Life is Good! And Occasionally Sucks.

Holy crap. Lest you think living on a lake is all fun and games, you are mostly right; but when it’s not, it really makes us suffer.

Backstory: two winters ago, we had 11 inches of wet snow fall in a single day. The trees on the west side of our property took it well except for a few, which collapsed under the weight of the snow and fell over the short cliff and dangled helplessly with their roots still stuck fast in the forest.

Then last winter, on Christmas day, we got 9 inches of rain in 18 hours and another 5 in the next 24 hours. Our giant lake rose from winter pool (500 ft. above sea level) to five feet above full pool – 515 feet. In two days. The wash from the creeks that feed the lake was tremendous… there was white water on most of them until they reached the wider parts of the lake, washing trees, limbs, trash, silt, and quite a few docks/boats with it.


The lake receded, the silt settled out, and the water became clear and clean again.

But where, you ask, did all the trees, limbs, and trash go?


Freaking everywhere.

And what, you ask, became of our fallen tree comrades who were like giant hanging plants on the west cliffside?

They died. And turned grey and ugly, like giant wooden spider webs with half formed pine cones all over them like big ugly leeches.

We bought this house partly because it faces some nice big water, but is, itself, tucked into a ‘corner’ so our only neighbors on the west side are trees and rocks.

Nice for privacy but that also makes it our responsibility.

Fine. What. Ever.

We bought a hand saw specifically to take into the lake to get wet and I donned my water shoes, boarded a pool noodle for buoyancy, and we set out for the Shoreline of Dead Trees.

Ted manned the row boat while I sawed limbs off the trees from the water. We manhandled the branches (and 8 million attached pine cones) into the boat and then Ted would row them to the slough (whence all the trash from the winter storm collected) and chuck them overboard onto dry land while I held the boat steady against the shore.

For the record, all the dangly trees were in 10-20 feet of water, and the ‘shore’ in the slough is quicksand mixed with a thousand little waterlogged sticks, all of which smells like dead tennis shoes when you try to stand on it and break the surface tension of the sand. Add to this a few dozen sharp, ottoman sized rocks, just to make the footing unpredictable, and you can imagine the fun starting to happen.

After 4 and 1/2 hours, we had all the dangly trees shaved down to their main trunks and our shoreline looked pretty darn tidy, except for the bigger branches which I had cleverly arranged into a raft and pushed toward the shore at the slough for the next day’s task.



Our slough as it mostly should look. (there is a creek on the left side that funnels water down the hill into the lake when it rains)

Cut to the next day.

We are lying in bed, cataloguing our cuts, scrapes, bruises and general aches, when Ted says:

“We need to get started… it’s not going to get any cooler out there and we are still beat from yesterday.”



So he dons jeans, hat, rubber boots, and work gloves.  I don bathing suit, water shoes, work gloves and bucket hat. We slip and slide our way off the nice grassy part of our yard into the tangled hillside on the edge of our yard where the hill is steep and the thorny vines play.


As we started…


Working dry, wondering what the hell we were thinking.





Still dry but planning on a water face plant momentarily.


We take all the branches and limbs from yesterday and throw them onto a giant tarp and then haul them up the hillside, falling and tripping all the way.

At some point before we are finished, I declare amnesty on Leanne’s portion of the non-water labor and trip and slide my way down the slough into the stinky, sandy, tiny sticked, random rock water where I try walking out to the deep portion (about five feet off shore) and basically just face plant into enough water to swim away and cool off a little.


The first raft. Approximately 500 pounds. What you can’t see are all the branches UNDERwater.

Then I begin to prune the bigger branches off the ‘raft’ from yesterday and pile them up on top, ending up with two rafts. Then I brave the silty, odiferous water to tie our water rope around the major sections of the raft and push from my precarious shoreline as Ted pulls from the hillside full of tripping hazards.






Miscellaneous crap including fishing lures with hooks, water bottles, and other garbage off fishing boats, small logs and building materials that washed into our slough during the Christmas storm.

We almost died.

Repeat with second raft.

Almost die again.








Then all we had to do was take the dozen or so large logs (and I’m talking quarter length telephone poles) out of the water and move them far enough up the hill to keep them from re-entering the water where they become navigation hazards to boaters.

All this only took us 3 hours, today.

