It took a little longer to walk Chester today. I got up early to get a quick walk in and start work earlier than usual. But it rained yesterday. Chester had to sniff every little earthy item and doubled down on the bunny sightings. I had to save the worms.
I can’t save them all, so I have rules. If there is a worm on the concrete, it is eligible. If it shows signs of trying to get to grass, or actually shows any sign of life at all, it moves up in the hierarchy. Bigger worms get priority, mostly because they have more hope of recovery once in the grass. It’s kind of like the American Idol of worms.
I save worms as sort of a penance for all the ones I used when fishing. My dad was a Fisherman with a capital F. He always was, but his favorite spot was about four hours north of Toronto, in a little place called Arnstein. He and my mom went there on their honeymoon by accident. How on earth do you end up in Arnstein? How can you get that lost? But, there weren’t cell phones, or GPS, just a good old map. Anyway they got lost and found a place called “Cudmore Clear Lake Cottages.” Every year, and I mean EVERY YEAR after that we went to Arnstein for 1-2 weeks. There are 8 cabins, and we tried them all. None of them had television. Our favorite cabin, Pine Point, didn’t even have inside plumbing or electricity. We did three things; we played hearts, we swam, and we fished. And fished.
Like I said, my dad was a Fisherman. In the spirit of “if you can’t beat them join them” my mom entered the fray. I have a photo of myself with a bucket. They would put a bucket in the boat, catch a small fish, and I would play with it and watch it. Then they would let it go. My sister, brother and I were indoctrinated into several “Dad truths”…
- You have to get up really early to catch the big ones. Once the sun comes out, the fish hide.
- If it’s raining, it’s even better. Fish love rain.
- Don’t rock the boat or play with the oars, it scares the fish.
- There’s no boat like a Cudmore boat.
- Let your (usually cold or wet) feet take care of themselves and you take care of yourself.
- Everybody carries something on the trails.
Did I mention that most of the lakes were a good hike away? We had these mosquito net things that you could put over your head (oh, trust me you needed them) and raincoats. We’d douse up with bug spray and keep moving. The only time we would stop was the Wolf River Bridge, since there were relatively few bugs there. We could take off our sweat laden hats and mosquito nets for a few minutes of “Off” scented air. Then we were off again. When we got to the boat, it was locked, and heaven help the person who forgot the key (it happened). We had to bail the boat with the cut in half milk jug and peel off the layers of clothing. Then we would push the boat, hop in, and head into the lake.
The fishing is matched only by the beauty of the lakes. Each one has its own character. Twin Lake was full of water lilies. I would lean over the boat, pull gently so as not to break it, and smell the fragrance that no one could bottle. Cook’s Lake was known as a pike lake, but it was ringed with dead trees and was kind of scary. Once we were coming back later than usual, in the dark, on the trail. Every step sounded like bigfoot or a bear. George’s Lake was the long hike through the cow poo and natural landmarks. My dad had names for everything. There was “Big Stump PO” and “Soggy Boggy.” Long Lake was no hike, but well, long. And windy! Jack’s Lake was by a dam. We never had much luck there. Our cabin was on Clear Lake, home of the diving board and snapping turtles.
After I married, we went to Arnstein with our children. I think they loved it as much as I did. I still remember how our boys took to using the motor so easily. There were a couple trips that my husband couldn’t go on, so I took the kids. On one, my daughter and I got lost on a 5 minute hike. We bushwhacked for 45 minutes before we found the trail. She saw my proud moment when in front of another fishing boat, I couldn’t get the outboard motor to go straight, and we went around in circles.
I still go when I can. I went a few years back with my sister and brother and their families. What I miss is the time with the family. I miss playing hearts. I miss sitting on the porch while dad messes with his tackle box and tries to untangle whatever horrible snag we put in the line. I miss going down to the camp weenie roast and hearing all the old guys tell fish tales. I miss the crazy dogs they always had roaming around—they would jump up and come right in to your cabin if something smelled good, especially Ben!
Things change. I used to feel the need to do everything exactly like we always did. I wanted to eat at the same places, and go to each lake, and walk to the barn. It was imagined permanence in an ethereal world. Nothing gold can stay, right? Traditions change as the people change. We make new traditions, and if they only last a few years, so be it. I have a sticker on my cabinet door that says it’s good to let go. I miss the old times but try to think of them with a smile and move on. They aren’t gone, they are part of me.
During one of the trips, I was feeling sad to leave Arnstein. I couldn’t sleep and got up in time to see the mist on the lake. I took a kayak out on the still water. I sat in the mist with no one else in sight. I looked over to my left and a loon appeared out of the water and floated next to me. It’s as if he was saying he’d see me again. I like to think he is waiting for me. We sat for a few minutes, then he left. I of course realized my butt was soaked, and I went back too, but even a soggy boggy couldn’t break that spell. Here’s to traditions, old and new. May you and I have many more. Now go out and save a worm!