It’s a good thing I went north Wednesday morning, or I never would have met Art Peltier.
I limit my scull rowing outings to either going north or south on the bay, on the theory that I stand a better chance of surviving if I capsize my scull closer to shore.
It has happened in the past.
The time I “caught a crab” (digging one oar deeper and dragging the side of the boat down), I was glad to be close to shore. In a split second, I was dumped into the water. Humiliated by the sudden dunking, I retrieved my hat and stood in the chest-high water, walked toward shore, righted the boat and myself and continued my row.
As winds are predominately from north or south, there’s another reason to row in those directions. Rowing into the wind and the waves or rowing with them is easier than having to battle a broadside.
There was no wind on Wednesday. The early morning reflected off the steel gray bay. Distant ducks, geese and swans were sleeping black dots. They hadn’t started their patrols. The eastern horizon was brightening. Upper level clouds – remnants of Tuesday’s storm – retreated to the west. It was 5:15. The sun would be up in a half hour. I left tracks in the damp grass as I carried oars and boat to the seawall. The chorus of birds was just warming up. The air was rain-washed and sweet.
The boat picked up speed with the first couple of strokes, barely leaving a wake. Many of the shoreline houses were dark silhouettes. Lights were on in some. The morning was stirring, although Green Airport was still asleep. Conimicut Light winked in the distance, as did the red and green lights of channel markers. There wasn’t a boat in sight.
Usually, in the vicinity of Cole Farm, I head home, but there was time to spare Wednesday. I set Gaspee Point as my destination and that’s where I encountered Art Peltier.
From a distance, he stood like a tree trunk in the shoals between the point and Greene Island. He appeared to be lifeless but I knew better. This had to be a fisherman.
I paddled over, figuring I would say, “Good morning,” and then move on, but that’s not the way it worked out. We talked.
For starters, I learned his outing hadn’t been productive. No bites. I said I saw the swirls of striped bass in the bay. He thanked me for the encouraging news. He continued to cast. There was no need to rush. He told me he enjoyed the morning sounds, especially the gobble of turkeys. They had to be in the woods around Spring Green. Frequently, he is up by 4:30 and on the water by 5. He has several favorite locations around the bay and said he is careful not to disturb residents with a blaring radio or slamming a door. He said he was a retired policeman. I asked what department and he told me Warwick. We finally introduced each other.
“The Beacon did a write-up about me,” he said.
I didn’t remember it so I asked him to tell the story.
It goes back to the days when cops did nightly business door checks. One evening, Peltier discovered a $100 bill while making his rounds. He turned the money in and the paper picked up on the story.
Peltier didn’t think it was a big deal, but some Beacon readers did. He started receiving mail and some of it included money, as a means of thanking him. He didn’t feel comfortable keeping the sent money. He talked with then Chief John Coutcher and suggested the money go to the Police Athletic League.
After several months, with no one stepping forward to claim the $100, Coutcher decided Peltier should get it but Peltier told the chief to give the money to PAL. Coutcher insisted Peltier keep it.
“What did you do?” I asked.
“Went and bought a fishing rod,” said Peltier.
I doubted it was the rod he was using, or for that matter, it was the first or last $100 he spent on fishing gear. But the story was good, especially in light of all the controversy over police and fire pensions. Here was a $100 investment that had a big retirement benefit and it didn’t cost the taxpayers a cent.
I have the feeling I’ll see Art out there again and I look forward to it. In the meanwhile, I’ll be listening carefully for the early morning gobbling turkey and I’ll be watching for fish.
I doubt I’ll be finding any $100 bills on the bay and, if I do, I won’t be turning them over to the police.
Maybe another fishing pole?
Now there’s a retirement plan.