our new dock and conflict with a fisherman
Saturday, July 9 2022
location: 800 feet west of Woodworth Lake, Fulton County, NY
I was eager to finish off the dock project, but Gretchen and I did our usual Saturday morning cabin ritual first, with the arrangement of the letters of the New York Times Spelling Bee written on a piece of cardboard, coffee (for me at least), and various cabin-friendly food items. (I tend to eat a lot of toast, since the cabin has a toaster.)
In the late morning, I walked down to the lake by myself, and soon thereafter Gretchen joined me. Neither of the dogs decided to come. I immediately started installing bolts, mostly 3/8 inch galvanized hex bolts to marry (to mix carpentry metaphors) the two respective sets of sistered joists together along their length. I then installed lag bolts, both to the additional attachment tabs now within reach of structure on the floaters and to the ends of the four boards running perpendicular to the joists. As you may recall, I'd recently bought some stout steel brackets at Herzogs thinking I would use them to further secure the perpendicular boards, but what with their cross-halving joints, I decided they would be attached well enough with just lag bolts.
Gretchen went for a swim while I was working on these fussy-but-necessary structural details, and while she was out there swimming in the lake, I finished the structure and started attaching decking. This decking came in the form of one inch thick planks 5.5 inches wide and 12 feet long, which turned out to be 3/4 inch shorter than the structure I'd just completed. Once she got back on the dock, Gretchen was astounded by how quickly I was installing the decking. At one point she optimistically tried to lie down on the part I'd just finished, but the vibrations from the impact driver soon caused her to retreat back to the older, narrower segments of the deck sitting on separate foundations.
While this was happening, there'd been a burst of activity involving adults and children playing near the lakeshore over at the public dock. But they hadn't stayed long and disappeared while Gretchen had been swimming. Now there was just one fisherman in a kayak slowly making his way clockwise around the lake. Such people are part of the fabric of the Woodworth Lake community. Gretchen generally takes a dim view of such people, because their attitude is very different from hers, which grows out of enviromentalism, animal rights activism, feminism, gay rights, and a host of attitudes (some not too well examined) that she takes for granted from having grown up in an upper-middle class Jewish household in the inner-suburbs of a large American city. My attitude is more like Gretchen's than it is like a random fisherman on Woodworth Lake, but I grew up mostly in the country in something akin to poverty and feel like I understand where such people are coming from. So when Gretchen bristles at the things such people do, I often find myself wishing she could find it in herself to be more tolerant.
So when Gretchen started grumbling about the fisherman lingering near the beaver lodge near the lake's southwestern bend
even as the beaver kept slapping the water out of irritation, I should've de-escalated the situation. But instead I said something about how the fisherman needed to "read the room." So at some point Gretchen called out to the fisherman to say that the beaver was expressing irritation and that he should leave her alone. This was broadly true, and he should've given the beaver more space. But this was a Woodworth Lake regular Gretchen was talking to, someone who is not going to be going away. There's a reason New Yorkers can be assholes to people in the street or on the subway; chances are they are never going to see those people ever again. And, for the same reason, people in small towns tend to be disconcertingly nice, at least superficially.
The fisherman replied that it was okay, he was just "playing" with the beaver. Gretchen didn't like that at all, and said something a bit more rude. At that point I grumbled to Gretchen what I was feeling, "There's nothing to be gained by being belligerent to that guy." Gretchen assured me that things were under control and that it would be good thing if this guy felt a little uncomfortable with us. Maybe he would give us more space when we are around instead of paddling by too close, as he was doing today.
As the fisherman was paddling past, he said something that seemed to have a touch of reconciliation in it, and ideally Gretchen would've accept it. But when he said he knew a lot about beavers, "probably even more than" we do, Gretchen replied by repeating that he should give the beaver more space and that, similarly, he should give us more space. In respose, the fisherman implied that we might not know some things because of where we were from. He apparently had been part of the Boy Scout troop that had once occupied Woodworth Lake, because he said he'd "grown up" here. The implication that we were just ignorant big-city interlopers rubbed Gretchen the wrong way, and so at some point in response to the fisherman's framing (that our different backrounds might be causing us to overreact to his interactions with the beaver, she said,
"You have no idea where we're from!") The fisherman also said something about having as much right to the lake as we did, which was true, but that's not the kind of argument one wants to be having with someone you have to see again and again. Things were straying now into class-based arguments; obviously the fisherman was coming from a situation in which he had to use the public dock, and here we were with our brand new private floating dock, probably the best one on the lake. As the fisherman continued paddling off towards the outflow bay, I told Gretchen "there's no reason to antagonize that man." She agreed, and seemed a little sheepish about how she'd escalated her conflict with him. But she still seemed to think the conflict hadn't reached levels of true hostility and that things would be normal going forward. I had my doubts; surely he'd be going back to his people in the trailer on his tiny lakefront-free parcel and telling them about the cunt he'd been arguing with on the lake, the one with the off-grid cabin and the obnoxious new dock. I had a childhood full of conflict with the neighbors, and living with that puts a layer of stress in your life that isn't fun to live with, and to have initiated it for something so s
tupidly trivial seemed like foolishness to me. But Gretchen's perspective on this is evidently that she has a set of boundaries that she feels the need to maintain, and if she complains about the small infractions, it will mean she won't have to complain about bigger ones. This is the opposite approach of the Republican party with respect to Donald Trump. They always talked about whatever the current issue was as if it was too small to worry about and that they'd do something if Trump ever did anything truly bad. But then they never did anything right up through Trump sending an armed mob to the Capitol.
