It was July of 1991, the last full day of our camping trip at Wild Plum campground. It was the first time in three years we continued the tradition of camping there.
In the photo Brent is with me. He's a friend of mine, who came with me and the rest of the family on the trip. Brent and I are posing while we take a break from building a dam.
I can build dams okay, and Brent also, I guess. I can lift rocks easily and stand the cold water thanks to lots of Junior Lifeguards classes during previous summers. The camp-keepers come by every time you leave and break down any dams so the fish aren't trapped. I wanted our construction to be there the next time, If at all possible, so we made something different:
Like all campers we had an ample supply of canned goods and soft-drinks, which we kept cold in a relatively calm spot in the river. The problem is, the calm spots have dirt bottoms, and the water gets roiled up whenever something is put in or removed. So we had a constant coating of dirt on everything. We were planning to build two halves of a dam, each of the halves connected to opposite banks, one half slightly downstream from the other. When completed, the water would flow in an "S" shape. We would put our cans at the outside of one of the curves in the "S", so they would be in active water yet not be washed away.
Of course, this is not the major reason we were building it. We did it mostly because it was fun. I guess it appeals to man's instinct to build, to shape; to make their mark in the world.
Unfortunately, Brent and I didn't have enough time to finish it, what with all the hiking and swimming and fishing to be done.
I build dams whenever we camp, if there's a reasonable river nearby, but the best river I've found so far is the one running through Wild Plum campground. Going there has been a tradition, started a long time ago by my parents, when they were about my age. This year, after going elsewhere during previous summers, we camped there again. It was good to be back, and see all the old landmarks again. Things looked decidedly smaller, but that was no surprise. I could paddle across Sand Pond in less than ten minutes, and the Swimming Hole wasn't quite as deep as before. The long walk up to see the waterfall wasn't as long, and Sierra City managed to look even smaller this time. Any smaller, and it would disappear.
But the campfires were just as bright, the sky just as blue, and the days went by just as fast as always.
At the time the picture was taken I was feeling good, though the picture doesn't show it too well. I tend to have a look of seriousness, or sometimes downright meanness on my face most of the time. I was thinking, I recall, about how I would look in the picture with my traveling hat on and my unshaven face, standing on a couple of rocks with Brent surrounded by river. I look kind of hippy-ish, I'd say. I still look kind of hippy-ish, come to think of it. Kind of like the people look in those "home-movies" you see on Budweiser commercials, even though those "movies" say "copyright 1991 Anheiser Busch corp." in the corner.
It would be unfortunate if this picture was the only information someone had about me. The real world becomes a dull, two-dimensional place in a photograph. The trees are just trees, the rocks become rocks, the water never moves, the birds never sing. A stranger looking at the picture might think: "Wow. Two people standing in a river. So what?" and nothing more. Unless the person has some deeper spiritual connection with a photograph, it's just a photograph. Painting is a better form of expression, and even my hobby, computer programming, is actually art made up of logic. A picture, however, only has real meaning for a few.
But if asked to describe the likeness of me in the picture, a stranger might say: "That guy looks happy, and kind of depressed at the same time," and would for the most part be right. They might also say: "His friend there has a funny smile, too."
As for making this longer, well, you can't make something out of nothing. Unless you want me to dump more words into it for no reason. I suppose I could take up a few more pages with this stupid paragraph, or perhaps blab for awhile about what a nice day it was, but hey, what for?!