Monday, June 14, 2010

Old Man River

"Water is gold," a friend of ours insists.  Elk Creek and the James River border our little farm on three sides.   Strangers flock to fish from our shores or take out or put in for a day's float.  We feel fortunate and inclined to say yes.

Sometimes we wonder at presumptuous users and takers, like those who carve a tree without asking, who plop down and don't look up as we walk past, who leave their trash for us to dispose, or, almost incredibly, have the nerve to pass our permissions along to others.  Do they listen to the words when they sing along "R-E-S-P-E-C-T" with Aretha?
Sunday, as we relaxed on our peninsula, a flotilla of tubes approached, floating suspiciously close to our shore.  I hesitate to use the word "our" -- to claim ownership of this natural beauty seems almost a sacrilege -- but then when I see what too often happens (for example, BP in the Gulf of Mexico), I wish I could buy more and exclude every stranger.

The apparent captain of the flotilla hailed us as his cohorts stuck their toes back into their shoes, dismounted and shoved their gear onto our shoreline.  This explained the presence of the unfamiliar pickup we had earlier considered locking into our field.  Captain B inquired, "Enjoying the River?" I said, "Yes, and you?"  "Hi, I'm _____; R gave us permission and unlocked the gate for us this morning."  "Oh he did?" said I, "...well, things have gotten out of control so we're going to put a different lock on the gate and from now on we'll expect everyone to ask us for permission each time they enter."

Not an auspicious beginning perhaps, but Captain B grew on us, proving to be loquacious and somewhat likeable.

"Lived here all my life," said he, and eventually, "if anyone bothers you, let me know and if I can I'll make things right."  He mentioned that his grandparents were cremated in a trailer fire a few years ago and the big C claimed his father shortly after.  His grandmother left him a house free and clear.  "All I have to do is foot the taxes," he said. 

"You've got a great place here," he continued, "fenced in so my pit bull, basically an overgrown chihuahua, can't get out and a guy can drink a couple beers without a hassle.  Lots of good-lookin' women pass by.  I can look but can't do anything about it, now that I'm married."

I asked, "Do you have any kids?"  He said, "No, but I like practicing."  I laughed, "That's good for you."

"He didn't really say that, did he?" asks Virginia.

He did, indeed.

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