Just An Old Boat

            One Saturday afternoon last summer, I was walking around the small lake behind the RV Park where I stayed during the week. My work then took me out of town most weeks and my travel trailer gave me a sense of home while I was not with Sherry and our little old dog, Dockers. I was there on a weekend, because Sherry and I had come over to take care of some business in College Station.

            I hadn’t gone far on my walk when I came upon an old boat. It looked as though it had been there for quite some time, as the weeds were grown up around it and the paint had faded to a dirty tan and milky white. The seats were gone, and of course so was the motor. It was cracked in places and leaning to one side.

            I walked on past the boat and followed the road around the lake. The road narrowed to a path and ended about a hundred yards from the boat and I had no desire to blaze my own trail through the vegetation. Poison ivy and I do not get along at all, and I have yet to master the recognition of all its varieties. My operating procedure when I’m out in the woods is to not touch anything green.

            As I approached the boat on the return trip, I saw it differently than when I’d first walked by. It crossed my thoughts that there were surely stories and memories in someone’s mind about the old boat. Dads had probably gone fishing with their buddies in it who now had stories to tell about the big ones that got away. Children—now grown with children of their own, and maybe even a boat of their own—had rode in this boat and perhaps been pulled behind it on water skis.

            I stood looking at the decaying boat and imagining those happy times it had no doubt provided to a family or maybe two. As those thoughts rolled around in my mind, it was only natural that Uncle Marvin came grinning into my thoughts. I can still see his big smile. Marvin Madden was my mom’s sister’s husband, and he passed away about fourteen years ago after a battle with cancer. If I remember correctly, the cancer started out as skin cancer and spread from there. It seemed a natural end to the life of a man who loved being outdoors in the sun.

            The old boat brought Uncle Marvin to my mind simply because that is what I remember most when I think of him. Some of my best memories from when I was a boy of five, and until I was in my early teens are of the times Uncle Marvin took us to one lake or another. It seems like we went a lot, but it probably wasn’t that much now that I think about it. In any case, those were wonderful times and I think about them often.

            Another reason Marvin came to mind while I stared at the old boat at the side of the trail is due to having just visited his granddaughter. I hadn’t seen her for years, and of course we talked a lot about family and memories we shared. When Uncle Marvin—Granddaddy to her—came up, we talked about how much we loved him and about things like going to the lake, but as usually happens when any of us start talking about Uncle Marvin, we talked about how he ruled his family with a pretty firm hand.

            Some would even say that Marvin Madden was downright mean. Now, myself, I can go along with the firm hand description, and will also admit that Uncle Marvin had me convinced that when he said jump, I was to commence jumping. But then, that’s how it was in the fifties; an adult said jump, and the kids jumped. But I don’t remember Uncle Marvin as being a mean man. I remember him as the stern, no-nonsense uncle that took me to the lake a bunch of times. I remember him as the guy with the biggest grin of any adult I knew.

            I might have all this wrong, but I’m going to stick to this version of the story. I loved and respected my uncle, and I would even go so far as to say I wish I could have been the same kind of uncle to my nephews as Marvin Madden was to me. I fell miserably short in my own humble opinion.

            So any way, that old boat leaning to one side out there in the weeds beside the lake might seem like just an old boat to some who walk past it, but to me it holds a boatload of memories. And it brings to mind a mighty fine man that helped me grow up to be who I am.

            My Uncle Marvin.


  1. Anne Boykin said

    Beautifully written!

  2. Doris Purdy said

    Hi Charlie: I love it. Not many people remember Marvin as you do, but he had a wonderful smile. And he loved his family, including you..

    • I did love Uncle Marvin, Doris. He was hard, and sometimes I didn’t understand him, but I knew he was full of love for his family. Ci also know he didn’t understand me a lot of times, too. I wrote a little story about one of those times, you might also enjoy, called “Uncle Marvin and the “Do”

  3. Evelyn said

    Yes, I remember Uncle Marvin, and I thought he was a good guy.

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