Richie’s sister Sue and his niece Meili visit for Christmas.
“The stockings were hung by the chimney with care, with hopes that Saint Nicholas would soon be there.”
After a long drive from Atlanta through snowstorms, Meili seems delighted to be on solid ice.
Meili visits Richie’s favorite birding spot “Aghaming”–an Ojibwa word that means “across the water.” Indeed the river bottoms is across the back channel from the Latsch Island boathouses.
During the Christmas visit we discover that a gate has been installed to protect a historic breeding site of the state-threatened Red-shouldered Hawk! For details of the conservation success, see “Turning No-man-land’s into a Nature Preserve” by Pam Eyden of Big River Magazine at this website’s Bird Conservation page.
Photographer Monia Lippi visits from Italy, 2008. View her fabulous boathouse exhibit at David Zenk, another long-time boathouse resident and great friend, is in the background with Barbi. David has served as the Winona Boathouse Association’s treasurer for many years, helping to keep our community afloat.
“Kidder ran from the woodpile/ Turned and said me-ow-ow/ Lived on ice beneath boathouses/ Minus fifteen, we don’t know how./  We left her Fancy Feast/ And Fishy Fish Friskers/ She stuck her head out the woodpile/ Snow blew past her whiskers…” Kidder (2008-2019) appeared abandoned outside Richie’s boathouse in January 2008 and ran away from him until late March, when she suddenly sat prim on his plank, accepted chicken from his hand and climbed on his lap inside the house. She moved to Barbi’s house, no more than a week pregnant with six kittens. Whenever Barbi went away, Kidder stayed at Richie’s boathouse, where she liked to stretch out on the carpet by the woodstove’s heat..
Kidder’s kitten Shiimsa visits the boathouse too, goes outside only when escorted by Richie. Here she swaggers, but once she tried to touch the water with her paw and fell in over her head.
Richie canoes from home during the 2011 flood.
Barbi on Richie’s back dock during the 2011 flood.
Prothonotary Warbers sometimes nest in boxes outside the boathouse. The species inspired “River Sun Warblers,” a 2013 Pushcart nomination (see Creation Stories). This female and her mate successfully fledged five young, which hopped down onto the boathouse’s deck and were seen 70-feet high in silver maples the next day. The prothonotary warbler has declined about 40% since the 1960s, according to Breeding Bird Survey data. It has lost 90% of its prime breeding habitat, bottomland forest, and perhaps even more of its winter habitat, mangrove swamps, according to Birds of the World, Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology.

Mallards also nest at the boathouse…

Raccoons and snakes sometimes eat the eggs, but this brood hopped out of the flower pot and into the river and swam off with Mom.
Patrick installs a picture window, Summer 2012. He was the best man in Jonah’s wedding. He still calls Barbi “Mom”, as he did during high school years.
Patrick also sided Richie’s sleeping loft. The lower part of the house is aluminum salvaged from the tractor-trailer truck during the 1970s.
Richie signs a copy of First Territory for Mara, 2013. Mara married Jonah, 2021.
A reunion at the boathouse with Matt, his wife Crissie and newborn Gabriel, 2013. Matt still smiles as enthusiastically as when he dripped duckweed so many years ago.
Little Gray Boathouse’s interior hasn’t changed much since Matt and Jonah had sleepovers here, 1987. Floorspace remains 14′ by 14′.
Jonah pops barrels with friends, Summer 2013. Barbi’s boathouse is in a new location, due to a 1996 bridge construction.




Coming of age in hostile worlds


Short Stories from the Pacific Northwest


Short Stories from the upper Mississippi


Spirit Birds, the dawn of nature


Citizen Science, Advocacy, Articles


Commentaries, Book Reviews


A Field Season on the upper Mississippi River


Memoir from a floating home