Lock 23 on the Erie Canal, one of the busiest on the waterway because of its location in the Oswego River at the west end of Oneida Lake, is manned by Pete, aka “The Chief.” Pete has planted a world-class herb garden at the side of his lock house. His lockside farm includes tomatoes and peppers and zucchini. There’s a sunny clump of black-eyed susans smiling over the herbs and morning glories twined along the lock fence. Pete has hung brightly colored hummingbird feeders throughout the garden and set bluebird houses among the trees in the adjoining park. All this is not just a feast for the eye. Pete leaves a stack of bags tucked into the information shelf at the lock and invites the boaters to help themselves to the garden’s bounty. We sent Molly and Tom to collect cherry tomatoes for our dinner salad. They were delicious—so delicious that they disappeared before they could join the salad!
One of the challenges of the Commissary is to find a way to shop as we move along the canal. Supermarkets are rarely found in the center of town these days—and we don’t have a car. Pete had already thought of this, and before we made our way out of Lock 23, he offered to take Barb and me shopping when he finished his shift. So later in the afternoon, he came along to our mooring place on the wall above the lock, tooting his horn to let us know he’d arrived. Barb and I climbed into his little red truck, and off we went. It was a fifteen-minute ride to the supermarket, and Pete entertained us with good conversation along the way. Then he waited—and waited—and waited while we made our way through the aisles of a strange supermarket (where’s the.. ?) and filled two big carts with provisions for the crew. When we reappeared in the parking lot an hour (!) later, Pete was still smiling and cheerful. What a guy.
So, thank you, Chief, for the beautiful garden, the good company, your kindness, and, above all, your patience. We look forward to seeing you again at Lock 23 when we head back east.