My aunt and uncle had a cabin on a lake above Lake Tahoe. In the summers, I was lucky to spend a month there with my cousins. My cousin Stephen and I spent a lot of time fishing down at the lake. We became friends with the caretaker, an easy-going guy named Tony.
The property was owned by many families, but my relatives were the only ones who lived there. Tom, who occasionally visited, was a thirty-five-year-old son of one of the other owners, and he was trouble. He was argumentative and arrogant, and, in an altercation with my aunt, tried to back her up so she would fall off a small cliff and down a sandy hill.
Tom brought his rifle with him when he visited the property. He talked the ever-agreeable Tony into going on regular patrols with him around the perimiter to keep the "poachers" out. There weren't any poachers, but we kids learned to keep our distance from Tom.
One day when I was eleven and Stephen was twelve, we were fishing near the boathouse, where the row boats were kept. I got kind of bored as we weren't catching much, so I went to look for Tony. I found him down the stream a bit with Tom.
When I came upon them, they were just sort of gazing at the water, and I said by way of greeting, "Whatcha doing?"
Tom replied with a snarl, "None of your damned business!" I was so stunned by his harsh demeanor that I just walked away wordlessly, back up to the boathouse.
When I got there, seeking some solace, I told Stephen the story of what had just happened. He said, "C'mon!" and immediately took off at a brisk pace straight in the direction of Tony and Tom. I didn't want to go back and tried to stop him. He didn't even slow down, and so I went along to the last place I wanted to go.
To my amazement, when we got there, Stephen said in a very mild way, "Whatcha doing?" Not surprisingly, Tom gave the same harsh reply as before, "None of your damned business!"
To which Stephen bellowed, with every ounce of force in him, "Not you, Stupid! I was talking to Tony!"
I about fell over, as did Tony and Tom, who only looked at us with mouths agape, as we turned and walked back to the lake to resume our fishing.
Photo Credit: Lynne MacLean