Smith Says: Down on de ribber

  • Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Thirty years ago, there was Little House on the Prairie. Now Widdle and I have a Little House on the River. It’s not quite as saccharine—nobody says Ma or Pa or goes blind in a blizzard--but it sure is fun. Our little cottage is a weekend getaway, just five miles from our “big house” in town. It sits on pilings, with a screened porch and a red metal roof. The bottom level is concrete bordered by roses I haven’t quite managed to kill yet. There’s a storage room, picnic table and a camp grill I am forbidden to use. (For some reason Widdle does not trust me around open flame.) Upstairs, the porch has ceiling fans, rocking chairs and a table that I’ve sworn to refinish before I die. Inside is a den, bath, kitchen and bedroom, cozily furnished in early 21st-century Craigslist.  There’s something about the river (or de ribber, as long-timers say) that makes you relax. I can lie on the dock with a book and move only my eyeballs for hours. I sleep more soundly there, in our tiny bedroom, wedged in a double bed with a man and a dog, than I do at the big house on a queen mattress with silk embroidered linens I paid way too much for. Some folks live down there full-time, some, like us, mainly on the weekends. We know everyone, and everyone knows us. That’s the great thing about life on de ribber. See that teenager coming down the road on a 4-wheeler? We know his parents, where he goes to school and what position he plays in basketball. The half-ton utility truck at the house next door belongs to a great guy who adopted a stray dog that was roaming the neighborhood. His girlfriend, a police officer, has landscaped their yard so beautifully it makes our place look good. The man waving from the mobile home retired after 25 years in the Navy, and now is a consultant who spends half his time in Washington, D.C. His water-front gazebo features surround sound. That American flag flying from the house behind a wrought-iron gate belongs to Widdle’s friend of more than 30 years. He and his wife were the first of Widdle’s friends I met when we started dating. It was there that Widdle announced our plans to elope to Las Vegas. Almost seven years later, I believe they are still astonished. Across the road from their house is their lavish garden, which produces juicy tomatoes and Silver Queen corn so tender you can hum it off the cob. We also know everybody’s animals, and everyone knows ours.  The sweet little dog trotting behind the kid on the ATV has swum the river, bank to bank, at least a dozen times. Occasionally she’ll vanish for a day or two, returning with a mysterious smile on her doggie lips. Friends who live in Charleston have a cross-fenced five-acre tract with a big red barn, in which live happy cows and goats. Our other next-door neighbors have chickens that used to roam under our cottage, before our Jack Russell enlightened them. Just across from our dock is a narrow, forested sandbar, where people camp, kids build forts and, once upon a time, goats roamed free. And free is exactly how you feel on the river. Life doesn’t get any better. Now, if I could only fire up that camp stove…. Julie R. Smith, who knows where to find Widdle when he’s not at the big house, can be reached at widdleswife@aol.com.    

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