Pulled up onthe narrow beach and tied to a tree was the rowboat we always rented for theseason from Charley's boat livery. Two sets of oars were stashed in theundergrowth because my cousin and I -- about 12 or 13 at the time (the early1930s) -- considered ourselves a four-oar power rowing crew. Both goodswimmers, though sworn to stay out of the water except in the direst emergency,we spent many hours getting to know the many faces of the
I shouldmention that the cousin who shared these adventures was Dorothy Light, who grewto love Saugatuck so much that, as an adult, she convinced her husband,Courtney D. Osborn, to buy and renovate the other Oxbow Hill cottage which hadbelong to Mrs. Barron. The Osborns were for many
As youngstersshe and I considered the river our own waterway. One of our shorter excursionswas upstream to
Our next step was to tie up at theshaky slips next to the Pavilion so that we could walk along the dock andcritique the handsome Chris-Craft yachts (and I suppose there were othermodels) which were tied up there. We used to pick out which boat would be"ours" if we had our druthers. I still remember a few of the creativenames gilded on the sterns. NanSu, Lively Lady,Silver Heels, Wanderer, Spindrift. (Dottie and Co'sown boat in the years to come would be named Decibel,creatively connected to his work as an audiologist.) In those early days thenames of visiting yachts were often "immortalized" on the wall of thePavilion's lower level. Today we would call the bold paint and carving,graffiti, but to us it was an interesting historical record, and we had funmatching up the names on the wall with the boats that had returned for thethird or fourth summer.
The FerryStore when it was owned by Jean Palmer and Mary Kay Betties and still soldgasoline. Note the two dogs sitting primly on the fenders of Mary Kay'sconvertible Chloe, at left.
Other days weturned downstream where we had several favorite things to see and
A littlefather downstream there was a wonderful old tree whose branches extended
Continuingdownstream we discovered a wide clearing on the shore of our own side of theriver which contained traces of a house or serious campsite. Exploring, wefound some stones from a tumble-down chimney, a rusty grill, and, strangely, asturdy wooden rocking chair. This was a place which inspired us to one of ourfavorite and often repeated adventures: a breakfast hike. We were notordinarily allowed to build a fire unsupervised, but when we showed this openwaterside spot to my mother, she agreed that we could safely cook breakfastthere on our own. Our routine was to collect our supplies the night before,rise early and make our way on foot through the forest. The menu consisted ofan orange apiece, bacon, and "one-eyed sandwiches" prepared bydropping a slice of bread with a hole in the center into hot bacon fat andbreaking an egg into the hole. As we sat next to our fire in the early morning,enjoying this feast, a regular parade of Saugatuck's fishing fleet passed by ontheir way to
On days whenwe felt especially energetic, we would row all the way to the mouth of theriver. We knew better than to venture into the channel itself, with itsunpredictable crosscurrents and undertow, but we liked to beach the rowboat andwalk out on the concrete breakwater. We felt quite daring going all the way tothe end where the lighthouse/foghorn structure stood like a giant red
One day whenwe had rowed to the end of our world, curiosity overcame discretion, and wedecided to explore around the magnificent white mansion that crowned the hillon the north bank of the river. Anyone entering the channel and headingupstream was bound to be impressed by the sight of the classic facade and Doriccolumns of this antebellum-style house. It had been built and was still ownedat that time by David C. Cook, a
As luck wouldhave it, a flapping basement window provided us with an excuse to enter"in order to lock up." Dorothy, being the skinny, agile one, slippedthrough the opening, lowered herself to the floor and in minutes had bolted thewindow and opened the front door for me. Awed, we crept around the dark andshuttered first floor and tiptoed up the enclosed staircase, a far cry from theromantically sweeping descent I had envisioned. There was nothing to see butthe still-pretty paper in the sunny bedrooms and our own footprints in the duston the hardwood floors. We both felt relieved when we stood once more on theporch, with the front door closed and locked behind us. Our "noblepurpose" might have been hard to explain had we been discovered.
The river gaveus many roles to play that summer. Besides our games and imaginings, we madeuseful trips to the Ferry Store to pick up and deliver to the cottage the heavyquart bottles of milk that were needed daily. almost unnoticed as a side effectwas the muscle building intrinsic to all that rowing, and when I got back toschool in the fall my fellow students were shocked to feel my heavily callusedhands and commiserated with me on the "hard labor" I must have beenforced to do all summer.
-- Helen Gage