While my Sweet Baboo took the pruners, saw, rope and tarp back up the hill onto the lawn and thence to the garage, I face planted one last time into the waters of the slough and then floated/paddled over to the dock with my water shoes, shorts, hat and gloves on my stomach.

Ted joined me in the water some time after I flung my accessories onto the dock and we floated, soaked and catalogued our new scratches and bruises.

Then we contemplated the ladder out of the water, wondering if we could muster the strength to actually use it.

Tomorrow, we are going to the movies, which takes approximately no strength.


Lake Humor

This lake has hundreds of miles of shoreline, and we enjoy riding around in the boat looking at the scenery or the houses or whatever catches our eye.

Today, this caught our eye…


Apparently, quite a while ago, the foundation gave way and between the weather and some erosion, this poor little cabin went tilting down its hillside, coming to rest about 5 feet above the high water line.

Poor cabin.

Now look at little closer.



And lest you think those are not authentic ruby slippers…




Lake people. We just have fun all the time.  🙂

50 Years!

This year, Arley Alabama turns 50.

Although the town has been here a long time, it wasn’t incorporated until 1965.

The map below shows us in red.

Our town boundaries look like someone scribbled their magic marker in our general area and said, “You know…like, HERE.”

650px-Winston_County_Alabama_Incorporated_and_Unincorporated_areas_Arley_Highlighted.svgThere are 356 souls living in Arley proper, but many hundreds more of us living at Arley addresses on the shores of our meandering Lake Lewis Smith.

If Arley would annex us, they would have enough people to force a vote to make Arley ‘wet’, and then we could have beer at our Mexican restaurant.

But I digress.

Arley was named for the infant son of a local Baptist Minister, who began the school in what was then Dismal Alabama.

That’s right.  Dismal.

We have a Dismal Creek emptying into the lake, and since the mail was dropped at the store in Dismal that’s what the area was called.

Luckily we got a new post office to go with the school and the school and town were named after Rev. Gibson’s deceased child, (Robert) Arley Gibson.  Arley was the 9th of 11 children, 3 of whom died in infancy.


But he left us a great name for a very cool little town surrounded on three sides by the banks of Lake Lewis Smith in rural Alabama.


Photo credit: Ryan Northrop

We’re Doing The Best We Can…

It’s that time of year again!  Our local electric co-operative is having elections for board members.

There are all sorts of things they do to encourage voting, not least of which is a discount on your bill.  There is a party with free hot dogs and stuff on the day of the annual meeting, and everyone in the co-op can register for prizes.

One prize is a pickup truck! You read that right… if you could vote in our Rural Electric Co-operative election you could go to our party, register, eat free hot dogs, take a ride in a bucket truck AND maybe win your very own truck.

Click on the picture, read the info carefully (paying close attention to the year of the Prize Truck), and remember that we are a small community in a poor state and don’t have endless resources.

Then when you are done laughing, remember we are #neverboredinArley!


Four Seasons

Oh my. Apparently I went into writer hibernation and didn’t notice.  And winter didn’t even get truly interesting here until February!


Back in 2011 when we first started researching our eventual retirement home (and while we were still in denial about moving back to the Deep South), the only thing we knew for sure was that we wanted to live someplace with four seasons again.

For many of our years, we have lived with just one season – the Equator.  For just as many years we had only two seasons – wet and dry (California) or hot and cold (Australia).  Even in Wyoming, we really only had two seasons – Winter and July.

Once we came to our senses and realized we had no intention of living full time in Michigan or Wisconsin or Minnesota, our choice of lake in Alabama seemed especially smart, since we are in the Northern 1/3 of the state and get an almost perfect four season life.

Summer is good and hot, but nothing like the searing heat in the San Joaquin Valley or the wilting dreary heat of the swamp they call Houston.  It’s just nice and hot – enough to make you appreciate the lake, not enough to keep you indoors worshiping the AC vents.

Spring and Fall are as they should be… in between time that wobbles between the past and future seasons.

Winter is… fascinating.

Maybe I’m just jaded after spending too much time without it, but that didn’t keep me from having a lot of fun with my first sub zero season in a very long time. It never got above 50 and frequently went below 20, especially at night.  Brrrr!

