Douglas Hill
opinion, humor and small town common sense
Thursday, November 18, 2004

An e-mail Correspondence

Attorney Walks on Water Posted by Hello

What follows in an actual e-mail correspondence between two old friends entering their second childhood. Regrettably, I am one of the two. File this under humor (or pathos).


Let this picture humble you.

—Pond Man

I suspect that's probably hot water you've gotten yourself into.



I thought you might like to know the truth of my heroic exploits this week. I have therefore attached the photo depicting what really happened this past Monday. You might still ask, however, how I got out to the rock, or was this all an illusion? Any thoughts Professor Hill?

—Pond Man

Pond Man,

Possible explanations for your dry arrival at the rock:

1) You rode out to the rock on the back of the whale that is blowing through his spout hole behind you.

2) Halo insertion from 40 thousand feet, with the evidence of your parachute buried beneath the surface of the pond.

3) Taxi cab.

4) God parted the waters of the pond, and falling into his trap, you walked out to the rock, where you remain, trapped, as the waters united. (It is an old trick to get rid of lawyers.)

5) Row boat that was scuttled once you made land (er, rock).

Do not despair, I have only just begun to examine this problem, and will inevitably get to the bottom of it.


Nice try Hill, but no prize this time around. Perhaps you should float a few more theories. I'll give you some help.

Hint #1: I was an engineer in the military.

Hint #2: There was no boat, automobile, bicycle, or flying device of any kind to deliver me to the rock.

Hint #3: Although there was some ice on the perimeter of the pond, it was much too thin to walk on (I'm 220 pounds, solid muscle of course).

Hint #4: The water around the rock was about three feet deep, and I never got my feet wet.

Good Luck Hill. You'll need it!

—Pond Man

Pond Man,

I'm sure you don't imagine that I will fall for that "engineer" ploy. Clearly, there is no involvement of a choo choo train (notwithstanding your omission of same from hint #2), as there are no tracks, trellises, or bridgework.

You have gone to great pains to describe how little ice existed in the pond – possibly to deflect my attention from an ice floe that you floated out to the rock on, which then melted.

Then, of course, there is always the remote, unlikely possibility that you were "put in jail" to be ransomed out by donations to United Way. Probably went out there on a plank (that was subsequently removed by undergrads demanding money and better grades).

Am I getting warm?

—The Enlightened One

Hill, you should not refer to yourself as "Enlightened One," at least not for now. I knew when I referenced my engineering background that I should have added the following parenthetic phrase: (not the choo choo engineer, but the MIT-type engineer). However, when writing that last e-mail, I figured you were smart enough to recognize which type of engineer I was referencing. I apologize for giving you so much credit. I will be more specific in future correspondence.

Now, getting back to the important subject matter at hand; the distance between the shore (or "pond bank" if you will) and the rock is approximately 20 feet. Planks are only 16 feet in length (but how would you have known this, never having worked enough with wood to suffer even a splinter wound). More importantly, however, if there were a 20 foot plank, or even if you joined two planks together, my feet would have suffered water damage on my way out to the rock. A 20-foot plank would bend like hell in the middle; once again, I weigh in at 220 pounds, and as aforementioned, this is close to 220 pounds of solid, heavy muscle. As you can see, my engineering background has come in handy again in figuring the relationship between the bendability of wood and the stress that can affect it at a point in the middle of its length.

But good try.

—Pond Man (looking smarter by the moment)

Pond Man, M.E.B.S., MIT ('74)

Aahh, while it is true, grasshopper, that only a plank of immense strength would be able to support a weighty engineer, the engineering concept of tensile strength is introduced with the addition of an aluminum extension ladder for support. A veritable I-beam. Light enough to carry, yet strong enough to support. A tactical engineering triumph. On the other hand, were I you (which merciful God, I am not), I might think it easier to have one or two strong undergrads in wading boots carry me out to the rock (a third could bring some ice and scotch – just to stave off the chill, don't you know.)

—The Illustrious, Prescient, Enlightened One

OH "Enlightened One," the gig is up. You have solved the "Riddle of the Rock." Yes it is true. A 30-foot aluminum ladder was placed between the rock and the shore (pond bank, if you will). Two 10-foot boards were placed on the rungs so that I would not fall through the ladder as I made my journey to the rock. When I arrived on the rock, my assistant then removed the two boards, and then removed the ladder and hid it. After an hour on the rock, the ladder and boards were reinstalled to allow me safe passage to the place I had been before.

My reference to the fact that I had been an engineer in the military was an appropriate hint. I helped build portable bridges across ponds and streams in Vietnam. If there was a rock in the middle of a crossing, we would use it as a pillar to support our bridge. So I was right at home designing a portable instrumentality to span the distance from shore to the middle of a pond.

My biggest unknown, and my biggest fear, was the goose factor. Every day a huge gaggle of Canadian geese descend upon the pond and hang around the pond, and the rock, for a good part of the day. These geese are really big. I then learned that these geese tend to be territorial. I was therefore somewhat nervous about a possible siege while I was standing on "their" rock.

Anticipating a problem, I developed a two-pronged plan in the event of attack. The first prong of the plan involved a six-foot wooden closet pole that I brought out with me to the rock. I figured maybe I would intimidate the geese if I swung a club at them and made menacing faces. I was also prepared to whack any encroacher with my makeshift club. Prong two of my plan was a little more desperate. I brought a complete set of clothing with me in the event the club did not thwart off an attack and I had to evacuate the rock "in a hurry." With no time to reinstall the bridge system, I would have jumped in the water and run to shore as quickly as possible. I would have saved face by characterizing my flight not so much as a "retreat," but as a "strategic withdrawal." Once I had changed into dry clothing I would have returned to the pond where I would have set up a base camp along the side of the pond, holding my sign and waving to passersby.

Fortunately, I did not need to deploy either prong of my well designed plan. Only a handful of geese arrived at the pond during my visit to the rock. They stared at me from the shoreline as if saying to themselves, "What the Heck. . .? I was thankful, however, that reinforcements had not flown in. A mob-mentality might then have emerged, causing me to deploy my "untried" plan.

Once again, you are to be commended for solving the "Riddle of the Rock."

—Pond Man
Henry David Thoreau

Simon & Garfunkel

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