WE CALLED IT FISHING
Northern Minnesota, Land of 10,000 Lakes and 43 Trillion fish. Here, people fish for Muskies and Northerns, Largemouth Bass, Walleyes and Crappies. Many people own a lake place. They call the lake places "cabins". At the tip of Lake Superior in Duluth, people fish off the ship canal for "Lakers" in the Summer, and drag their ice houses right out onto Lake Superior, in the Winter. They drill holes in the ice and settle down to stay warm and maybe catch a fish dinner. I LOVE to fish--but, not at 20 below. I can sit on an overturned bucket and drink beer in my garage. And, there's a bathroom much closer by.
I was born and raised in "Upstate New York" Land of the Finger Lakes, where people fish for Pickerel, Perch and Pumpkinseeds. They have lake places that they call "cottages" or "camps” on lakes with names like Keuka, Skaneatlas and Tuscarora. I started fishing with my mom and dad when I was very little. We would rent a small cottage on one of the closer lakes and spend our week “fishing”. My dad would row the three of us out to the middle of the Lake, where they would sit all day with their lines in the water and I would play with my paper dolls. We said we were fishing.
Opening Fishing weekend has always been a big deal with us, starting when I was about four, we would head over to the Catskill Mountains to fish the small river that ran through the dairy farm of some friends—in West Bovina, NY. Dairy/bovine? Nope, I didn't make that up. My mom would pack everything into our 1936 Ford and we would pick my dad up from work at exactly 5:00 and drive into the night, heading about 5 hours to the east. On this big dairy farm, just before "Opening Fishing" came "Sugaring Off" when they would tap the maple trees. We would stumble into that sleepy old farmhouse after the long drive, and the first thing that washed over you was the warm smell of maple sugar cakes, drying in the oven. Sometimes, there were new baby calves to see. And always, there were the huge draft horses you could catch a ride on. When you were a little kid, your feet stuck out on either side of their broad backs, like riding on an overstuffed couch. We have a picture of my mother, down by the river, wearing her favorite fishing outfit, a white blouse and a pair of riding jodphers—I have no idea where she got them, she wasn’t a horse person. But she was standing there, holding at arm’s length, the nasty-looking eel she had just caught and from the look on her face, you knew she was building up to a piercing scream.
Fondly remembering our childhood fishing vacations, Tom and I planned a few family adventures of our own-- Day trips fishing on the Whiteface , weeks at the family cabin and a houseboat trip into the Boundary Waters with three kids and a dog, to see the moose and the bears. The wildest animals we saw all week were chipmunks. And they had to be coaxed out of hiding with peanut butter.
When our kids were still little, we flew in on a big old rumble-y Beaver prop pontoon plane, to a Canadian fishing camp, a place 25 miles and 7 portages away from the nearest scrap of humanity. "Oh please don't let anyone have an appendicitis attack" I mumbled, as we stood on the shoreline and watched the plane get smaller and smaller in the sky. Once the kids got over the scary nighttime visits to the outhouse, it was a wonderful time, fishing and swimming in the pristine wilderness and cool, quiet lake. Just at dusk one day the guys were out fishing in the boat and middle son snagged into something that didn’t budge. He and his little Zebco fishing rod tried their hardest, but finally, the immoveable object loomed out of the water, gave them all the fishy “stink eye” and plunged to the bottom of the lake, taking, the Zebco (but not the kid) with it. Whoa! “Hey Dad, lets go back to the cabin and play Battleships, okey”? No late night skinny-dipping THAT night! So what do the kids remember about this wild adventure? That by the last morning we had run out of milk and I made them put root beer on their Cheerios. You’d think they’d get over it—but nooooo.
HERE, FISHY, FISHY!
My husband is a very scientific fisherman. Reads everything he can about catching fish. When we go fishing, he's in charge of the location, the lures, trolling or casting or jigging on the bottom. He always thinks if he hasn't gotten a hit in the first 15 minutes, the fish aren't there and we need to move on. I am in the other end of the boat. I am in charge of the anchor. I just get my line in and I hear--"Well, there's nothing here, let's move on". I reel in my line and pull up the anchor. Get to the next place, put the anchor down-- get the line in the water--"Well, there's nothing here....pull up the anchor, wouldja?” My question--Is there a medal being given for superior anchor management? Because I think I qualify.
Opening Fishing weekend usually found us in a boat, on a Northern Minnesota lake, with some good friends. One year, the trip started out like a runaway train wreck and got worse from there. First thing, our friend hadn't fastened the latch on the boat hitch and when he stopped at the red light in the first little town up the Northshore, the boat--a very large boat--slammed into the back of his shiny, new SUV, putting a lovely, big puncture wound through the trunk. Dang! Was he ever mad!
