Honoring a Friend on the River

January 28, 2011

Honoring a Friend on the River

The James River is full of life, history, and opportunities to forge special friendships.  In mid 2009 through the end of 2010 I enjoyed a brief but powerful friendship with Danny Jefferson. Danny was a Chickahominy Indian, and a respected man of their Tribal Council. He was also very active in the community and if something was worth doing, he gave it his all.

Danny was direct and observant and the kind of guy that would teach you things when you didn't even know you were learning. Something I'll never forget ... the evening of December 12, he called and said, "I saw you grow on the water this past year, I just want you to know that ... I saw you grow with my own eyes."  The next day, December 13, 2010, Danny walked on.

Together we learned a lot about bald eagles. But that evening after we talked I realized he taught me a few things about life along the in the short time we spent together on the river. Now he's gone, but will always be on my boat and a part of who I am becoming. Danny was a deep and spiritual man and I wanted to find a way to honor him on the James. 

One of the questions I am asked quite often is, "Where do you run your Eagle Tours?" I generally respond, "On the James River between Deep Bottom Boat Landing and the Richmond Yacht Basin."  It's about a five-mile stretch, and includes parts of two oxbows (Jones Neck and Hatcher Island) and the section of the main river that connects them.  In that "reach" of river, five pair of resident bald eagles have taken up residency and are the ones I follow most of the time. It is the area Danny and I worked together.

Riding downriver one early morning, heading east into towards the sunrise, I found myself thinking about Danny and an idea came to mind, and it formed quickly and clearly. I found a way to honor Danny Jefferson in my work and it was during a time much like the sunrise seen in the top right photo. 

I believe naming natural things gets you closer to them; it connects and helps them become familiar. The five-mile stretch of the James River between Deep Bottom and the Richmond Yacht Basin now has a name ... I have started to call it, 'Jefferson's Reach'. It was here that I met Danny, and we started to work together on my boat, sharing the history of the river from the bald eagle's incredible conservation success story, to some of the native American history Danny was famous for sharing. This is the area Danny 'reached' out to me and the lucky folks we carried out on the river on the Discovery Barge II.

Now when people ask where I work, I can proclaim "Jefferson's Reach", and explain to them all about it. Or when out on the river, and viewing bald eagles, I can let people know we are in Jefferson's Reach. What a perfect segue into connecting the bald eagles to the history of the area and the Virginia Indians. 

-- Capt. Mike


The Photos Stories?  Top Right:  This is an image that always reminded me of Danny and the great history of the James River.  You can go back as far in time as you wish in this image.  The sunrise has not changed in eons.

Bottom Left:  This is a necklace Danny made and presented it to me on the Discovery Barge II, after a Capt. John Smith Watertrail tour.  The necklace is made of bones, beads, copper, sinew, wampum and the centerpiece is a 'scute' from an Atlantic Sturgeon. The rattail at the top is Danny's signature.  To learn about Atlantic Sturgeon, click here.