Names Have Been Changed to Protect the Innocent

I wonder who took that picture of me sitting on the dance floor in Xtra-Tufs and red plaid shirt; in the years I lived remote, I never owned a camera. From that vantage point, someone was either in a tree or on one of the many boulders growing out of the steep hillside. And, man, was it steep. The lot was purchased sight unseen, and there wasn’t a level spot on it anywhere. We made it work by drilling into rock and securing everything with rebar to anchor the piling to the mountain. It reminded me of toothpicks stuck between layers of a cake.

The walk up was not short, but that was a perception born of the steepness. Once we got past slogging through mud, building boardwalk and steps as we went, the going was easy enough. I know I counted how many steps it took from where our boardwalk split from the beach boardwalk, but I don’t remember now how many it was, just that over and over and over as I packed lengths of rough-cut lumber up on my shoulders I could step the same number of times repeatedly each trip up the mountain. We would do this for hours, a sort of silent competition between my husband and myself, to see who would call for a break first. Since I wasn’t a smoker, I let him have the honor of caving to suck in that cigarette while I sat outside his smoke ring and enjoyed fresh air. There was little enough to be smug about, believe me, as he was in excellent condition and I strove many times just to keep up.

Occasionally, folks who didn’t know better wandered up our way, seeming somewhat disappointed when they realized their nature hike culminated in our construction project. What? This is where the boardwalk goes? Soon enough my reply to their indignation was to threaten a toll of one board per hiker to view the project. A few even took me up on it.

We had a few helpers, friends usually. One time a fishing acquaintance endeavored to lend his hand of experience. We welcomed his added effort, another strong back and set of shoulders. He’d been down the bay for a day or two helping with a project at the lodge, and wanted to check our progress. He worked up an honest sweat and when we all sat to catch our breaths, he stated he was going to visit the facilities. Choose your tree, I laughed, and off he went. Later, I noticed him checking pockets and I asked if he needed something. He said the lodge owners had paid him by check and he knew he had it before he dropped his drawers up the hill but now couldn’t find it. I looked at him, somewhat put off, and told him I was not going to investigate anything to find his deposit. I don’t know if he ever cashed that check.

Another time our esteemed senator and wife happened into the harbor on their fishing boat. I’d tell you the name of it, but then I’d have to come up with a new title for this little story. It was a warm, sunny day and the dock was full of fishermen enjoying a break. I’d hung a sign on the door of my store to let everyone know I’d be up fixing the fresh water line and had just headed up the boardwalk when Dick asked me what was up. I told him I had a pack full of inner-tubing and baling wire, a set of pliers and a rain coat, and was going to fix a leak in the old wood stave pipe, and he offered to help. Oh no need to do that, I’ve done this many times. He protested and called over a few fishing buddies and I grinned. They were going to help me, a female, fix my waterline. Okay boys, have it your way; follow me. Up we went where the boardwalk ended and dirt trail began. I slowed down a bit because fishermen don’t get off their boats much during the season and I was outpacing them with little thought until I heard them laugh and wheeze behind me. We reached a breach in the bushes and I cut down through the short distance to where a geyser was spouting from an ancient wooden pipeline. Wood slats were held in the round by bands, and here and there occasionally, especially in the late spring when snows high on the mountains above melted and the lake rose and pressure in the pipe became too much, a leak such as this interrupted the flow of water to the Pelton wheel and I lost electricity in the store. I knew what had to be done and it was best done alone so nobody would be offended by my swearing. Now, here were three middle-aged men offering to help and I was going to let them. So the three of them looked at that leak, at each other, and at me. Grinning, I observed that, yup, someone was going to get WET. I shrugged off my pack, hauled out a good length of inner-tube and a roll of wire and stuck them out – here ya go, fellas. Do you need me to stick around? They laughed and said a little water never hurt a fisherman, and I agreed and crossed my arms while they went to work. Again I say that a job like this is best left to one person, someone who knows that the only good a rain coat does is act as a shield and a patch, not worn but held open in front of you as you wade into the gush of very cold lake water fed off mountain snow fields, to be pummeled against your front as you lay yourself over the eruption. But those guys didn’t know that. They didn’t figure it out, either. I will leave to your imagination what ensued over the next HOUR as each one took their turn trying to lay inner-tube over that very vigorous water spout. In the end, I did help. I said something straight out of a Jane Wayne movie, “Stand back, fellas; I’ll take care of that,” and waded in with my raincoat shield, inner-tube hung front and center, and laid myself right over that pipe, closing off the waterworks. “Pass me that wire, wouldja?” and managed to get several wraps around the thing to hold the patch in place before lifting up and finishing the job, tightening up the wire, twisting and tucking in the ends. Voila! Fixed, now let’s get back down to the store. I was wet, but not as wet as they were, and it was interesting to hear them tell how that rescue went down. I even offered to vote for that fellow next election to repay his chivalry.

