Friday, January 20, 2006

Houseboat days

Lake recreation was brought up yesterday in a blog. It was somebody else’s lake recreation, but it reminded me of mine.

North of our town is Lake Allatoona. Allatoona is a made-made lake, as all lakes in Georgia are. The Etowah River is the primary water source of Lake Allatoon. It serves two purposes, to prevent the flooding of Cartersville and Rome and of course it produces electricity.

It is a fairly big lake. It has a lot of landings, docks, weekend cabins, and several beaches. If you look at a map of the lake it has the appearance of a horny Chinese dragon (that is not insinuating the dragon is at the height of his/her sexual urge, but that it has huge wart-like growths all over it which are really coves). The lake from, snout to tail I think we estimated to be about 19 miles.

On the Lake Allatoona is an jutting out peninsular, which could almost be an island, a thin strip, the width of a single land road connects it, is the Atlanta Area Boy Scout Camp. Just before you cross onto the peninsular the clump of another little cove is there.

We decided to build a cabin there. We worked all fall and winter one year making the cabin livable. We even got a 99 year lease for a lot for something like one dollar. The only stipulation is that we make a shelter with walls, and we live on it at last one day a month. No problem, we were already doing that.

As teenagers, I thought we did a good job. We had concrete blocks as under pending, a fairly nice building, which never did live long enough to see doors with hinges holding doors or windows with glass.

One day when we arrived to work on it was a sign from the U.S. Army Corpse of Engineers, who controlled the lake, saying our structure was unacceptable, it was below the highest point of the water line. How were we suppose to know that? Well, I suppose if we were more inquisitive we would end of knowing that. But we didn’t, so we had to tear it down.

We carefully dismantled the building and used the lumber to make a houseboat. The only thing we had to get was 55 gallon drums for it to float on, and our ring-leader, a natural builder, had in his head how to put the drums under the platform. But that is a long story, but we had to get waste deep in the water to get the drums there, with nothing but our underwear on (it was a spur of the moment decision – too late to go home and get our bathing suits). This was in the winter. Brrrrr.

After we had the 18 - 55 gallon drums under the platform, next we built the building to sleep us. The cabin part of the houseboat was not very big, it looked sort of like a floating outhouse.

We enjoyed it for about a year. Then our ring-leader had something else in mind he just thought up. We again, disassembled the structure (just the cabin, not the platform) and lined the platform from one end to the other with huge A-frames. Then we nailed sheet of plywood up. We had us something like looked like a giant pup tent. Inside was a loft for sleeping and downstairs we had a counter with a Coleman BT cooking stove, chairs, and in the corner was piles of tools.

By this point we were docking it at Victoria Landing. We needed to pay $10 a month to dock it and for electrical privileges, which by now we had an electric saw.

During the time we were building another group of friends came up and started building a houseboat beside ours. They were more interested in drinking plenty of beer than building, so, their houseboat construction proceeded very slowly. The ring leader of that was a guy nick named Bubba, his real name was Paul. You may recall in an earlier tale I told of Bubba living in a mansion and our New Years party there. His father owned a knitting mill that made cotton underwear. And also, Bubba was found dead in a cheap room in Texas. He had been dead about 4 or 5 days when they found him.

Bubba and his crew finally got the frame built for their houseboat and decided to have a party to celebrate. They brought a bunch of girls up to party. They seemed to be hanging all over the frame work drinking and carrying on. A guy named Mike starting singing anti-religious songs, and one of the girls warmed him that he should quit that, something bad would happen to him. That seems strange to be prophesized from a teenage topless girl lying there guzzling beer.
Then, Mike, showing how brave and defiant he was, shouted, “Fuck Jesus!”

Believe or not, this really happened. Something went wrong, the frame works began to fold over like dominoes. The 2x4 lumber and the people sitting on the frames went splashing into the water. We all jumped in the water and pulled people out and then started to rescue the lumber.

The same girl said, “Mike, I warned you!”
Mike made no answer.
“Mike!?! – Where’s Mike?”

Then, we all looked at the lumber in the water. A arm was reaching out through the floating lumber, we heard Mike, in a whisper, say “Help me.” Which we did.

Mike was rushed to the hospital, where they discovered he had a punctured lung. A nail from the houseboat construction drove into his chest. He lived.

Later in life, Mike went to the county work farm for passing bad checks. I used to see him on road details with his white uniform with a blue stripe down the pants, and if he recognized me he always waved proudly. I haven’t heard anything about him for over 35 years.

While we were building our cabin and houseboat at the lake we developed a friendship with a certain rich man and his family. We were muscle power. When he needed help with his cabin, boathouse or whatever, he knew where to find us. And in return, we would visit his family in the warm summer evening after dark and they would give us drinks and food and nice conversations.

One Easter around noon, after spending the night at the houseboat, and sleeping late four of us decided to pay the rich family a visit. We thought we would take the houseboat. Their cabin, which was bigger than most houses at that time, was around the bend and in a cove from where we docked the houseboat. We had an old used outboard motor.

The night before, we drunk a bunch, and we had hangovers that morning.

I was the pilot. I was on the back side, steering the motor, looking around the corner, and through the doors, front and back to navigate. I had a hangover and the droning noise and the pounding of the water and all I realized I was sick. My other three friends were sunbathing up on the front deck. I had to barf and could not call them to give me a hand. So, I held my head over the deck and barfed in the water.

While I was doing this emptying, I didn’t realize it but we were going around and around in circles.

Also, what we didn’t know, was the family that we were going to meet was having a party on top of their houseboat with some of Marietta’s elite. A set of stars led to the top of the houseboat which had a little waist high wood handrail around it. It was perfect for hosting waterside parties.

And we were perfect for crashing parties. What they saw was our huge pup tent in the watercoming towards them, but yet going in circles. My friends up front fell asleep sunbathing.

As it got closer it was evident that we were going to crash into the boathouse. That is something – a houseboat crashing into a boathouse. They ran for their lives screaming.

Luckily, I barely missed the boathouse but did collide into their dock. The only harm it did was knock one of my friends into the water, which quickly woke him up. At Easter the water isn’t warm yet.

After everyone understood what happened everybody had a good laugh and the party continued. It was their best most exciting party ever, they said.

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