Readers of these Thursday posts might recognize Crag and Donna as two of my oldest and dearest friends—our friendship dates back fifty years, and I have written about them here several times. But I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned that for as long as I’ve known Craig it has been his dream to have a cabin in the North Woods.
Donna’s dad and his brother bought property here after completing their service in the victorious United States armed forces at the end of WWII. I’m not even sure there was a lake back then. Donna tells me the lake one sees today was formed by a dam the government built, however, she isn’t sure when this occurred.
For all we knew, the place had been uninhabited, pure wilderness, yet this would have made no difference. These were optimistic days for America.
The first time I traveled here to visit them and the kids, the “house” was basically a rough shack with a rickety loft for sleeping where somebody had stashed literally hundreds of bottle rockets. I fondly recall one pitch-dark night when Craig and I snuck off into the trees after everybody else had gone to sleep to have a bottle rocket war. Drunk, of course. There was supposed to be water, but I noticed that nobody swam. Among the tall weeds surrounding the shack, it required more imagination than this writer possessed to envision either the current flotilla, consisting of a large pontoon, two fishing boats, or the two planked piers, the storage shed, the strung hammock, or the wide lake frontage.
Anyway, the land belonged to Donna’s family. As her extended family grew, more space was needed. On day, Donna, her mom, adult brothers and sisters decided to abandon their wilderness. They cleared the weeds, cleared the rocks from the water nearest shore and erected a proper lake house.
This is the house that Lee would have known.
Dreams die hard. Less than two years ago, Craig and Donna purchased property located fifteen or twenty minutes from the lake house Donna shares with her siblings and their now-adult children. It consists of two pieces of land slightly separated from each other. One is wooded; the other has lake access but is too small to build anything other than, perhaps, another tiny shack.
Today, the lake has been heavily developed, so despite its remoteness, land for homes comes at a heavy premium.
Craig and Donna’s nearest neighbors, a pair of relative lakeside old timers who own a large lot on the water, are planning to build themselves a new house on their property. To save money and avoid demolition costs they offered to give the existing structure to Craig and Donna, if Craig and Donna would arrange and pay to have it moved, which they did! (And what a story it is.)
In honor of my old friend’s dream finally coming to fruition of sorts (he had boasted he would build it himself by hand), I promised to visit them in the North Woods once more, and for a couple of days last week did just that. It remains a long drive. Going there, it rained most of the time. Each time a fleeting glimpse of sunshine would come and go, I would picture a helpless George Clooney at the wheel of his doomed fishing trawler in A Perfect Storm.
Fortunately, Lola the Pup and I made land still in one piece. To celebrate our safe arrival, my Wonder Dog promptly dashed from my Subaru into the lake to take a swim.
During our short visit, we enjoyed two good, home-cooked meals. (Craig remains an excellent cook.) Lola and I visited the “new” house.
Also, we four took a long hike through woods already carpeted with yellow and red leaves.
The highlight? Well, in all the years I’ve been visiting Craig and Donna in the North Woods I’d never seen Craig catch a fish. I can tell you it wasn’t for any lack of trying.
Craig and Len, another of our friends, now deceased, would go out onto the lake every day at dawn. Together, they never caught even one decent fish. From land, you could see them arguing like cats and dogs in their tiny fishing boat, their voices thankfully drowned by the outboard.
Around sunset our first night, Craig said he was going down to the pier to cast a worm on a hook. From my chair on the screened porch, I heard a small splash. Shortly, Craig was yelling excitedly, “I got a big one. It’s a big one.”
I looked over in his direction and in the fading sunlight saw the silhouette of a large, well-defined fish. The fish was still dangling off the hook in the air. Craig either didn’t see the nearby net, or else couldn’t reach it. I watched as he tried to pin that fish to the pier’s landing with one foot. Doing so, he reminded me of Michael Keaton as Beetlejuice, futilely attempting to stomp the ghostly Barbara Maitland’s (played by Geena Davis) chattering teeth flopping desperately about the floor. Now, as I watch poor Craig, he is helpless, the fish suddenly off the hook, wildly flopping about the pier, then back into the water and to freedom!
3: something (such as writing or speech) that is insipid, simplistic, or bland…intended to offend no one
— Merriam-Webster Dictionary (http:/www.miriam-webster.com/dictionary/pabulum)
Finally, in the words of Maximus Decimus Meridius, I ask my readers, “Are you entertained?”