After a long, silent drive, we found that our rental cabin had been rented to someone else. Finally, we found a ratty place, convinced ourselves that the strange smell coming from the crawl space didn’t matter, but Boy! Were we hungry! So “lets call it a day and have our opening night steak dinner.” Welllll, our friend discovered that, back home, when he'd re-arranged the fishing gear to fit in just one more tackle box, he forgot to put some things back into the boat--like all of the food, except the bag with the mustard, ketchup, pancake syrup and---- toilet paper. Back to town for dinner that night.
So, next day, we'd better get out there and catch some fish, right? First trip out, I kept hanging up on weeds and everybody would reel in while we poled over to untangle my lure. Then, we'd go back to where we were and toss our lines back in. And it would happen again. After about four times, Tom noticed I was just sitting there, looking at the scenery. I was stuck again, but didn't want to tell anyone. He quietly reached over and cut my line.
So, because I wasn't fishing, I was in charge of driving the boat. The fisher-people would point and I'd do my best to get us there, only one time I cut a sharp angle and the motor lever got stuck. We started spinning around in circles, with everybody's lines still out. First, I couldn't stop it because it was jammed, then I couldn't stop it because we were all laughing so hard. Except Tom, who had gone out on the covered bow. We were going around and around, gaining speed, and he could only hold his rod straight up, hang on and yell. Yow! Owww! Yeee-owww! Wow! Like I said, bonafide train wreck. We cut it short and went home.
Our one and only, first and last canoe trip could have qualified for my story about “Disasters I Have Known”. Here we were, coming DOWN the Kawishawi River on the last day of our first canoe adventure, and the howling 50 mile per hour winds were going UP. It had rained every day, all five days and not a single fish dinner had crossed our lips. We were with another couple, he being a wilderness guide and she a former camp counselor---both very experienced campers. By this time, I believe they had had a little spat and she was spending most of her time in the tent, reading paperbacks. No singing around the campfire for us! Tom was still gimping around in his burned-up boot that I had tried to dry out by the campfire and our sleeping bags were very soggy. It wasn’t looking good to make it to base camp that night, so the hot showers and grilled steaks were probably going to be a “not happening”. With no campsites nearby and darkness coming on, we put up our tents on the first chunk of solid rock we found. I remember going to sleep, wondering if that very tall red pine above us would come crashing down in the night. Next morning- a Miracle happened. The sun came out and we could go HOME. The canoe trip was DONE. And we didn’t EVER have to do it again! “Done is good” has always been my live-by motto.
NEW AND IMPROVED
Many companies periodically make changes in their products and announce that they are “New and Improved”. That usually means that the former product, which you searched for forever, loved, relied on, recommended to friends and can’t live without, will no longer be available. Except in its’ “new and improved” state. Which is to say “not available”.
I have an electric egg poacher that was given to me as a bridal shower gift 60 years ago and is still working away. Evidently, it never needed improving, because the company is still making similar ones and people are still buying them. I always joked that when the egg poacher quits working, the marriage is over. Good for a laugh, until it got close to six decades. Now, I’m starting to get a little nervous. What happens if it does stop working? Will I have to buy a “new and improved”one? Or will there be a “new and improved”me?
To me, “Improved” usually means something needed improving. I always wonder if the improvers succeeded in their improvements. I once had a Dodge Durango. I loved that car. Perfect size for me to drive, perfect cargo space for costumes, antique furniture, dogs, whatever. I drove it for years. Then it started showing its’ age-making mysterious crackly noises, sucking up too much oil. Time to trade it in. But, the Durango people had improved upon my car. It was now heavier by a ton or two, and the size was approaching that of a Mack truck and $$$ zoomed to $$$$$. Improvements? Hardly!
I don’t know what this newspaper’s policy is about mentioning “unmentionables” but, let’s talk underwear-specifically bottoms, both sexes. For years, you’ve searched for THE perfect underwear. You’ve gone through the high cut, low cut, stretchy polyester, Scottie dogs and sports teams briefs until, Oh Happy Day! you find THE ONES. They bend when you do, don’t sag where you don’t, they don’t ride up, they don’t fall down and they don’t lose themselves in your washing machine. They come in four solid colors, all your favorites—and camo. You rush out to buy some more of those babies, right now! But, so sorry, you can’t. Nope, really you can’t. They’ve been discontinued by the manufacturer. One of their analysts did a study. The pre-production cost estimates were mis-calculated and the company is losing 37 cents on every pair you buy. Too bad, so sad.
My husband has a gasoline-driven garden wagon. He’s had it for about 25 years, has taken very good care of it and it works just fine. Last year, the tires were flat and looked like they were split, so he contacted the company to order new tires. Uh oh. They no longer stock those tires. But, do they still make that model garden wagon? “Yes, yes we do. But it’s been improved” Husband-“What do you do for tires?” Company-“Different size, different tire, won’t work for your wagon”. Husband-“ solution?” Company-“Uh…... new wagon?”