During the time we worked on our house, we had a lot of lumber brought in by fishermen. If their holds weren’t filled with ice or fish, they’d stuff in our boards and we’d scramble to unload them when they finally got to our dock. 120 miles from town by water, it meant a lot that these fellows would take the time to help us this way. One load included cedar shakes and shingles, cut by hand in town. Why would we cut them THERE and haul them HERE, you ask. No answer to that one. I have a picture of our skiff loaded to the gunwales with shakes. I remember this particular day well. We offloaded a skiffload of shakes and my husband took them to the beach and we walked armload after armload up onto the flats above tideline. This was early in our adventure when we had a tent down next to the store, where we camped out until we got a wall tent platform constructed on our site. We had pretty little stacks of shakes and shingles all around our tent, and I’d set them up so it afforded a little privacy from anyone passing by on the boardwalk. One night was particularly rainy as we crawled in the tent, exhausted from a day of packing lumber up the mountain. Sometime during the night, I sensed all was not right with the world and realized my sleeping bag was wet. I sat up and lit a candle, and looked over at my partner; he was snoring soundly, his sleeping bag snug and dry atop 2-3 layers of cedar shakes – uphill from me. As it rained and rained, the run-off became such that water was seeping through the tent. How he managed to get that many shakes inside that tent and underneath him without waking me is a mystery. The bigger question is why he DIDN’T wake me, but I guess humor is where you find it when things are rough. I found mine a day or two later when he tried something new which turned out to be a fail of epic proportions.
This particular day we were nearing the end of the load of lumber on the beach. Everything had been packed up and we had less than a day’s worth of wood to haul up the hill. My husband, who liked to portray an unflappable demeanor, was growing a bit grouchy and I was doing my best not to slack off. Up and down, up and down, 3-4 rough-cut 2×6’s or maybe 1-2 4×4’s or a 6×6 were hefted onto very tender shoulders and the march would begin. On one trip back down to pick up another board or two, I noticed my husband had leaned up half a dozen boards against the boardwalk railing. At that point the beach was 6-8 feet below the boardwalk, and he was just pulling them up over the rail and stacking them. I decided to grab a Coke and a breather and watched. Curiously, he was sticking one end of the 2×6’s into his backpack. Hmmm. Interesting. Next, he stood the whole package up, backpack on the bottom. Hmmm again. Now he was sitting down in front of the back pack and working the straps over his shoulders. No way. No way – are you kidding? Nope, now he was struggling to stand, the backpack with 12′ boards balanced precariously on end behind him, like a quiver of arrows. He shrugged once and ever so slowly, the top of those boards began to tip backward, over the railing. He leaned forward, took a step or two, and then began to follow the boards – over the rail. In no time at all, several men were running toward him and grabbed his legs but not before he and the boards were swayed completely over, forming a magnificent T across the top of the rail. WHAT THE HELL? But, of course, I didn’t say anything. Sometimes you gotta let Karma have the last, eloquent word.


2 thoughts on “Names Have Been Changed to Protect the Innocent

  1. What ever happened to your cabin and store Rene’? I never heard that you had a store- you never mentioned it when you were here. After all that work it would seem to be a hard thing to leave behind. Did you have the girls when you were in Warm Springs Bay or did you retire to civilization for that part of your life? As always, very interesting.

Thanks for reading; feedback welcome.

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