I have a little spot on the Eastern Shore of Maryland that I purchased years ago where my sons and my friends and I go to hunt ducks. I love that piece of land, but with kids and school and youth sports and working and lifting, I haven't been able to get down there much in the last two years. It takes me around 3 hours to get there, and that will take up a big chunk of time going back and forth.
I went down last year around this time and somebody had stolen my kayak and I had a little boat that was chained to a tree and they took that and put it in a pond next to my land. I was madder than hell that happened to me, I was murderously mad for a while and then, it struck me in a weird way. It was like this sick feeling or maybe ....Here is how I was thinking in my head: "I can't believe that someone would do that to me. Someone actually came onto my land and did that to my stuff."
You feel like you can't understand how people can be such jerks. I stood around awhile and waited like they were gonna come back or something. But its probably good that they didn't come back. I was pretty messed up about the whole thing and it wouldn't have turned out too well for whomever it was.
I reckon that everyone has something stolen from them in their lives. And doesn't it make you feel strange? No matter how big or small it was, if it was a million dollars or a kayak, if it was yours and someone stole it, you are plenty angry and hurt about it.
After that, I wasn't sure if I wanted that land anymore, so I stayed away from it.
But I went down yesterday to check on the land and everything looked fine. On my way out of the woods and to my truck, I saw an older man with a shovel in his hand across the road. It's not really a road. Just some asphalt with gravel and dirt. Anyway, I yelled hello and he yelled hello and then I walked over to him. I stuck out my hand and introduced myself, and he did the same.
Ernie was his name, and he was trying to dig out a mailbox and move it he said, because nobody seems to be able to find his house where the mailbox was currently sitting. I asked him if he needed some help, and he answered that he did, he had a real bad back and some other stuff that was ailing him and I just couldn't let him dig that hole, and to be honest, I like that kind of work. So I dug the hole and we got to talking about the area. My land's water had been higher than I'd ever seen it before, even in the highest tide. He told me that it was the bad storm that was out at sea that was causing the water to rise. And then he told me he'd been living there since 1976 and his uncle or brother lived in that house there and his son lived in that house next door. He'd been in the Air force for 31 years, and then he retired. He was 71 now and he said that he was thinking about moving where he didn't have so much yard work to do.
I asked him if he'd been in Vietnam and he said the one time that he flew in there to deliver stuff, they got mortared and had rockets shot at them. He said that he had run into a Vietnam Vet the other day at the grocery store and they stood and talked for a long time. We talked about how all the rich kids got out of Vietnam and all the poor kids had to go. I finally got to the bottom of the hole and squatted down and put the mailbox on my shoulder and lifted it up. It was no big deal, but the thought did go through my head that that was why I trained with weights, to be able to do stuff like that whenever I needed to. I carried it to where he wanted it to go in the ground and then dug the hole there and we got it all set up. I met his son and we joked around how I had just said hello and they went and put me to work.
I was getting ready to leave and I asked him if he didn't mind looking after my land some and he promised that he would. Then he gave me a "No Trespassing" sign to put on my property and then went in and got a sledgehammer so I could pound the sign into the ground. I did that and brought it back to his house and he invited me and my son in to meet his family, his wife and daughter in law and his son was in there, too. He had an in ground pool and he invited me and my family to come down any Saturday next summer and join his family swimming. I had known this guy for an hour and now I was invited for summer swim time.
I had forgotten just how cool country people are once they trust you. I coulda been like, Ernie, I'll take that shirt off your back and no question, he would have given it to me. He offered us cold drinks and my son and I petted his dogs and I swear, if we stayed around any longer, he would have invited us to stay the night.
When I left there, damn I had a good feeling. I was glad that my land hadn't been messed with in a while, and I was glad that I met Ernie. A few bad apples were ruining my time at my land, but meeting Ernie made me realize how good folks can really be. The type of folks that really make up what I think of when I picture good, solid people. I think I was starting to believe that they didn't exist anymore. But they are out there, out there in places like in a tiny town on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, out there just making it day to day, loving their families and working, always working. Meeting Ernie restored my faith in people. It was a trip well spent.