PASS CHRISTIAN — In a long and checkered career of finagling to live near water, I have owned a houseboat, two sailboats, stink boats, pontoon boats, canoes, rotten boats and a pirogue. Since the day at the county fair when my father lifted me into a toy boat traveling in circles in impossibly blue water, I have loved boats. Any old boat.
Once I wagged home a beautiful old wooden Stauter Boat carcass that could not be salvaged but became great yard art.
But I have never owned half a boat, until now.
Before light, my BFFs, Greg and Jacob, woke up the neighborhood as they backed a whole boat -- my half included -- into a narrow driveway that resembles a wooded rabbit run.
Being young fellows with good driving eyes, they had preferred to make the 300-mile journey after midnight while traffic was light. They stopped once for breakfast, but mostly kept to task and between the ditches.
Expertly, Greg threaded trees going backward as Jacob yelled directions and wildly swung about a flashlight. I simply watched, hoping an uneventful trip didn't become memorable in the destination driveway.
For this boat has a history. It has seen fresh and saltwater. It survived Katrina, though the house it was sitting beside did not. John and Carole lost that lovely seaside cottage and are the owners of the other half of the boat.
My half is a gift from my former husband, Jimmy, who collects boats the way a black sweater draws lint. He once had a heart episode when this same boat started sinking in an Alabama lake. And while demonstrating an atlatl, an ancient throwing stick, someone nicked the 150 Johnson.
On his way out of town, Greg parked the boat at his work site and watched helplessly as a gawker rear-ended another car while checking out the vessel. As I mentioned, history.
Some might conclude this boat is jinxed. I, however, have never been superstitious, at least not about free boats.
Besides, Jimmy is smart. He knows if you want to unload half a boat with a questionable past, you present the gift by telephone at happy hour.
"Wow!" the startled recipient will say. "Half a boat? For free? No kidding?"
Only later will the logistics of fetching, mooring, operating and surviving said boat occur to her. And by then it's a fixed deal.
You know the old saying. Never look a gift boat in the mouth.
The boat is only partway down the drive, and already I'm imagining an October run to Cat Island. I've been out there only once, decades ago, but the experience was so delightful it's stayed with me like a puppy dog Christmas. The light on the island comes from some alien source with a special yellow filter that defines clouds and makes green greener and blue bluer.
I'm halfway there in my mind in my half of the boat.
Rheta Grimsley Johnson is a syndicated columnist and a native of Iuka.