True Color-Part 9

Shooting Great Falls on the Potomac.

No Women Allowed!

I had a great job, but no address. My general orders were to promote public safety and be on hand for cliff or water rescues. I walked all day around Great Falls and on the C & O Towpath.

For a while, I camped out and stayed with friends. The Park Service always is going on about crisp uniforms and I got written up a few times for looking like the homeless bum I was. I needed an address, but I couldn’t reconcile myself to going back to suburbia.

On my patrols I had stumbled on a historical cypress cabin, built atop a cliff on Plummers Island, just below the 495 Bridge. It was in the park, but, by historical agreement, the Washington Biologist Field Club held exclusive use of it.

I learned that said use consisted of an annual clam bake, a few meetings and occasional hermitage for research. The place had been broken into a time or two, so I called up the president of the field club and asked if they would like a live-in night watchman. Gordon met me onsite after work the next day and interviewed me for the caretaker position.

My dog and I were cleared to move in and live rent-free. But there was a catch.

No women allowed! At first I thought Gordon was joking. This was 1974. My supervisor was a woman.

Women’s Lib was pretty much over and it was just us male and female guys. But, nope. Gordon was serious. Some Biologist Field Club wives had boated out and raised some issues about the amount of alcohol it took to wash down baked clams. So, at the next meeting it was made a motion and voted on, and women were banned from the island. Period. Any questions?

Well, yeah, I had some questions about how no women allowed might play out for my love life — if I ever found one — but I kept my questions to myself. I shook Gordon’s hand on the deal and moved in that evening with my dog. It was great! I had a dedicated bike trail all the way to Great Falls, 5 miles upstream, and the taverns of Georgetown were just 8 miles by bike downstream.

It was an exciting and blissful summer. I found out that, if you want to meet and impress women, you couldn’t find better ground than No Women Allowed! They had to see that which was prohibited to them.

That I would risk all by showing it to them was a huge equalizer to the social awkwardness that I felt around pretty women. But it remained my intent that I would never be discovered by the Washington Biologist Field Club with a woman in terra prohibita.

In addition to keeping the premises safe, I had agreed to accomplish some material improvements to the cabin, specifically to pour a concrete floor for an outside porch.

This was a rather intimidating task, partly because I would have to hand carry all the concrete up a steep, cliffy switchback trail, after wheelbarrowing it a half mile down the towpath and ferrying across the moat-like channel. But, I had never poured concrete and had no idea how to do it. For that reason I procrastinated. I talked a friend in the construction business into helping me. But he wasn’t available until the day before the Field Club would convene a meeting.

On the agenda was the decision as to whether I should be allowed to continue on in the cabin, presumably making it safe from burglars and women. On the night before the meeting, on my watch, a woman would spend the night on Plummers Island. It would be a full blown emergency. Please join me next week or read the story, so far, online at