What resides in happy and agonized memory, is the four-mile stretch of the Housatonic River at Derby on which we rowed and raced for four years at Yale. Flowing through a thickly treed valley, with a scattering of houses along the banks, the river was both workplace and retreat, our country classroom and our field of battle. No matter how hard the practices or races, even in the heat of early fall or late spring, even on days, when not a breath of air rippled the water’s surface, even under a burning sun, the green panorama that rose on both shores provided a soothing setting far removed from the stone walls and leaded windows of our New Haven campus.
The most enchanting moments were the rare days in late fall or early spring when we were surprised by a light snowfall that covered the river with a soft blanket of slushy snow. As the flakes drifted down around us, enveloping us in a shifting mist, each time we took a stroke, the boat, slowed by the slush, would lurch forward a few feet before coming to a stop. And there, cut into the undulating greyish white blanket on which we floated, would be the evenly spaced black holes, four to a side, port and starboard, dug by the blades of our oars.
I have returned frequently to that place on the river for over fifty years now. It is where the strongest and fondest memories of my time at Yale have taken root.
– Tom Weil