I don’t know how long I sat on my guitar case on the Grand Lake Stream town dock that June afternoon thirty-six years ago. I wondered how I was going to make the final twelve miles of a journey that began eighteen hours earlier in Maryland, but it didn’t seem like an emergency. The view stretched forever and I was lulled.
There wasn’t a soul in sight until an orange Duratech emerged from a cove across the way and moved toward me. As the boat approached the dock it turned broadside to reveal a bedraggled, sixty-ish man with an even more bedraggled Pug pooch in his lap.
“Can you play that thing?” he hollered over the outboard.
I nodded and gave him a thumbs up.
“Where ya goin’?”
“I’m supposed to be at Darrow Camp today, but I don’t know how I’m going to get there.”
The man – Warren Arthur Whiting – got up and weighed the boat’s fuel tank in his hand.
“Tell ya what. You play, the dog and me’ll listen, and if you’re any good, we’ll get you to Darrow’s.”
This looked like the only game in town, so I threw my lot into the hands of a complete stranger, never bothering to ask what might happen if I didn’t pass the audition.
Stepping into that orange boat was one of the most fateful decisions of my life.