Because the mines were worked out long ago, the river itself is now clear and beautiful. But the houses that line its banks are a shambles. Some – the worst of them – are the remnants of pre-war mining camps. Shacks with tilting walls and caved-in roofs. In other places there are old house trailers; rusted, with broken windows, doors standing wide open, even in this heat. Dogs running free in the unkempt yards.
We drift on and around one bend there is one house that looks like it is ready for the dance. It is an old log cabin – no pre-fab job, mind you – but one that has been here for a hundred years, but properly cared for and preserved. It backs onto the river and a wide, covered deck has been added, half of which has been screened in. Below the deck there are flower beds; here tall Four O’Clocks, bright gold and vivid scarlet, and there a long rectangle of daisies.
The wide lawn is terraced down to the river’s edge and neatly trimmed. There are beach towels draped over deck chairs and hammocks. I listen for music, but there is none. As we round the next bend in the river I try to imagine the decades of good decisions and fortunate events that have allowed this oasis to persist here; to permit this flourishing; this swimming against the tide.