I ran out of larch decking with a strip of only about two or three inches of dock left to deck. Gretchen hates it when projects can't quite finish, and this situation was no exception. No problem, I said, I'd just get some treated one and quarter by sixes next time I went to a hardware store. In the meantime, the dock was fully usable for all the purposes Gretchen or I wanted to use it for.
Yesterday a package had arrived at the cabin and it proved to contain a dock ladder Gretchen had bought at Lowes.com for about $200. It had arrived a couple days earlier than expected. So once I was done putting the decking on the dock, I installed the dock ladder as well on the south side of dock between the floaters. (I had to put it in one of the four places where floaters don't block access to the underside of the decking.) I was able to install it so quickly that it wasn't there when Gretchen went for one of her swims and it was there by the time she wanted to get out of the water. Most dock ladders cost on the order of $400, and this one, being much cheaper, was decidedly flimsy. But it was good enough for our purposes.
After finishing what I could finish, I enjoyed a Russian Imperial Stout while basking in my accomplishment. I'd said I would build a dock, and now, here was a dock!
Later, up at the cabin, I went looking through the lumber pile left near the cabin after it had been completed. In amongst the boards, I found a sixteen foot long one and a quarter by six larch board, which had evidently been leftover after building the decks. If I sawed off four feet of it, I'd be able to use it to finish the dock decking.
So I returned to the dock with that plank (which I carried through the woods), a saw, and the impact driver. The last plank cantilevered off the dock about two inches for its length, a little bit of extra deck space I decided to keep.
I then went on a paddle around the main body of Woodworth Lake, partly to see how our dock looked from a distance (being fairly low-profile, it's not garrshly visible). I also wanted to see what the other two docks with floating sections looked like in detail. Joel's dock was the simplest of these, being mostly a fixed dock set on poles with a small floating dock lashed to the end without any hinge, meaning that to get to it there is a step height that varies with the lake level. The only other dock with floating sections was Pyotr's dock (43.119402N, 74.332877W), a 70-foot-long L-shaped series of floating dock segments, none of which are wide enough for several people to sit around in a circle on. Perhaps our dock really is the best.
Back at the cabin, Gretchen had made a sort of chili containing two or three forms of corn and a cauliflower-based meat substitute. It was pretty good, though a little (as Gretchen had warned me) sweet.
Before going to bed, I ate a fairly large amount of the weakly-medicinal cannabis I'd grown last summer. I knew it was weak, so I had to eat a lot for eating it not to be a complete waste of time.
I awoke in the dead of night in the midst of a powerful cannabis experience. Evidently that stuff I'd grown is not completely worthless. I experienced a few light hallucinations in the darkness and kept having great ideas, and, happily, I suffered from almost no paranoia. I found myself composing a song using words in place of various guitar noises and then making the lyrics (which were otherwise embarrassing) into a series of nonsense syllables. So a metallic muted strum followed by the words "I'm having love made to me" became "Sink late Iyeeda, em haffing luft medame." I had other good ideas, but that was the only one I actually got up, found paper and a pen, and wrote down. I later got up and ran myself a glass of water, as the cannabis had made my mouth uncomfortably dry.
The floating section of dock with only a few planks on it. Note the box-like joist structures over each of the floaters for them to bolt into on all sides.
Click to enlarge.
The mostly-finished dock from atop a large granite boulder to its northwest.
Click to enlarge.
The mostly-finished dock from the south.
Click to enlarge.
Joel's dock, with its tiny strapped-on floating section.
Pyotr's dock of mostly-floating sections.
Click to enlarge.
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