A Shaggy Dog Story

Craggy and lean, wearing his tweed cap, Max has an old leather satchel at his hip. Out of it peers the small dark face of a Chihuahua. “This is Cadeau,” he announces. Max leans forward to inspect something, and his satchel, and Cadeau, lurch forward wildly. “Oh don’t worry; he is used to running 25 miles in the snow in Canada. I like to bring him out to keep him from getting bored. Eyes bugging out, Cadeau looks anything but bored.

Of all of the members of ICC, Max is quietly acknowledged to be the master builder. He examines the bulkhead, the deck, offers an opinion here and there. Then he inspects the pile of wood. For months the guys have been lassoing 20 foot planks, railroad ties weighing 500 pounds, or the odd floats that look like giant black marshmallows. Pressing against the Hudson River’s winter winds, they have been paddling these relics from Hurricane Sandy back to the boathouse, piece by piece.

Over a steep hill, wedged between boulders and half submerged, lies a particularly ferocious intersection of beams, bolted together at right angles. We have been eying this prize for two months. “No problem” says Max. “We’ll use bolt cutters.” In a trice, one of the guys scrambles over the rocks, massive bolt cutters in hand, and sets to work; a friend is poised to grab him. Nothing. Another one tries. “They’re frozen.” I can see the guys, for once, are ready to let this one go.

Max says, “No problem, we’ll carry it as is.” Their eyes widen. “Two here, and two here, two in front. Just over the rocks, lift it over the ledge, turn the corner and you’ve got a straight shot down the path,til you get to the gate.” Everyone moves into position: “One, two, three, lift.” They stagger under the weight.

As they maneuver the mass of spikes and lumber over the embankment, Max murmurs, “Did I ever tell you the story about the kitten that lifted 500 pounds?” Their silent expressions are as one: “You have got to be kidding me.” Max continues unperturbed. He is walking slowly backwards. “You see there were these two guys, one had a kitten and one had a dachshund…” I watch the sweat beading on their foreheads. Max’s voice drops. The guys lean forward ever so slightly. They are either mesmerized, or they want to kill him. “And the kitten could pull incredible amounts of weight….” Their knees are wobbling. “So the man with the dachshund finally says, how do you do it?….” Another twenty feet. They approach the final corner to the boathouse; they twist and heave. They drop their quarry with a thud that shakes the ground, and lean over gasping. At that precise moment,Max reaches his punch-line: “I use whips!”