As summer winds down I found myself having a great memory. Ten years ago I took my twins, then 5, to the Northwoods of Wisconsin. A friend had told me about a family camp which offered rustic cabins, fishing, boating and the opportunity to completely unplug.
I was in.
On our second morning we set out on the lake after the day's catch. With young kids, I spent most of my time wrapped in and untangling fishing line, only to bait it, cast it and watch it quickly tangle again (this ain't Deadliest Catch folks).
An hour or so in, my son's fishing reel, a blue youth special from Target ($9.85), jammed. After 15 minutes or so trying to fix it, I gave him my rod. Later that afternoon we were goofing around on the pier when a lanky, silver haired man appeared, anchoring his boat nearby. He wandered over and introduced himself as Russ Wicker and said he had been coming to camp for over 60 years.
He saw my son struggling with the reel and reached out with rugged hands formed through years of self-reliance. Russ took the rod and reel, sat down in his boat and proceeded to work on it and both of my kids watched from the pier, mesmerized.He told a couple of stories along the way such as the black bear who slowly descended into the lake's eastern shore while dozens of campers watched from the west. Russ knew all of the families, including the one who had stayed in our cabin during the 1950's.
When the reel was ready, he planted one end in a piece of wood on the shore, then slowly rowed his boat out into the water until the line was straight.
I was simply amazed that this man, who we knew for all of ten minutes, would take the time to patiently fix a fishing pole I was happy to toss and replace. The next day Russ gave us a tour of the lake, complete with a lesson in netting minnows and bird calling. But it was much more than that. Russ gave my kids, and me, a lesson about renewal, love of the land and the simple pleasures of life. That night the three of us sat by the fire under a chilled, crisp sky. A sky lit up by the moon, free of streetlights, cars and the rush of life.
Later in the week as I retold the story a couple of old timers reminded me that "it probably meant as much to him." They're right of course, and we've been back every year.
Do you have a memory of someone going out of their way for you or your family? I would enjoy hearing from you in the comments section.
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