The dog didn’t like the crunchy grass on frosty mornings, but then, in February, we got a record snowfall and suddenly he was Simon, Tropical Dog of the Arctic!  (click on a picture to enlarge it)


Simon, searching his newfound love, Snow, for his new best toy, a snowball. He chased 20 snowballs, never finding one to bring back but never getting discouraged. I think he was waiting for the snow to melt and reveal them all.


This was not a sissy snowfall even for northern climes… in 10 hours, our house got 9 inches and the town south of us got 11. Pretty impressive for a county with no snowplows.  The county south of us has a single sand spreader, so all their bridges were coated with Gulf Sand (and still are, in the center and on the shoulders).

This is our driveway midway through the Best (and Only) Snow of 2015:



Well, okay, the beginning of the driveway.  It’s pretty long, and has a steep hill at the other end. Luckily I had no place to go.

And it snowed, off and on from 2 pm until midnight.  This was the scene about 10pm:


So. Much. Fun.

Everyone take a moment to mourn the passing of our former Bamboo plant. DSC_0043








And then join me in a Late Spring Happy Dance while we marvel at the extremes and just plain cool of #neverboredinArley


February 2015


April 2015


Moving Day!

It’s been a roller coaster… for snails… but we finally got our furniture from Jakarta.

The company wouldn’t ship until Ted was in place and Ted wasn’t in place until August.

Then a week for packing, a couple weeks in customs because Indonesia sucks and Chevron doesn’t pay bribes even to grease the skids on my furniture shipment.

Then eight weeks on the high seas (where container ships sometimes lose a few over the side- an eventuality we try really hard not to think a lot about).

Then onto a train from Long Beach to New Orleans, and finally loaded out into a moving van to Birmingham where it is re-loaded into two smaller trucks because a semi won’t fit down our quarter mile driveway without taking out a lot of trees.

I left Jakarta the first of May thinking I was coming to Alabama to finish up the renovations then returning to Indonesia in August.

Instead, six months later, my stuff is coming to me.  Better late than never!

My hero husband juggled time off and managed to get over here to help me.  I wasn’t looking forward to checking off inventory while some guy who wished I’d get on with it waited for me to read the contents and tell him where it went.  Times 3 guys.








Meet Jason, John, and Quentin in the first truck on the first day.  They have worked together for a while and sound like The Honeymooners.  Quentin likes Auburn, the other two like Alabama.  You will have to visit to experience what a huge thing that is here, but trust me- it’s a thing.




It was quickly decided that the truck would be emptied and things parceled out from there.

They unboxed our loveseats first, and under the first cushion in the first loveseat they found a hitchhiker…




Poor little guy was completely flattened and mummified.  All he wanted was a new life in America.

John the Head Mover handed him to me with some clever remark thinking I would scream once I saw what it was.

Silly man.

He has obviously never lived in Indonesia.  Or Africa for that matter.  These things are everywhere.  Dead, alive, big, little, day and night.

I took it and showed Ted what we got.

Ted’s comment was “bookmark!” – the movers looked at us a little differently after that.

Meanwhile, Simon did a good job of supervising…




…but even with Ted and him helping I quickly lost control of the parceling.




I started yelling ‘garage!’ every time they showed me a box with small bits or questionable contents and the garage started filling up really fast.



You can see some our furniture shaped boxes… they literally built the cardboard around all of our furniture which was a terrible way to move it, but unlike the move from Africa, no one asked us.  Don’t get me started on their version of wardrobe boxes…

I’m not sure what it means that our final company move was the screwiest.  God knows we’ve done it enough to know how it goes, and this one was definitely our strangest.

Anyway… things started wrapping up fairly fast on the second day.

Once the guys left, we had piles of stuff on every flat surface and the job of spreading it around began.


























There are still tweaks and adjustments to be made, but it’s 99% finished now (although my hero left before most of the spreading was done…). 

We are edging closer and closer to a normal life.


Paying the Piper

Obviously we are completely smitten by the fact that we could finally live exactly where we want, and this lake house is just the best place ever.

I get that it’s not everyone’s idea of paradise – some people want their water salty, some don’t (gasp!) want water at all, some people need the thin, dry air of a mountain top and others like to sweat in the dry sand and have green rocks for a yard.  But we have exactly what we wanted and have been wallowing in it unashamedly.

Our lake provides a place to cool off, breezes from a water cooled open area covering many acres, a liquid playground for all kinds of activities, a killer view, instant fishing opportunities and

a whole new way to be terrified by Mother Nature. 

