Crushed Stone


~~~

This blog was first posted by Al Black on the Hoosierinthelandofcotton’s Blog (http://hoosierinthelandofcotton.wordpress.com/) on March 17.  It looks at the faith of keeping a business open even when it’s time may have passed.

A week ago, I walked over to an old boat landing and fishing camp down the road a bit from where we live near Lake Murray.  Sat for a bit with the old man who owns it.

It inspired me to write a poem about our afternoon conversation.  The poem has a small bit of poetic license, but I tried to convey the emotion and mood of our time together.

Crushed Stone

The lane rose slightly as it curved to the left
Along a small wooded ravine decorated with spring flowers
That grew among the abandoned appliances

Paved with crushed stone
Bits of quartz sparkled in the spring sun
Beauty does not discriminate

At the top of the hill sat several run-down cottages
Sprouting air conditioners from the windows
And rusty trash barrels by each door

In front of the cottages a concrete boat ramp
Cut through the red clay
On its way to the water’s edge

Standing like a sentinel
Was an old hand painted sign
Launch – $3 – Cash Only

A flock of white sea gulls circled
Hungrily above an old man
Feeding them stale bread from an old dock

On another old dock rode an ancient gas pump
Attached by a long copper line
To a red tank behind a larger cottage

Its’ porch lined with four rocking chairs
Empty as the faces of presidents on Mount Rushmore
The door stood wide open in the warm sun

Seeing me, the old man called out,
“Y’all go inside and sit – l’ll be in shortly”
Inside I found more empty rocking chairs

On a small counter rested a money box asking –Cash Only
There was a refrigerator with a glass door
A space heater and a wall hung with cheap fishing tackle

Another wall was for live bait
With three bins saying
Red worms – crickets – minnows

Hanging from the refrigerator handle
Was an old beer can opener
Swinging from a noose of dirty string

I sat down in a chair near the door
The old man limped in – he didn’t say hi
But remarked, “Saw y’all walking up the lane”

“What brings y’all back here?”
I told him I had seen his sign by the road
And for a couple of years I had meant to come by

He smiled, sat down and began talking
His grandfather built the place in 1937
He was proud that people still come by

“Folks come from two states away
To rent those cottages to go bass fishing
Or hunt ducks in the fall”

“I am retired now,” he said,
“I feed the sea gulls in the winter and make a little money
People are happy I’m still here.”

We sat looking out over the water
At the sea gulls waiting patiently to be fed
I got up to buy a soda

Trying to make conversation, I remarked
“That beer can opener is obsolete; everything today has lids”
He sat there staring silently for a bit

He drawled, “It’s retired now, too
My son hung it there so it won’t be lost
It keeps me company when I am lonely.”

“Do you fish or go boating much?” I asked
He shrugged and told me how he used
To fish and boat all the time with his son

But he hadn’t fished or left the dock since 1986.
We sat looking at the water for a bit more
Still curious I inquired, “Did your son marry and move away?”

He looked down at his hands and replied, “No, in 86
He was out fishing -a speed boat rammed him
After that the water quit calling my name.”

Sadness and longing passed between us
A pontoon boat pulled up to the gas pump
We nodded our good byes

We both got up to go
I hurried for home – the sun was still out
But it felt like rain

(A.E. Black, 03/17/11)

~~~
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