Travels with Charlie

Just to be clear and avoid confusion with any Steinbeckian narrative, the hound is still the hound. Charlie’s a friend we shared a house with three lifetimes ago. Much beloved by the hound upon acquaintance. But then the hound is given to much loving, as is Charlie.

Charlie being the nursemaid to much writing that happens in the life of an Agatha, must be shown the back forty. The lads (Charlie and the husband I shall refer to as The Hunk tho he is an exceedingly nice, smart, and simpatico sort also much beloved in our household including by the hound) having arrived but recently from yon shore across the Atlantic Pond, we clad everyone in boots and hats and made our way down to the bog, which was obligingly full of water and preening in the greenest finery it may ever have worn.

We ooh’d and ahh’d and ventured up a small ways until the water threatened to come up to our ears at which point we bailed and repaired to Adirondack chairs to drink ourselves silly in gin and tonics (Charlie and the Hunk) and Moscow Mules (the Woman and the Carpenter). The hound drank water.

The visit involved a thorough exploration of a mudhole referred to in an earlier post (Making Like a Crocodile), now featuring spotted salamander egg masses that delighted Charlie. As I am trying to keep the hound out of geese nests I forgot entirely about the bog but he did want to see a bit more of it. We managed to carve out a full forty minutes for a look-see right at the end of the visit and just before our Last Supper.

Charlie had seen a beaver on the way in and, so I thought, must be shown the large beaver dam that they must have modeled on the Hoover dam, such an edifice it is and with a graceful curve, too.

We took a shortcut in getting there to save time, the hound on the line so he’d not get stuck in an extended standoff with geese the way he did but a week or so ago. Charlie was much taken with the dam. Before making my way across I hesitated and checked the time. We had about fifteen minutes, half an hour if we stretched it….should we go back or try to swing around the end of the bog past the beaver house and go home that way? 

The temptation was too great and I suggested we cross the dam, we’d be a little late but hey, this is what life is about, right? Sloshing through the bog beats dinner out, in my book.

Beaver dams are usually pretty easy crossing places, especially if you stay back from the edge a bit. They are exceedingly sturdy but surfaced, however, with crisscrossing sticks that would like to grab and hold your ankle. Older dams like these usually have soil and plants on them, as well as the occasional rock, making going that much easier.

Not this time. In this part of the bog the water stood higher than I’ve ever seen it, what with lots of rain and increased beaver activity. Charlie leading the way, I following with the hound, we inched across, the hound pulling hard on the lead in his eagerness to get to the geese that were here but a short while ago. Water was sliding over the top of the dam, the sticks were slippery and the mud liquid black ooze. My guest in borrowed boots up to his armpits made it safely. I had to let go of the dog about halfway across so I wouldn’t topple headlong down the dam and got my first wet foot at about two-thirds where I sank deeply into black ooze between the sticks.

I immediately delivered myself of a disquisition on the silliness of trying to keep one’s feet dry in the summer, and let’s just keep going because we were going to be late, but let’s try to make it around this amazing water world rather than retreat. Charlie, who by some coincidence has the same little red waterproof camera as AgathaO, photographed a flower and stalked on through the bog, unperturbed.

The next dam brought wet foot number two. We availed ourselves of sturdy beaver sticks for balance and poking. The hound meanwhile had found some other way to occupy himself and seemed to have disappeared, not responding to my promises of tongue of frog and eye of newt. This way we’d never get there. The coming disapproval from dinner companions loomed large. What if I had to head home without a hound? I lagged behind. When the hound appeared again he was put back on the leash and I hurried to catch up wth my companion, dog in tow.

A fatal mistake, hurrying. Charlie had made his way across the last channel — “this one’s four feet deep but it’s easy to cross!” I took his proffered hand, leash in the other, and leapt across like the agile gazelle I am, felt my foot slip at the other end, tried in vain one more time to make it, but no, I went down into the drink to my waist while the hound crossed with the graceful leap I’d imagined for myself.

Charlie took a picture and proffered his hand again. “A real Agatha moment,” he said. I checked the time. Whoops. Late already and still a whole lot of boggy land to cross.

“It’s just like Louisiana but clean,” he remarked drily a moment later, “be a great place to sit in mid summer.” I demurred, mentioning mosquitoes. Charlie shrugged and expertly made his way through a particularly knotty stand of alder.

And then it hit me: I may have known Charlie in the city half a lifetime ago but he knows bogs better than nightclubs. Charlie’s from southern Georgia. Of course Charlie’s familiar with bugs and rot and water and the realities of life and death in the world.

I was the novice bog-explorer here. What a time we had.

To see the photo album click on any of the thumbnails.

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