Back to the subject of wedding gifts that didn’t need improving, where are those wonderful sheets and pillowcases that we got in the 50s and 60s? They weren’t silky and sleazie, they were crisp. They didn’t wrap themselves around your neck and they DIDN’T HAVE TO BE IRONED!! Yes, I know they weren’t pure 100% organic cotton and they had polyester in them and maybe they “pilled” after awhile, but they DIDN’T HAVE TO BE IRONED! Now, you get “wrinkle-free” sheets that come out of the dryer looking like dried-up tumbleweeds.
Toasters were another popular wedding gift, 60 years ago. Sometimes you got 3 or 4. They amazingly toasted all four corners of your bread--both sides. In 60 years, I’ve probably owned 18 toasters. The one I have now is two years old and only toasts the bread on the top half. I’ve gotten used to turning the bread around, half-way through. You have to learn to deal with these improvements.
In the early 1960s, all brides got a set of metal ECCO kitchen utensils. They had matching plastic handles printed with an attractive Pennsylvania Dutch design and included a hanging rack. The set consisted of a spatula, cake server, sieve, slotted spoon, solid spoon and an egg beater. The solid spoon found its’ way to the kid’s sandbox, the spatula and the egg beater lost their handles and the rest gradually wandered off. But I still have the slotted spoon. I would have to say that this product has been improved. They are now made entirely of plastic or nylon. And I would be willing to bet my egg poacher they will make it through 60 years, handles and all. So, 60 years of marriage and I still have the original egg poacher, slotted spoon and husband. No improvements needed, thank you very much.
Next time-Pets. Most everyone has had a pet, even if only a Myrtle turtle. Here’s part 1 about the many pets of a spoiled only child. That would be me.
PETS AND PETS
I am, always was and always will be, an only child, born when my mom was 28. In those days, when women had their children when they were a younger age, that meant that I was a “Late-in-life-only-child”. Huuuuuge potential for being spoiled rotten, there! So, probably to compensate for my “alone-ness”, we had lots of pets. I’m talking not only puppies and kitties. I’m talking lizzards, hamsters, ducks and CHICKENS!
In 1944, when I was very little, some well-meaning relative gave me three baby chicks for Easter—a pink one, a blue one and a yellow one. The pink and blue ones had been colored with toxic dye and sadly, they quickly turned up their little toes. The yellow one was “au natural” and she grew into a real chicken named “Susie”, who followed me everywhere. Susie wore the same size clothes as my dolly, “Sweetie Pie” and even had the same taste in baby bonnets. She would patiently let me dress her up and wheel her around the neighborhood in my doll buggy. We were an odd pair. One morning, however, Susie was missing. My Mom explained that Susie had grown tired of City life and had gone back to live on the farm. I often wondered just how she got there.
The town I grew up in was very small, 743 people in all, and boasted a little old Victorian train station. Our whole family was at the depot one Saturday afternoon, waving to my Uncle Claude as the train started to pull away, headed for Penn Yann, N. Y. Suddenly, down the street, honking all the way, barreled this large tan duck, determined to make the train. Just as he dove under the wheels, my dad made a grab and got him by one foot. The duck was not happy about missing his train and really let him know it, hissing and snapping. The story later came out that a young farmhand had brought him into the local bar with hopes of trading him in for a few beers. When the duck pooped on the gleaming mahogany bar, as ducks will do, the bartender scooped him up and threw him out the front door. Nobody seemed to want him back, so the duck came home to live with us-in the basement, where he pooped and honked to his heart’s content. My mother stood him for as long as she could, but one morning I awoke to find that “Uncle Ducky” had joined Susie out at the farm. My mother said he took the bus.
Then there was The Hamster Family—plural and more plural. You would think that my two sensible adult parents would know better than to buy a little kid TWO hamsters- a boy hamster, Chucky and a girl hamster, Doreen-a very chubby, fluffy little girl hamster. My dad built them a tiny cage—singular. Their new home. Next day there were six hamsters, little Doreen evidently being not just chubby but very pregnant. So, my dad knocked together more cages—and more. It has been said that it is very difficult to determine the sex of a hamster. They don’t seem to have any problem at all.
