Here on the top of a mountain in the Alleghenys sits a boat in a house.
Uncle Olin took us to see the boat. We hopped into his pickup for a slow, steep ride. At this altitude, the trees are thin, but thick with lichen. We startled a wild turkey and a pileated woodpecker. At a declivity a good ways up, we found a high meadow bisected by a stream. Beavers were busy here with lodges and dams. Yellow and chestnut-sided warblers and common yellowthroats sang. A willow flycatcher gave a spirited “fitz-bew” and a yellow-billed cuckoo said “cowp.” Here sat a two-story old farmhouse going to ruin. In the seventies, a “hippie feller” moved in, Skip. He was handy and inventive. Winters were harsh, but local folks took care of him. One day he decided to build a boat in the house. In the house. He made a lathe out of an old chain saw motor held in place by plaster, a bicycle, and other things. He started pulling wood off of the structures at hand including the pig barn. When it was finished, the boat was a thing of beauty. Joinery. No nails, but trenails or dowels. No one knows why he built the boat in the house. He was pulled over in Tennessee and shot when the police thought he was reaching for a gun. There the boat sits in the house, stumbled upon by abandoned house explorers and joy riders. Some inconsiderate soul had spray-painted it; others had stolen bits and pieces from it including the steering wheel. Someone had started pulling the wall out in an attempt to steal it, but there it sits as yet, heavy as hell.
We wind on down the mountain and stop at the general store in Blue Grass. We grab a couple of sandwiches and sit on the front porch. Herman Puffenbarger stops with us. He’s eating powdered sugar donuts. He knew Skip and tells us stories about him. Skip had bought a $3 used lawnmower and attached the motor to his bicycle. He traveled back and forth across the country on it. He traveled to Florida in ten days. He called Herman when he arrived, knowing he would be worried after that trouble in South Carolina. Skip was once arrested for not wearing a helmet and put in jail for a month since he couldn’t pay the fine.
Skip once rigged up a homemade sawmill, but no one else knew how to cut true with it.