I admit I am a sissy when it comes to violent weather.  And for me, violent is defined as anything that scares me at all.  Period.

We were in Hurricane Ike in Texas.  We were on the ‘clean’ side, 35 miles from the coast, and still I was certain throughout that long and frightening night that we would, at best, own a house in the morning that had no roof. If there is a catastrophic outcome possible, I will have thought of it and be obsessing about its possibility as soon as the first weatherman says, “There’s a 60% chance of…”

So imagine the things I was able to conjure in my fevered mind when the National Weather Service gave me 48 hours notice that high winds, flooding rain and possible tornadoes were headed my way, especially over lake areas.


Thanks for the warning guys.

I immediately began eyeing the many large trees ringing our property, calculating their heights and the possible angles of their precipitous falls (most of them directly on my house, garage, or boat dock of course, because why fall if not to destroy my stuff?)

I scurried around the house and yard, moving potted plants to the ‘safe’ North side of the house away from the direct assault of the storm approaching from the SW, piling deck chairs and tables together away from windows, moving cushions and candle lanterns indoors, rolling up doormats and stuffing them all in the garage.

Then my Practical But Absent Husband, hereinafter referred to as Poobah, messages me on Skype and says “Get the flashlights, crank radio, weather radio, and dog leash where you can get them in a hurry.”  Check, check, check, and check.  Took all but one flashlight and stuck them in our ‘Tornado Room’ which is the closet of the guest room, tucked neatly up under the concrete garage floor, into the hillside, on the NW side of the house.

It’s the only closet I have ever had that is outfitted with two plastic adirondack chairs (with cushions).  The years of me cowering in the basement with my Barbie Dreamhouse amid the lime stains are over, my friend.  I will now cower in comfort with wall to wall carpet and summer furniture.

So I’m ready.  I’m prepared. I’m meeting this storm with an adult attitude and only slight nausea and shivering.

[Side bar: am I the only one who discovered, as the first time parent of a 4 year old, that suddenly I was the one in charge of making storms not scary while actually being scared out of my pants?  The one who had to smile and act like “Pfffft! what’s a little cloud-to-ground lightning that hit our house? Who cares if that tree limb just clipped the eaves?” To my credit, I must have done a good job of being calm on the outside, because that former 4 year old slept through the above mentioned hurricane in his own bed a dozen years later.]

So anyway, I’m ready.  I thought. Then the Poobah says,

“Have you checked the cables on the dock?”

MY DOCK??? My beautiful, floating, expensive, brand new dock? The one that holds my beloved motorized water toys? The dock with the new lights and little indoor/outdoor rug and box full of non-motorized water toys? THAT DOCK???

“No,” sez I, “I haven’t.  Why?”

Well. Turns out there are even more Laws of Physics that I am unable to convert to real life Problems With Solutions that involve cable tension, pivot degrees, torque, and all sorts of other stupid science terms that basically boil down to new ways to stress me out during major weather events.

The cables on our dock run neatly off each back corner and are anchored to the rock on which the house sits.  In addition, to avoid (as much as possible) having the dock roof catch a 50mph breeze and become a sail, we have cement filled anchors deep in the water, tied to more cables secured to the front of the dock.  Forgive me for thinking this was my ‘storm preparedness’.

Our lake level fluctuates throughout the year as Alabama Power leaks water out of their dam for more science-y stuff and the cables need to be occasionally tightened or loosened to keep a fairly normal tension on them so the dock doesn’t swing off to one side or the other.  No biggie.  The racheting ‘tock tock tock tock tock’ sound of someone doing a little cable adjusting is a normal sound around here.


See the nice cable shining in the sunlight on the left? There is a corresponding one on the right.

No one told me we also had to do OTHER things to the cables when a storm is coming.

Plenty of people don’t.

The summer people for starters.

But then this happens:


Thank you to Ivan Diaz for these three pictures, posted October 14, 2014.

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So fine.  My hatches are battened down.  I’m ready for this ordeal except, apparently, for the dock.

I abandon the emotionless written words of Skype messaging and call my Poobah for precise, no nonsense verbal instructions on how to save my dock and my sanity.

His instructions?

“Hmmm. I’m not real sure.”

