rock band Crowded Mind.
I ended up broke and lost my house. I didn't read the contract. We lost our music. I ended up losing my songs. Some of those songs I wrote when I was 14. I was bitter for a long time, but you just kind of get over it."
The band broke up and its members Adan Coronado on bass, Alan Lucas on guitar, Gabe Barerra on guitar and Benny Coronado (no relation to Adan) on drums went their separate ways, but reunited a few months ago.
Now they're once again rocking out clubs, bars and ice houses from the Clear Lake area south to Galveston.
Johnson's wife, Melanie, with whom he has five children ranging in age from 2 to 17, is the band's manager. She's also his business partner in Dark Water Diving.
We get along great, even though the only thing we have in common is music and children," Melanie said. I won't even get in a swimming pool to scuba dive. I'll go out on a boat, but only if I can still see land. If I can't see land, that's not good."
As for what it's like both living and working with her husband, Melanie said it's no problem.
He rocks," she said. He takes pride in what he does."
If you have a suggestion for a Clear Lake Faces in the Crowd" profile, contact Donna Hatch at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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