Jack and his dad came up north (way north of 8) to build a cabin in the middle of the last century. Dad had a really neat station wagon that had a tail light that swiveled when you opened the tailgate. It always pointed straight back. It was a mechanical marvel to Jack. A usual car to begin driving lessons on when you are around 10 or so. Three on the tree and the high/low switch was pushed with the toe of your left foot. Dad had wise advice when to dim the headlights: “Just when the oncoming car’s lights can be seen as two lights, then switch em’ to low”
The cabin was east of Danbury on Gull Lake. Young Jack handed tools up to dad as the roof rafters formed up. The end of the ridge pole was cut off and the chunk fell right on Jack’s head. He yelled up “I’m OK” and the work continued. It was a pretty small piece and surprising too when it arrived. It was exciting to be right there when the dream cabin was actually forming up. Dad was a city fireman and used to ladders. He built cabinets on his off times in the big city. Grandpa was a fireman too but he was a bit too old and cranky to come up and help. Besides, Gramps didn’t like to fish like Jack and Dad did.
There was one other family on the lake and they owned a small resort next door. Since it was Jack’s first time ‘up north’, this seemed a good place to be. At that time, a small rowboat was at the dock and it was Jack’s to use morning and night. He didn’t have to go beyond sight of the resort when the lily pads were waiting for him. A fly rod with floating line and a small popper was Jack’s choice of tools to entrance the fish just under the pads.
It was easy pickings and the sound of the swirl and the tug are still vivid in memory. A dozen bluegills and paper mouths in the bottom of the boat and it was time to row back in to the dock. Sometimes Jack put them on a stringer but those pesky and poky fins were a bit of a challenge when the fish were several pounds and his hands not quite big enough to pull the fins back.
Dad would scale and gut and lunch was served with the resort owners sharing in the bounty. Every decent day, morning and night was Jack’s job to row out and harvest those white fleshed and fried in butter morsels. There was a camper that Jack stayed in while the two men went into town at night and they stayed pretty late. They were still in bed when the time to row out and fish so Jack waited until someone awoke. He could swim pretty well but the rule was, don’t go out where I can’t see you. Dad’s eyes were closed for a while on those mornings. Jack fished for a big lunch on those days.
It was grand and now and then, Jack and Dad would get the motor running and troll for bass on the link between Gull and Minerva. Jack thought they tasted pretty good too but it seemed a lot of effort to get them.
They had to get the ‘big’ V hull boat loaded up and then start the motor. Dad always used artificial jigs and spoons, so no bait was needed. It was always exciting to motor up the channel between Gull and Minerva. There was no one around there. No other cabins, no other boats seen. After trolling for a while(with Jack at the helm) the motor was shut off and the waves it made could be heard on the banks. Ten years later, it was big Navy fleet ships that made splashing noises too. Waves slapping the hull from the battle fleet but the sounds were similar. Jack was back in that small channel just like that. Sounds do that for Jack. They are music and that’s pretty OK with him. Music will move Jack like nothing else will do.
Jack liked the sound of the small motor at the transom too and especially the smell of mix gas. There were his dad’s smiles to remember when things got tough later on. In those early years, Jack, who thought a lot about those things, wondered where the fish came from and why it was so good to catch and eat them. He wondered why Dad smiled when they were together. Dad didn’t smile much back in the cities. Over five decades later Jack got some answers to his questions from his friend who created Jack and his Dad.
It became clear why Dad wanted his ashes put in a trout stream, way up north. It was fishing that bonded Jack and his Father, and it was thoughts of fishing at the very end. After all, Jesus had a lot to say to his close friends about fishing. He still does. It’s pretty good. Jack Gator