Jun 26, 2010

The Artist

River life is something to ponder. As you can see, artist Randy Smith stares intently at the scene before him to determine what final brush stroke to add to his canvas. It was the start of the 25th Anniversary of the James River Batteau Festival and more than 20 batteax were afloat and ready to go downstream. The usual river characters were there with their period costumes and canons! The skies were blue, the temperature hot, and the humidity close to uncomfortable. The atmosphere was pumped with feelings of excitement and apprehension as crews formulated plans on managing the river. On batteau day every year, the dam at Buena Vista releases extra water so the batteax can safely float out of Lynchburg when the river is low. This year was no exception, and from later accounts the river was pretty low and several boats pulled out after crews were exhausted from dislodging their boat from the rocks.

As a former member of the Travelogue Batteau, my memories bring me pleasure. I remember that no matter the time of day, it as was always "3 o'clock river time"... and how much futher to go..."2 more miles, just around the bend." We went through hours of bends! I remember the slow moments on the river when we floated with the current and the fast moments when we went over small falls and tricky sloops. My first time on the front sweep had me in the water within 5 minutes and once on the back sweep I managed to make the batteau horizontal in fast moving water--a real danger as batteau have been know to take on water and snap in two if that happens! I remember the campfire atmosphere in the evenings as we gathered to share our wild stories of the day with a cold beer or a glass of wine (I stuck to soft drinks--really I did). Most of all I remember my river family. Our hearts were bound together by the river and it's events. Great memories.... just great!
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