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Just Like a Dream

by: Ruth McDonough

I can see the ripples on the lake in the moonlight....I can hear the solitary cry of the loons....I can feel the evening breeze ....just the way I did some 50 years ago...perched on the cliff ....cushioned by moss ...under a stately white pine...snuggled up to my dog and best friend Buddy.

As soon as the ice was off the lake we started packing up our favorite things and essential items ...loaded them into dadís Ď55 Chrysler and made our way up Hwy 11 to the lake where we stayed until the first snowfall or the beginning of school whichever came first. Dad (Tim McDonough) would come out on weekends until he had his summer holidays from work at Wright Hargreaves Mine where he was Chief Engineer. He brought any extra supplies that we needed from town (KL) such as fresh vegetables and fruit since there was no road into our place and we didnít have any transportation from the marina anyway.

Hidden behind the bedrock bluff, back from the lake in the bush, our cabin was cozy, 2 rooms with a screened in front porch. The main room held a big wood stove with an oven and warming rack. The kitchen table was below the window and faced the lake. Above that hung a lantern with the old style mantle that had to be treated with care. Tucked in the corner of the room was an old army cot with those itchy, scratchy, grey woolen blankets that must have come from some army surplus store. That is where I slept with my flashlight close at hand in case I needed to find my way to the outhouse in the middle of the night. The back room had a built-in double bed with a bunk over the top and another doorway out. That is where my mother and father and little sister slept. The front porch held an icebox and maybe some chairs but memory fails me on that point.

It was a long boat ride down to the other end of the lake from the dock at the marina and the tiny locker where we kept the motor for the boat. I can recall my mother (Bernice) lugging that motor down the dock to put on the boat....then came all the boxes full of supplies for the whole summer. Not to mention the huge block of ice for the icebox. I loved going to the ice house and watching as they removed a block of ice from all that sawdust. On the way we always stopped at Swastika to get a pail of minnows which we would keep tied to the dock for our early morning fishing. It was so cruel putting a live minnow on the hook to attract the big one. In the spring we would catch perch (before they became wormy) and fry them up for lunch and later in the season pickerel. I remember catching one whitefish ...what a delight to see it shimmer on the end of the line. Pike were another subject altogether. I have a picture of me with a 2 foot pike that was almost as tall as me. Apparently I caught it on my line but if memory serves me correctly it dove under the boat and someone helped me reel it in. What a proud moment that was!

Our cabin was not too far from the Shenettes who were at the end of the lake. I believe that they had road access. We had 5 acres located on the mainland and town site side of the lake. The front entrance to the property was protected by an island with a reef in between, which lay just below the surface of the water. If you didnít know the lake a mishap was likely. Many times we saw boats come very close to disaster. The back entrance was narrow, opening up into a lagoon where a boat could be moored in case of stormy weather. There was always lots of crayfish to catch in the lagoon. Our cabin was located halfway between the two entrances. Sometimes the path would have a large garter snake coiled ready to trip the unwary (especially if you were carrying a large bundle).

Mom cleaned out all the brush from along the lakeís front entrance opposite the small island to expose a beautiful sandy beach, golden in color. Digging down in the sand exposed the light grey clay that was perfect for making ashtrays and assorted bowls and dishes. They were finished off by baking them in the woodstove; where remarkably some came out intact.

Buddy ( a collie /shepherd cross) and I explored every inch of the property (that part closest to the cabin) and occasionally we would go for hikes in the bush armed with a sickle, my hunting knife strapped to my belt and a compass. We found the most amazing things; an ant hill that had been bored into the bedrock; I would lay on my belly for what seemed like hours watching the ants go busily about their chores. The enormous roots of fallen trees left deep pools that were full of tadpoles and other aquatic life. The bracken was so tall we could hide beneath it and be lost to the world. It was down the far side of the bluff from the cabin, an area that was steep and treacherous...so we were told. We would walk out as far as we could onto the bedrock outcrops and dip our feet into the water; sometimes it was slippery and many times I almost lost my footing. I remember all the garter snakes (some of the babies I kept in my pocket to scare my sister with). And the baby birds ....so many times I had to rescue them from the snakes.

Buddy and I would swim together (both of us dog paddling ...only she was better at it) over to the little island in front of the property occasionally bouncing off the rocks at the bottom so the water wasnít over my head ....I couldnít swim but I could float ....thanks to the Shenetteís daughter. If we went too far to the right the bottom dropped off. Apparently my older half-brother dived down by the cliff and estimated it to be about 20 feet. We swam through water lilies with dragon flies buzzing overhead, Buddy close by my side. Later we would have to get a salt shaker to remove all the blood suckers from my legs.

One day some picnickers on the island must have enticed Buddy to join them. When we were getting ready to leave we couldnít find Buddy anywhere. Dad decided to take a different route, closer to the town site side of the lake. Suddenly we heard barking and there was Buddy standing on a small rock in the middle of nowhere, soaked to the skin but otherwise unharmed. We thought that they (the picnickers) must have tried to take Buddy and she jumped ship.

Other days Buddy and I went exploring in my canoe......the lake was so still and silent in the early mornings. We paddled (Buddy and me) of course Buddy didnít really paddle....all around the island and over the reef. We fished for pickerel and always caught enough for lunch or dinner ...mmmmmmmm...nothing like fresh fish fried up in a little butter.

There was always work to be done, cutting wood, chopping wood for the stove (it was cold at 6:00 am), carrying wood, and using the scythe to cut down the long grasses. The treat at the end of the day was a big bonfire with hotdogs, roasted marshmallows, storytelling and singing. On one of those days dad had his ladder high up the tree to attach a line and crash! The top of the ladder broke apart and dad fell to the ground, his foot hitting a root at the bottom. From the pain and swelling we knew his ankle was broken so mom fashioned a crutch from some wood and padded the top so she could get dad down to the boat and across the lake to medical care.

If we werenít watching the sunsets on the bluff under the shelter of the white pine, slathered in fly dope to keep the pesky mosquitoes and black flies at bay, Buddy and I had a secret hiding spot. It was in the middle of a grove of trees, where we were enclosed by the bending branches, where we had a bench to sit on. We knew that no one could find us in our hiding place, except maybe the fireflies.

My special private world at the lake ended in 1962 with the death of my father. Mom sold the cabin to someone who wanted to put another cabin on the bluff where the white pine tree stood.

My memories are those of a child who remembers the lake and the cabin through youthful eyes. Someday I will return to see it again with new but older and wiser eyes.

 
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