As I sat on the rear deck this morning, with steam rising both from my coffee cup and the Pupskill Bay Lake Pond, as witnessed across the side yard, I saw my old boat lying on the bank, beside the water and thought, "Man...I really need to get that junk outta there so it doesn't ruin the view of the picturesque view across the water like that." With that thought in mind, I wondered why I even kept the stupid aluminum dunking vessel, but as I wondered that a fond and humorous memory of my late Grandfather rushed into my mind. It was my Grandfather's boat, used on the Juniata River....not three miles from where he raised his five kids and spent his entire life. Late in life he and my Grandmother moved to Mechanicsburg, Pa where my Grandmother worked until retiring from the "Department of Vehicles", in the license department. They missed Granville, where they had lived all of their single and married life prior to living near Harrisburg, so they returned each Friday afternoon, during the summer, to stay at my parent's riverside camp site, on the Juniata River. The funny thing was that my Grandparents lived there their entire life and Pap only found the joy of fishing and camping at 76 years of age. He decided he just had to have a boat to fish the "mighty ol' River", but couldn't afford to get one. He was disabled and could no longer work, so while my Grandmother worked daily, he repaired small appliances for people and when not busy with that, made fishing lures. He made lures out of about anything you could imagine, including the rubber molded bugs of the late seventies that you molded yourself as a craft project. His tackle box was an old cardboard cigar box. Mostly, he borrowed my Uncle Bill's old ten foot green aluminum flat bottom boat, one of Dad's fishing rods. My Dad, knowing that Pap's home made lures were not going to catch much, always made Pap take some worms and his tackle box along...just in case he needed a new or different lure than he had.
Anyway... every Friday, Pap had everything packed, lined up and ready to load into their old Studebaker station wagon and as soon as my Grandmother got home from work, they would be on their way to the campsite.
Pap loved to sit in his old lawn chair along the bank and watch carp feeding upstream, leaving a muddy trail behind them as they dug through the stones, looking for crayfish, in the crystal clear water. One afternoon, Pap decided to grab his gear and catch one of those big carp. He got into the little boat, which was very unstable and rowed out into the river, dropped his anchor and started to sweet talk the carp with a hook full of sweet corn. After he had fished for a good forty-five minutes, his legs became cramped sitting in that little boat and he decided to turn to face the other direction. Placing a hand on each side of the boat, he stood, bent over with his legs straightened for a moment and then tried to turn around in that same bent over position. As he turned, he lost his balance in the narrow, unstable boat and we saw him and the boat flip upside down. Everyone was watching from the campsite, a good hundred yards away, and started to scream for me to go help Pap, but they were too late......I was already treading water... heading his way. I saw his head pop up on the upstream side of the capsized boat, as all the gear from his boat, floated downstream. His head kept bobbing under the surface and back up again, as everyone on the bank yelled "help him quick...he can't swim...he can't swim. All the while I was wading toward him, as fast as the current would allow, yelling "stand up Pap...Stand up". Unknown by the others...I knew he was in an area where the water was only four feet deep and Pap was an easy six foot six inches tall, so I figured he had a lot of room left above the water, if I could only get him to stand up. The problem was that at seventy-six year old and in his condition, the water's current was carrying his six foot frame down under the boat and he couldn't get his feet back under himself to stand, so he simply held on to the upside down, anchored boat now acting as a dunking machine. When I got there, I grabbed under his arms and pulled him upstream, away from the boat and allowed him to stand up. We both walked to shore, where he immediately sat in front of the fire on a lawn chair with a blanket around him. I then went to recover as much gear as I could, but we never found his shoe which came off somewhere along the line and a boat cushion that floated away. I remember everyone laughing about the incident for years afterward and I'll never forget my Pap as he sat there dripping wet, looking like an old Indian around a campfire with his blanket wrapped around himself, as he disgustedly mumbled, "I wouldn't stop a damned and sell everything I have and quite fishing!" I remember everyone immediately bursting into uncontrollable laughter as my Dad said, "Well that's nice Dad... you lost my rod, my tackle box, Bill's boat, the oars and other junk, plus your one shoe. Now, just what do you think you'll get for the one shoe you have left, because that's all you have?
Even Pap had to bust out laughing over that statement, which ended the episode.
Pap fished again and everyone bought him rods, gear, lures and a tackle box for his birthday and Christmas and so on. He even bought the little dunking machine off of his youngest son, Bill. After Pap gave that all up after he had his stroke which put him out of commission all together, I bought the boat from him just to have it. I kept a copy of the bill of sale, his last fishing license, some of his old homemade lures and that old boat, which now is the eyesore I spoke of at the beginning of this blog entry.
Must I explain further why we keep all this old junk that most consider to be an eyesore? I guess the boat can stay right where it is....for it is a ticket to my past pleasures... as are many things I have horded over time...as the old saying implies, "One man's junk is another man's treasures." If you were too young to understand the meaning of this...now you know!