The pet shop owner was very gracious and took our 23 hamsters in on trade towards a new puppy and, 7 years old, I discovered DOGS. That was Daisy Moppet, a fluffy white terrier type. Since then, there have been Mitzi, Heidi and Tina, the daschund trio who starred in my childhood doodles of their great adventures . There was Clancy from the Minneapolis animal shelter, named after my kids TV hero of the time. Then came the Big Dogs, the English Sheepdog/black lab/poodle mixes. MacDuff the Mighty, twins Toby and Dudley, (don’t ever go to get a puppy when there are only two left) Gus the Gorgeous, Rudy from Peaver, S.D. and now Jordie. Every morning, Rudy would come with that “look” . “Is he leaving, yet?” And I can’t forget Rosie O’Grady, the only dog I ever knew who would bark at a jet trail and convince you she could see it. Good dogs, every one of them. No matter how flawed your personality, how cranky your day, how awful your hair looks or that you have a big pimple on your nose, your dog will look at you like you have just been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. They are amazed by everything you do and can hardly wait to see what’s next. If there is a shortcoming with dogs, it would be a design flaw that their Maker should have foreseen—a dog should last for a lifetime—your lifetime.
I’m sure with all the early pets, my parents meant to make me a kind, responsible un-spoiled child who would become a kind, responsible adult. Maybe it worked---maybe it didn’t. I surely loved every pet I ever had, but I’m thinking the spoilt part was a lost cause.
Next-More dog adventures or “How Toby saved me from the Moose”.
ALL ABOUT DOGS
When I was growing up we had a red standard daschund named Mitzi . She loved the water and was just long enough in the body, with her little legs splayed out front and back, to balance on an inner tube, floating around whatever lake we were visiting. My mom couldn’t swim, but she also enjoyed being in the water, so my dad always brought two inner tubes on vacation and my mom and Mitzi would blissfully float around tied together. I was never sure which one was driving.
One year, our Labradoodle Gus and I asked for a puppy for Christmas. Tom and I were still out on our 20 acres of woods and having friends over was easy for me, but not so much for Gus. He seemed lonely. So right after the holiday, through a white-out blizzard, Tom and I drove to Peaver, South Dakota, home of a retired dairy farmer-turned-Doodle-breeder and picked out Rudy, the little blonde guy with the bent tail and the adorable “over-the-shoulder look”. He seemed the mellowest, least bossy pup in the litter and we knew that would sit well with Gus, the “Alpha Dog”. On the way home, we wrangled about names. Eugene (after my grandfather), Rowdy Doodle and Howard were all rejected. We finally settled on Rudy, after the former governor of Minnesota. We felt that would give him something to live up to.
The thing about having one dog, is that they are YOUR dog. They hang with you, they are part of your clan. You do stuff together. With two dogs, they form their own club, egg each other on and take turns thinking up trouble. Gus rarely left our large yard, by himself, but with Rudy, out the door meant “into the woods”. We tried tying them both up—they whined and barked. We tried tying one of them up. One whined, the other barked. Finally, Tom hit on the solution. He got about 15 feet of rope and tied them to each other. They never could agree where to go, so they didn’t go anywhere.
Before Gus and Rudy, there was Toby. He was a big, lovable barn puppy and my companion after we moved into the North woods. I was intrigued with everything woodsy, making trails down to the river, identifying the wild plants and animal scat. We had watched a local television show about a man setting up his tree stand and calling moose with a birchbark megaphone. Fascinating! I knew we had moose on our 20 acres because I had seen their “leavings”. So one snowy day, all on our own, Toby and I headed for the northern property line, me on my snowshoes breaking trail, Toby bringing up the rear. I’m standing there , about 15 acres away from my house, looking into the dense woods, and I let loose with a series of noises that I thought sounded like “hey, big boy. Come over here and let me take your picture”. Pretty good, I thought. Toby gave me the “What! Are you Crazy?” look and headed back the way we came, galloping all the way. I never thought Toby was a PHD, but that day, he was the smart one on the team!
You have to admit, you gotta love puppies. The first paycheck I ever earned bought a new puppy. But they take a lot of energy and can wear you out. Our current pup, Jordie, runs on two speeds, stop and go. The very minute he falls asleep, we both lay down to take a nice little nap, ourselves. Once, he woke up first –grabbed and ran away with my brand new eyeglasses and chewed them to little bits and pieces. SLXLWhen I found the pitiful left-over clumps and took them into the Optical Shop to beg for help, they said, with a knowing smile, “oh, gotcherself a new pup, eh?” Puppies also love hearing aids. Ask me how I know.
We have several long-standing Christmas traditions in our house. One is that Santa still fills stockings for my kids, even though they are well into adulthood. I always help out by gathering some treats, some reading material to keep everyone occupied before dinner and always some funny items because I love to hear them laugh. Another tradition is that middle son, his wife and his dog come for Christmas Eve and we go out for Chinese food. The dog waits at home and reports on whether Santa has been there, yet. One year, we came home to find that Bailey, the 165 pound Newfie, just couldn’t wait for Santa, got into my bag of treats and ate all the red wax lips that were the “ha-ha” part of the stocking stuffers. Just think about a big black Newfoundland wearing a guilty expression and red wax lips. Try not to laugh. I dare you.
Next-the checkered history of the Myers family members and their automobiles.