November 2008

Wednesday-- November 5, 2008
Water Level at Little Falls: 2.8     Water Temperature: 52

The Island and the towpath look very different today. This dramatic change happens every autumn so why does it always surprise me?

I've been reading John Thompsons special edition centennial issues of the Sycamore Islander(1985). There are so many wonderful little tidbits about the Club and its history that I encourage every member to read, it if they haven't already. It's giving me a new perspective about the club and my role here.

Monday-- November 10, 2008
Water Level at Little Falls: 2.8     Water Temperature: 59

Big day on the Island, historic in fact. The renovation has begun and already the lower locker room has been demolished. Those many lockers have been turned into a pile of lumber out by the horse shoe pits.

Our contractor, Carlos, showed up right on time(early in fact) and he and his two helpers made quick work of dismantling the fire trap known as the lower locker room. I don't know how many linear feet of kindling was in that room but all those lockers would have made quite the inferno.

Before the lockers could be demolished, Tryon, Chuck Pill and I had to rush to empty all the unclaimed lockers. I think there were more unclaimed lockers than claimed ones and even though everyone was very good about emptying their locker we had quit the job this morning. We built a makeshift lean-to and stored all the unclaimed paddles and life vests in there. The unsalvageable items I packed into big heavy trash bags, ten in all. I spent the afternoon moving junk around in the screen porch so that the wall can be taken down tomorrow.

Some of the lockers that we opened were like time capsules. One locker of particular interest was that of Gregg Custis Jr. The Custises have been part of this club since Dr. Horace Custis joined the club way back in the late twenties.(the bald cypress growing near the ferry landing was planted in memory of Doc Custis) I found an entry inside the locker today that indicated that Gregg had combined three Custis lockers into one back in 1990. The newspapers we found inside the locker was dated June 12, 1977. It is nice to be reminded of the past and these neglected lockers are great reminders of a forgotten time on the Island. Looking at these lockers was like looking into the past and I realized how excited and devoted our past members were about the Club. We should feel very grateful for what they have done for us and how they worked so hard to give us what we now take for granted. Decades have passed and these old lockers have sat untouched. How does that happen? It is as if we are heirs to a castle that we've let fall into ruin, and these lockers represent its crumbling foundation.

Thankfully all that is about to change, with this new renovation and an influx of new members we could be on the verge of a new era on Sycamore Island.

Sunday-- November 16, 2008
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.1     Water Temperature: 54

The construction is moving along at a rapid clip. They've asked me to have my kitchen empty for monday morning. I might be able to keep my stove and fridge for the time being but they want to open up the floor under my kitchen so they can install the sewer lines for my new bathroom. This means I'll have to do my dishes upstairs in the club kitchen, I hope we don't get freezing temperatures for a little while yet.

There is a dead deer at the bottom of the steps, just off of the towpath. A passing dog walker told me that it had been injured and the police were called to put it out of it's misery. I'm sure the police came out in a hurry when they heard of an injured buck on the towpath, a buck with a full rack of dangerous antlers. My guess is that the animal was hit by a car and the police came down and shot it. I just wish they did something with the carcass, man it smells!

Monday-- November 17, 2008
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.2     Water Temperature: 50

The demolition continues. Right now all the contents of my kitchen cabinets are stacked up high around me. I lost my kitchen sink, but mi amigo, Senior Carlos left me my fridge and stove. He also built a temporary wall where the kitchen used to be, complete with insulation. I'll be using the sink upstairs for now. It became necessary to clear out my daughters room and closet as well. You never realize how much crap you have until you dump it all on your living room floor. The cabinets that were in my kitchen are now being stored in the clubhouse next to the pool tables.

There were deer on the Island this morning. I was lying in bed this morning looking out the window when I noticed their white tails flashing in the early light of dawn. I lay there for several minutes rubbing the sleep from my eyes and watching for another deer. I was about to roll out of bed when a movement by the tool shed caught my eye. What I thought at first was a leafless bush blowing in the wind, turned out to be the huge antlers of a twelve-point buck. I quickly got dressed, grabbed the camera and ran outside. I made my way around to the upstream side of the house and as I peaked from behind the outdoor shower, I made eye contact. The buck froze and I took an underexposed picture. As I brought the camera down the deer bolted toward th head of the Island. I gave chased but then I saw three deer flying the other way, toward the bottom of the Island. I changed course and ran across the field. By the time I reached the end of the Island, they were gone. The only evidence of their passing was hoof prints in the mud and the bubbles on the water from where they swam away.

Like I've mentioned before, we could be on the verge of a new and vibrant era for the club. One thing that we need desperately as we take on these exciting times is leadership. Please, consider taking a position as an officer of the club and think about who you might want to nominate for these important positions.

Wednesday-- November 19, 2008
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.0     Water Temperature: 45

No ice on the river yet but it won't be long before there is, if these temperatures continue.

Major announcement: There are no working toilets on the Island.(except for the one in my quarters of course)The mens bathroom is completely gone and I had to shut down the women's bathroom because of the cold weather. I was also afraid the pipes would freeze in the club kitchen so there is no running water in there either. I guess I should call the relief caretakers for Saturday and warn them. Sunday is the workfest so I'll make sure the women's room is functioning for that day even if it means clearing the lines again that night.

The crew plans to have my new bathroom in by this weekend, even if it is a provisional one. Since we are reusing the same shower enclosure, my current bath has to be demolished in order to achieve the new one. They work on Saturdays too, FYI

Thursday-- November 20, 2008
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.0     Water Temperature: 44

I was awaken this morning by a phone call at 6:55, no it wasn't the builder, it was an artist friend of my sisters. I couldn't refuse her request to come here and paint but I didn't realize what an early riser she was. This was her second visit to the island and she has created some exceptional canvasses. You can check out her pastels and water colors at She has been doing a painting a day. Many of the river and a now a couple from Sycamore Island.

I saw my first winter birds this morning. Four common Mergansers were stirring the glassy water at 7:00 this morning.

After clearing all the lockers I took an inventory of all the canoe and kayak paddles. I counted 98 canoe paddles, 30 kayak paddles and 4 sets of oars for the row boats. We also have about 100 boats.

Sunday-- November 30, 2008
Water Level at Little Falls: 2.9     Water Temperature: 41

It is nice to get some rain for a change, and this is exactly the kind of rain we need, slow and steady.

Construction is going well. It is going so well in fact I'm writing this from the last remaining room on the Island, my living room. I've been reduced to one room, I have a bed, a microwave, a computer and a television, what else do I need? Running water right. Carlos, our steadfast contractor, has built me a provisional bathroom with a toilet and a sink. We have a working bathroom but be advised it isn't very private. It's a good thing that we didn't start this project during the busy season.

So far we have been very lucky with the weather and it is great to have the river level so low while we bring over all the lumber and materials for the job.

The second floor is now being demolished and it is amazing the amount of old lumber that is being pulled out of there.

Last evening I stepped out and found a racoon by the door. It slowly climbed a nearby tree and stared down at me, it's eyes glowing in the light of my headlamp. I continued on my way across the river and spied a fox on the bridge. This creature didn't seem that startled either and it stopped many times to turn and look my way, each time flashing it's yellow eyes. I expected it to bolt into the brush but instead it followed the trail up the hill just like you or I would. It looked back one more time before it disappeared over the crest of the hill.