Eventually we settled on a combination of “loosen the east side so it doesn’t rip it out of the pulley then tighten the creek side so the dock stops twanging it when it shifts” and “I don’t know, does it look right?”.

Since it was starting to rain already and I was pre-nauseated from an entire day of gusty 25mph winds pushing the front of my house (and dock) we decided that it did look right and I retreated upstairs to the relative safety of my hilltop house.

On a normal day, this is what my house looks like when you come from the South…

DSCF1208…and this is where we start Paying the Piper.  Because Monday this tranquil view was marred by whitecaps, black skies, and all those freaking trees whipping around like dervishes.

Almost as soon as I got upstairs and stood where the roof supports make that white plus sign, I saw wind driven rain heading straight for me across the half mile of water between us and the south shore.  I grabbed the dog and made it inside just ahead of a sheet of rain and wind that made the plate glass moan.

And then the power went out.

Luckily, we have a generator that can run the fridge, some lights and a powered down version of climate control.  It is also actually louder than the much bigger one we had in Africa, but that’s another issue.  It did its job- hurdle crossed.

And then the sun set.

60+ mph winds, driving rain, thunder, lightning, and lake whitecaps turned breakers smashing into the rocks of our shoreline. All I can see is the white water spraying everywhere.  Can’t see the dock. Can’t see the cables.

I don’t know what happened.  The dog and I cowered in the tornado room in our deck chairs pretending we were on a cruise ship in a cheap inside cabin.

About 11:30 pm my laptop radar showed the scary red and orange part of the storm beyond us headed for Atlanta, and all the tornadoes north of us.  We ventured out to find the wind still raging but the rain mostly stopped.  The dock, in the beam of my biggest flashlight, appeared to still be right side up and tethered to the shore on both sides.

Crawl into bed. Pretend to sleep for 6 more hours while going onto the deck in the still keening wind every 45 minutes to check the dock in the flashlight beam.

Tuesday morning, sky still full of black clouds, but the wind has died down, the (usually dry) creek is running full tilt and at 8:45 am, precisely 16 hours after it blew, the power comes back on.

This lake has over 500 miles of shoreline.  It is FULL of water.  This storm has (so far) added TWO FEET of water to the lake level.

Big storm. Really big storm.

And I’d do it all again to be able to live here forever.  In fact I will do it all again.

And again.

But next time, the Poobah better be here to act like an adult so I don’t have to.

Lake Critters

Living in the sticks is so nice in so many ways… more stars than I think I’ve ever seen in my life, no traffic sounds, no sirens, and lots of nature all around.

We have lots of creatures, great and small, and I haven’t been as handy getting pictures of the mammals as I have of the insect-y ones, so I’m gonna share what I have so far of our insect, reptile, and winged friends (I’m pretty sure the Turkey Vultures would be insulted to be included here, which is why I’m doing it… ).






















Cool, yes?  There are lots more I haven’t been able to catch with my camera yet, and I have a remedial knowledge of almost all these things, so feel free to school me in the comments!



We have had ownership of this property for almost exactly a year now, and as we finally wrap up the renovations and look forward to getting our furniture from Jakarta, I seem to have killed our tallest tree.

Quick, somebody play taps.

The tree was a 75 foot white oak growing on the west side of the house, kind of in the middle of the lawn between the house and the woods on the edge of our property.

I don’t have pictures of it, because it was not really part of any of the stuff we changed or even part of our decision to buy this property… but you can see it here:

DSC_0069It’s the super tall tree on the left center of the picture, next to the house behind the really bushy green one close to the lake.

The green one.

The tall, green, 81 year old white oak.


WHOOPS! Not so fast, there pardner…




What’s that you say? What happened to the tree, you ask?

Really good questions.  I used them to play “Stump the Tree Surgeon”.

On a recent Monday, I was enjoying an evening on the deck with a glass of wine and my spy-noculars, when a flash of brown passed through my peripheral vision.

Lo and behold, the entire bottom half of the white oak was brown and shedding its leaves.

“Hrmm.”  says I  “That’s probably not a good sign.”

Thursday, I again examined said tree.  Top half dead too.

In four days.

After 81 years of watching the land, then the lake, then the house, the biggest tree on our little acre of heaven said ‘Enough!’ and croaked.

So I called the tree surgeon.  He looked at it.  Thumped it. Scratched it. Then quoted me a price to bring it down.

“It happens.” was the diagnosis.

