N E I G H B O R S
about her boys climbing on unsafe boats, Catfish gets to keep his boats and Carl has a great excuse to invite people to the cabin for parties. “We were so glad that everything worked out this way. We really wanted the place cleaned up, but we didn’t want Catfish to have to haul off the boats to the dump,” Carl says. “He cannot part with his history. They are a part of him.” Many people are surprised the Orazios let Catfish keep so many boats on the property in the first place, let alone allow them to be planted in the front yard. But the fun-loving Orazios wouldn’t have it any other way. Catfish Scott Melton, known as Catfish to many people, stands next to his claim to fame, Boathenge. moved into his cabin Created in 2003, it puzzles bikers and joggers on the Katy Trail. when Anne was a teenager and has become a good family friend over the years. They might not always agree, but they understand each other. by Katherine Heine ing on end in exchange for beer and the cost of Even though Boathenge makes perfect sense to fuel for the backhoe. Offerman couldn’t refuse. Catfish and the Orazios, some bikers and joggers The next day Catfish, Carl and John began on the Katy Trail are utterly confused. cott Melton once said that when he dies what would later be called Boathenge. The six he wants to come back as a river dog. “When people ride by on their bikes you can boats in a semi-circle overlook the Missouri River Meeting him, you’re not so sure he’s kidhear them say, ‘What the heck?’ Carl says. “We on the edge of the farm near the Katy Trail. ding. Having lived along the Missouri were at the winery in April and the boys were “You should have seen Offerman’s face. Every River since 1978, he is an institution in Boone telling a guy who had rode his bike on the trail time we would get one in, he would just sit there County. about Boathenge. He just lit up and said, ‘I saw shaking his head smiling,” Carl says. “He said, ‘I It’s late one Saturday afternoon and Scott, those boats. I had no idea what they were, but I bought this backhoe 10 years ago, and I never known as “Catfish” to locals, is wearing a red took a bunch of pictures.’” thought I would have this much fun. You couldHawaiian shirt and a cowboy hat with turkey Members of the Lewis and Clark bicentennial n’t pay me to do this.’” feathers sticking out of the brim. Standing on a expedition stopped to see the riverside oddity There was only one casualty during “spring hill overlooking the river, he talks about teaching this summer. planting.” An old blue plywood boat fell in on his kids to swim in the Big Muddy, walking The Orazios haven’t had any problems with itself when Offerman tried to lift it. That night across the frozen river twice and boating to sandpeople pestering the boats. The only thing that they burned its remains as homage to the river bars to watch the sun set. has been stolen is a pink flamingo yard ornagods, says Catfish, laughing. Over the years, the avid boater has accumulatment. The attraction’s ever-increasing notoriety “I am sure people in the future will attach ed an eclectic mix of nearly a dozen boats, each will probably not fuel vandalism simply because some religious experience to Boathenge. They with as much character as Catfish himself. There of logistics, Catfish says. will probably think we were worshiping the gods are red ones with fins, a pale Pink Flamingo and “If you are going to be a thief, a bike is not of the river or something,” Catfish says, who figeven one with car-like turn signals. The boats the best way,” he says. ures the fiberglass boats will last another 50 to represent more than 23 years of memories, so He talks like he wants to plant more. Catfish 100 years. when they break down, he keeps them around. loves collecting boats, especially ones with fins He jokes about what it would be like if they Catfish rents a cabin on a 100-acre family farm like cars from the 1950s. However, the Orazios had tried to erect the boats in suburbia. owned by Carl and Anne Orazio. As much as have more of a minimalist attitude. “I think there’s probably an ordinance against they wanted him to hold onto his boating mem“I think when it comes to planting boats in a it,” Catfish says with a smile. “By the way, I ories, they didn’t want their two curious sons front yard, less is more,” Anne says. “Besides, we don’t know why people build those giant houses hurt playing near the old boats. would never have an opportunity like someone so close together they can spit on each other.” In the winter of 2003, they all met to discuss being down here with a backhoe again.” It’s hard to imagine Catfish functioning in the what to do with the boats. Anne suggested filling When he is not planting boats, Catfish works stuffy normalcy of the suburbs as he walks beside a couple of them with sand to make a play area for a rental assistance program in Columbia. He Boathenge, reminiscing about memories had in for the boys, but the idea lost out to a much also keeps an eye on the farm, cuts the grass and each of the boats as if he were touting the more impractical, wacky solution. They decided sometimes swings on a rope swing tied to a giant accomplishments of his own children. to plant the boats sticking straight out of the oak in the front yard of the Orazio’s cabin. He had his first boat, the Sea Fury, on the ground like the 1950s cars at the Cadillac Ranch “It feels so high. You are flying right over the river for about four hours before his friend made in Amarillo, Texas. Missouri River,” he says. too sharp a turn and ripped the motor out. His “We all thought it was a great idea, but we It’s apparent Catfish loves the river. He says he second favorite is the Pink Flamingo, a pale-pink didn’t have the means to lift the boats or dig lives in a $100 house on a $1 million plot of land, boat on which he fastened two flamingo lawn holes big enough,” Catfish says. “We never and he plans to stay as long as the world will ornaments. And as if Boathenge weren’t odd thought it would actually happen.” have him. He hopes his boats will withstand the enough, the red boat at the end of the formation But fate was on their side. John Offerman was temperaments of the changing river long after working with his backhoe on a boat ramp near he’s gone. Maybe someday archeologists will has a tree growing up through the steering wheel. Easley when Catfish approached him with a think a man worshiped the river gods, he says. But for the Orazios and Catfish, Boathenge is proposition -– help partially bury six boats standthe ideal solution. Anne doesn’t have to worry Maybe they’re right.
A reminder to never to let a man have free reign over the front yard