Up North

Dave Smith

Upper Gresham Lake now strangely quiets, placid in surprising sunshine breaking the overcast shadowing most of the earlier day.  We brothers aboard the nameless pontoon enjoy its sit in the lily pads and we cast into the “holes” for bass and whatever else might strike a lure.  We share laughs with spontaneous expressions used by the missing brother, Neil lost to God’s call on Father’s Day.  It provides our way to bring him along, to share our “huge one that got away” lies and bring lighter spirit to the missing him moments.  This was Den’s first fishing in nearly 40 years and his catches brought greater smiles to three faces than anything imaginable on this venture.  “Drop your, poles it’s a whopper” echoed across the lake many times as he battled a wily little blue gill or an insistently urgent perch.  I hadn’t felt a strike all afternoon and set down my pole to watch the clearing sky and join the easy rock and sway created by gentle ripples and swirls around the small peninsula.   Hands behind my head, I stretch my legs over the rail and man the trolling motor to guide us through casting heaven.  They all complain and whine about location, about “that spot over there”, and “who taught you how to steer a boat”?

An eagle swoops from a long branched pine, deftly dives and snatches a fish.  The splash creates a flash of rainbow as the raptor climbs, twists and glides back to the perch, then elegantly flaps and drifts away towards the west, towards distant wood and its aerie.  Just off the bow, a loon bobs, calls hauntingly, and dives.  The day, nearly spent, begins to fill with sunset.  “Givin’ up brother?”

“Nah, just meditatin’ while we’re perambulatin’.  We should have done more of this before we stuck antique plates on our bumpers.”  Ron’s from-the-soul-of-him, chortled ‘yeahhaha’ leads to chatter about the days of youth and first times fishing.  Uncle Jerry comes up, his love of jokes and explanations of life only “whiskers” could invent.  Dad’s spur of the moment trips to drop-line on Lake Mendota and catch a 5 gallon pail full of jumbo perch.  Trips to Taft’s Pond and early spring bullheads and soon to spawn gills.  Those times thinned far too soon, lost to the diet of necessary work, of college, and of course, growing families.  This little getaway sprouted 4 years ago and finally has lured Den into the boat.  He will join us again.  We stress a bit, too, about the brothers without sis, but we rationalize it away.  “Maybe next spring….”  Something about just the brothers has a strong meaning for us this time out.

Grey deepens as the west swallows more rays, displaces the warmth with fall chills.  Lines in and stowed, we don windbreakers and tug down hats for the long run to the dock.  “I s’pose you’ll go wide open” Den drones from his perch in front of the helm.  “Wasn’t bad enough to freeze me coming out, no – gotta finish the job heading home!”   He has taken whine to the doctorate level, and in the moment professional at generating one more keeper to stuff in the corners of our minds.  We now laugh at the one time guilt trips that plagued younger days, use them for fertilizer for spicing stories and the soon to be exaggerations of this voyage onto the northern waters.  Rick gives full throttle and the wind carries whoops of laughter as I, of course in the front, enjoy the showers of spray kicked from the fins on the pontoons.

I don’t really have any mused moments on this rush from the dark.  The anchor clanks now and then and my jacket snaps a bit. I remove my hat to enjoy the wind in the hair ride and rather miss the mists as the boat planes out on the calm water.  We’ll go to Boulder Junction to grab dinner and, as always, we’ll thank God for the meal, for the day, and the time to come.  That’s us, the brothers.  Remembering one gone and thanking God for goodness.  All the time.