Young man and his family inherit his grandfather's vacation property.
|The Jasper River Fisherman
By: Kathleen McNamara
Jake Connors drove his blue Honda Pilot on Route 7 just outside of the town of Castleton. The road wound down through the valley and followed the banks of the Jasper River. Jake would have loved sharing this trip with his two-year-old twin girls and his wife Cassie. But as luck would have it, both of the girls came down with colds. So he had to face this trip alone. The original plan was to spend the night at the house, but with the electricity and water turned off, he would have to spend the night in Castleton.
The letter from the executor of his grandfather’s estate had arrived earlier that week. He had inherited the family vacation house on the Jasper River. His grandfather had purchased the property at a tax sale. It had been abandoned and needed some serious refurbishing. Once all of the rehab had been completed, it became a favorite place for Jake to visit while growing up. The dock in the back yard had provided hours of enjoyment fishing with the old man.
When Jake was about twelve, his parents moved to Georgia because of a transfer with his dad’s job. The trips to visit with his grandfather became fewer as time went on. After college, Jake tried to visit with him as much as possible. Once married, again the trips became few and far between. The older man knew how much Jake loved the place and willed it to him.
He arrived at the entrance to the property. The mailbox was now rusty and the post leaning against a nearby tree. The long-winding driveway was seriously overgrown. The car would never make it up the driveway until it was cleared out.
The day was hot and very humid. A quick glance at the sky showed storm clouds in the offing. The oppressive weather only added to Jake’s gloomy mood. Trudging up the driveway, the house came into view. His heart sank at the sight. The once neatly landscaped front was gone. Weeds, out of control shrubbery and piles of long dead leaves littered the front entryway. The shutters and front door, once a lovely shade of dark green, were now a mess of faded and peeling paint. The swing on the sagging back porch creaked in the ever-strengthening breezes. As Jake walked the rundown property, he made his way to the dock.
Jake was surprised to see an old man there fishing. For a moment, he was taken back to those summers he would fish with his grandfather. The man on the dock, whoever he was, even wore the same bucket-type hat favored by his fly-fishing grandfather.
The old man turned at Jake’s approach. “Hello,” he said, “ the name is Jameson. I heard you might be coming to visit and I wanted to meet Bill Connors grandson.”
“Nice to meet you Mr. Jameson. My name is Jake.”
“I know. Your grandfather told me a lot about you and your family,” said the older gentleman. They both turned back to look at the house. Jameson remarked to Jake, “Before you decide if you want to keep the house, you should go up river and see the old dam. The state has been buying up these properties along the river because the dam is decaying again. You and your family could find a place a lot safer above the dam.”
Jake turned to the man and thanked him for that advice. The weather was beginning to show signs of unleashing the storms that had been on the horizon. “Well, I am done here for today,” said Jameson, “Nice meeting you Jake.”
“Do you need a ride,” asked Jake?
“No, it’s not far,” the old man replied. “Remember to check out the dam.”
Jake started back to the driveway and turned to call thanks to the fisherman, but when he turned around he did not see any signs of him walking along the river path. The river path had been a favorite for hikers and had always been kept clear. It was obvious the trail was still in use. Even though Jake had reached the driveway he still had a good view of the trail, but did not see the old man. “Maybe he cut through the woods to save some time,” Jake muttered to himself. Jake shook his head and walked on.
Once back on the road to Castleton and the realtor’s office, he turned on the radio. Severe thunderstorms and flash flooding alerts were on just about every local station. Castleton was higher up the mountainside overlooking the river valley. It was late when he arrived in town and the office was closed. Jake headed over to the little bed and breakfast to get his room and turn in for the night. Sleep would prove difficult as the storms were particularly violent and the rains torrential.
After a good breakfast and a few jolts of caffeine, he headed over to the realty office. “Morning,” he said as he walked through the door. “Are you Rich?”
“Yes, I am,” said the agent rising from his chair to greet Jake as he entered the office. “Your attorney said you would be arriving today. Have you heard the news yet?”
“No, “ Jake replied. “What news?”
“I am sorry to tell you that the dam breached last night and your grandfathers house was demolished in the flooding.”
“Wow! Mr. Jameson was right about that dam,” Jake responded.
“What are you talking about,” asked the realtor.
“Some old guy named Jameson was there at the dock waiting for me yesterday. He said he was expecting me. Didn’t you tell him I was coming?”
“Not me, but go on,” Rich answered, with an unreadable expression on his face.
“Well, he said that the dam was decaying and thatmy family and I would do well to sell this property back to the state and get a new place upstream, way above the dam.” Jake paused in relating his story. “Why in the world are you looking at me like that?"
Rich reached into a file drawer and withdrew an old, yellowed folder. His hands were shaking as he pulled out a newspaper clipping out and handed it to Jake to read.
CASTLETON DEVESTATED BY FLOOD
July 6, l941 – Castleton, PA
This morning Castleton awoke to the sight of the devastation wrought by the collapse of the dam on the upper portion of the Jasper River. The earthen dam had been slated for reconstruction later this year after the vacation season. It had long been recognized that there was a possibility of collapse due to age. Earlier this week the floodgates were opened for a short time to release some of the pressure build up due to the relentless rains this past week. Warnings had been given to the residents and vacationers downstream. But because of the holiday weekend, a lot of people chose to ignore those warnings. It was late last night when the dam gave way and swept through the valley. It is thought that at least 50 properties along the lower Jasper River have been wiped out, with an unknown toll of lives lost. It is feared that one of Castleton’s prominent families, the Jameson’s, are among those presumed lost in the floodwaters.
Jake handed the clipping back to Rich. He was white as a sheet as he said, “This happened 75 years ago!”
Rich looked at him and said, “We have heard stories in town about this guy telling people looking at those properties, to go up and check the dam. Now I know those stories were true. Guess he just wanted to protect others from the same fate. Maybe this will be the last time we hear this story around here.”
“Why,” asked a visibly shaken Jake?
“Yours is the last property that will be sold to the state,” said Rich. “State engineers have been working on plans for some kind of water diversion project to protect the river valley from future flooding. I do not think they will be getting anymore opposition from the townspeople after last night.”
“I think I will take old man Jameson’s advice and start looking for property up in Archer,” remarked Jake. “ I think that area is high enough above the old dam. I suppose the old guy was right when he told me he was done there yesterday. I thought he was talking about being done with fishing. He was really saying he was done with the warnings. Maybe now he can finally rest in peace.”