My dad bought this cabin in 1959 after we had spent several summers at a resort next door. It was just a little hunting shack with an outhouse, a resident mouse who stole our cookies every night unless we had them sealed away, and a wood stove to keep us warm on chilly summer nights. Eventually my dad built a larger house, but for 6 or 7 years, our little cabin (with indoor plumbing added), was our home away from home in the summer.
But it really wasn’t the cabin itself that mattered. It was all the amazing things we could do all day long outdoors. First, of course, was time in the water. We went swimming, wading for minnows, and later, lots and lots of water skiing, boating and even a little fishing.
My brother, sister and I played a game that had no name with a small outboard fishing boat. We took turns driving the boat, and one of the other two sat in the bow of the boat and dropped a chunk of two-by-four over the side. The object was to see who could spot when the wood was dropped the fastest, and then turn the boat around and pick it up in one pass. If you had to go back around for a second pass, you lost. That was a great game when it was too cold to swim.
It seems that summers in the northwoods were much cooler than they are these days. Old pictures often show us in sweatshirts and long pants. The nights could be quite chilly and the wood stove and a warm blanket were essential. Campfires were always fun, especially when there were marshmallows to roast. Mosquitoes were always present, but never much fun. While it seems to be warmer in the summer now, (a few years back it got up to 100 degrees!)the mosquitoes are still not much fun.
We had some very good family friends who usually spent part of the summer in another cabin nearby. Because our parents were good friends, they usually didn’t pay a whole lot of attention to what we kids were up to. So the six of us generally had the run of the woods, collecting drift wood, “rare” stones, crayfish and other treasures. The dads were always good for driving the boats when we water skied, usually for hours and hours, or for as long as the gas in the boat held out. We skied alone, we skied in twos or even threes. Friend John grabbed my tow line once and kept cutting in front of me until he finally made me fall. Not sure if I have ever forgiven him for that.
We did a little fishing, but the dads weren’t really too much into that. Sometimes we caught perch or crappies between the floor boards on the pier. Once I caught a good size fish in the boat and my dad held it up for the family in the other boat to see – and dropped it into the lake! When we got older, my brother and sister and I went out fishing alone and sometimes caught something decent. Mostly, it was just about being out on the water.
Our lake is part of a chain of 27 lakes that you can traverse from one end to the other. So we would load up the two boats, my family’s and our friends boat, and take the whole day to go through most of the lakes, get lifted over the road to the lower chain of lakes, and go all the way to Eagle River. After a picnic lunch, we would go all the way back home. One year it didn’t go quite like that. Our friend’s boat had a mechanical failure of some type. We had to leave it on the other side of the chain, and all ten of us rode back to our lake in one seriously overloaded boat. We had to go fairly slowly as the boat wallowed through the water and wouldn’t really plane properly, but we did eventually get safely home.
There are hundreds of other adventures and memories from my childhood years at the lake, but as the years have gone by, we now are making memories with our children and their children. My siblings have gathered several times with their families, growing to their children’s spouses and then to grandkids. We pack into the larger house with more room, but we still end up with bodies sleeping all over the place.
But the fun is always the same: lots of time in the water, lots of time ON the water, lots of good food, lots of silliness, lots of family, lots of reminiscing. It’s still my favorite place in the whole world and I can’t imagine anything ever changing that.
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