A riverside encounter
Henri runs into the Culture Vulture at Scotty’s Landing
Nature called at a ghastly time the other evening. Miss Marilyn and I had decided to go for a little drive, to explore the wilderness west of Chico, and suddenly Henri was, well, desespere. However, the idea of pulling off to the side of the road and leaving the safety of my little Renault in the middle of the forest was terrifying.
So it was with mixed feelings that we discovered, as we came around a bend, a cluster of dilapidated trailers, rusty boats, broken plastic patio furniture, discarded appliances and a small parking lot full of pick-up trucks, all of which had bumper stickers that said “Work Is for People Who Don’t Know How to Fish.”
There was also a handful of run-down shacks, including one with a sign that said “Restrooms Men Women.” Miss Marilyn gave me the “What is this? ‘Dueling Banjoes'?” look, but like I say I was desperate. Besides, one of the trucks had a decal on its back window that said “Cowboy Up.” I remembered Randy Jones, my second-favorite Village Person, and what a pair of chaps does to me and told Miss Marilyn to wait in the car.
Thus, Henri found himself at Scotty’s Landing one recent Monday evening, relieved and suddenly clear-headed. I went inside, ordered a River Burger with fries, and asked to see the wine list.
It wasn’t supposed to be a joke.
Odd that the bartendress would ask me if I wanted a picture of beer instead, but at that point I was feeling more than a bit self-conscious and just nodded.
I waited at the counter watching some sports-gamey thing on television and then perused the magazines in the rack by the door. Bassfishing. Bassfisherman. Bassboater. BassOutboarder. I was just about to ask her where they kept their Crate and Barrel catalogues and cooking magazines, when she set my “picture” of beer in front of me. Sacre bleu! It was no such thing! What was Henri going to do with enough beer for the entire cast of Paint Your Wagon?
“Enjoy your dinner, Dear,” she said, smiling and handing me my cheeseburger and fries.
It was all I could do to carry both my beer and River Burger outside, and as I walked down the ramp onto the deck, I was dismayed to see every table taken. Thankfully, a young man at one of them looked vaguely familiar, and I remembered having been introduced to him briefly at the News & Review office when I was first hired. But of course! C. Owsley Rain, the paper’s Culture Vulture!
As I tried to walk without spilling the beer, Mr. Owsley waved me over and introduced me to his date, I. Daphne St. Brie.
“Birthday party,” Mr. Owsley said, indicating the other tables.
I. Daphne nodded. “Notice the guy with the Wranglers and cowboy boots?”
“He’s showing everyone pictures of ducks he killed.”
The Culture Vulture rolled his eyes.
Turns out Mr. Owsley and I. Daphne were happy to share my beer with me. We had a lovely evening on the deck overlooking the water, and my River Burger ($4.95) was quite good. Mr. Owsley confessed over his patty melt to never expecting to see Henri at Scotty’s Landing, and when I mentioned how I’d ended up there, we got into a rather interesting discussion—embarrassing in retrospect—of unfortunate times that nature had called. A remembrance of things passed, I said, in honor of my compatriote, to which he and I. Daphne raised their glasses. At one point we watched a great blue heron wading in the shallows, and just at dusk an osprey swooped down out of a tree and then disappeared across the river.
Turns out it was good that Miss Marilyn waited in the car, as an aged, beastly, and mostly blind Labrador-rottweiler something or other kept dropping a slobbery tennis ball on my espadrilles.
That night I dreamt I was fishing on a riverbank somewhere deep in the wilderness. I was holding a long rod in my hand, and Randy Jones was waving his chaps from a distant shore.