This is a huge tree.  Sitting 15 feet from my house and towering over it.  Shall we wait and see if it leafs out next spring while waiting to see if it’s going to rot and fall on the house instead?


As much as we love white oaks, this one was, as the Munchkin Mayor said “…really most sincerely dead”, and although it provided some nice shade for the bedroom wall and the open section of the deck, it sat on a slope, dropped acorns everywhere and kept the whole west side of the yard from growing any grass for 40 feet up from the lake.

We are in favor of trees, but not troublesome ones, so… break out the chainsaws.

It took the guy two weeks to get to us, during which time the tree got deader and deader… sending oak leaves everywhere while the trees all around it merrily waved their green leafy branches at it. 

Then the newest characters in my character rich environment arrived.




Four good old boys, three of whom had so much tobacco stuffed behind their lips they could hardly speak.  Add to that some real down home southern accents and I felt like I was back in a foreign country smiling and nodding and trying to understand what the hell they were saying while doing a simultaneous translation.

Really nice guys.  Fun and funny, but deadly serious about what they were doing.  Everyone had a job and they were very methodical and professional.  Make no mistake – Bubba (or Larry, in this case) knows what he’s doing.

So they chuck some rope up to the very top with a cool weighted ball thingie and the littlest guy (wearing those cool boots with the spike in the side) starts belaying himself up the tree, whacking off branches as he goes.



Now play Where’s Bubba with this picture… (I  swear there is a guy in the shot)




…and the guy still in the tree, branches all lopped off…





So I’m talking to Larry (the tree doc), telling him that wearing the spiky boots and hauling up to the tree tops is every kid’s career goal at some time and he says “Yeah, except it’s not that fun.” I expressed surprise and said, “Well at least he gets a great view.”

Cue the Bubba snorts all around.

Turns out the guy up the tree doesn’t like heights.  From 65 feet up he says, “I don’t look down, I just concentrate on what’s in front of me.  I don’t like it up here.”

And that, my friends, is what’s called Job Irony.

Anyhoo, he finally sawed his way out of the branches and administered the coup de grace…






…then he started working his way back down taking chunks of tree with him.




Every time he shoved a new log overboard it hit the ground with a huge thud and shook the deck I was standing on.  So, not riddled with beetles or termites. That tree was solid. And heavy.





All that was left now was to grind the stump.

I look up the driveway and a guy is walking down the hill with a big orange stump grinder following him.  The man has a remote control stump grinder!  Big toys for big boys.  Big expensive toys.




Do you see him standing there holding his remote?  Now you know, when he found this thing in the Lumberjack Quarterly his eyes lit up like Christmas.  I hadn’t seen this guy all day – he just showed up when it was time to grind and disappeared once the deed was done.  Nice gig.




And finally, after everyone worked to haul off the logs, rake the leaves and spread the sawdust for mulch, this is what it all looks like now…




It was a terrifically hot day… the hottest of the summer to that point – over 100 degrees of ‘feels like’ temperature with air you could wring out like a sponge and those guys were suffering. I was standing in the shade taking pictures and still sweating like crazy, so I can’t imagine how hard it was for them to lift branches and logs while covered in itchy sawdust that stuck to them like it was glued on.

They usually quit at 5.  When they finished at my house, they quit at 2.  Good decision.


Four guys, four hours (plus the remote stump grinder guy who was having too much fun for work) and the world has one less giant white oak. 

We shed a tear for our departed tree, but as always around here…



Little Bits from the Lake…

If you live in a city lucky enough to still have Ice Cream Trucks, you will recognize the sound of a Scott Joplin rag coming up your street, maybe accompanied by the sound of children’s laughter and the joy that comes with it.


On our lake, you can hear the same tune way before you see…


the pontoon boat that is playing it as he makes his way around the lake.



As you can see, he only has popsicles. [Edit: He has MORE than popsicles! Can it get any better?]

And they are very expensive ($3). 

But the point is we have a Popsicle Boat! 


He will come to your dock or meet up with you in the middle of the lake.



He has a fish net delivery system that works nicely and avoids accidental sinking of your popsicle.



The laughing children are still present but there are usually more adults flagging him down.  🙂

This guy’s name is Dave Dempsey and we are glad he chose our lake to hang out on.

 (don’t forget to click on the pictures to see Dave close up)