There are three things you learn growing up in Wisconsin. The first is that Vince Lombardi is an icon of great esteem, the Green Bay Packers are the most incredible football team on earth, and the opening weekend of deer hunting season is more important than football.
On my first deer hunting trip, my dad endowed with certain fundamental items. The first and most important item was a compass. My father put a brand new compass in my hand and told me it was Matthew, Mark, Luke and John all rolled into one shiny dial. Trust your compass, learn to use it, and you'll never truly be lost. This was something he drilled into my young mind on that very first hunting trip.
Every dog is special. Special talents, special qualities, an interesting personality or... JD rescued.
Meeting JD was no accident because Willy found him for us. We were playing fetch in the yard at my parents, a game Willy loved to play endlessly until your arm was sore and you were unable to throw anymore and then he'd go find someone else to play with. Suddenly, nose in the air, Willy went off at a run and I followed. Marg saw me running after him and came to see. I went around the corner and there was Willy, nose to nose with JD's father and there was JD's mother, his sisters and brother, and JD himself.
Fortunately, all the dogs quickly made friends with each other through copious sniffing, tail wagging and nose licking.
Northern Wisconsin is big snow country and in the sixties, seventies and early eighties, temperatures would often drop well below zero and stay there for days. It still happens, but less frequently than it did when I was growing up and into my early twenties. I was not around in earlier years, but I'm told there were decades of warmer weather followed by decades of colder weather. I'd have to look at the records to know and compare to how things are today.
Often, we had to shovel the snow off the cabin roof or it would be too heavy and cause damage. Deep snow means that a lot more has fallen than you can measure with a yard stick because it compacts. If the snow is waist deep, you've probably endured more than 100 inches of the white stuff , and in Iron County, 180 inches of snow in a year was not uncommon.
I think it was the winter of 1967. I'm not sure of the exact year and it was a very long time ago, but 1967 seems right and it fits. We lived in a small town in Central Wisconsin and looking back, it seems like an almost utopian existence. Almost, for fear and danger and death may await the unsuspecting six-year old boy who wanders beyond his given borders against parental instruction.
Yep. 1967 in small-town America. I walked to kindergarten and back, nearly a mile each way and did it every day. I passed neighbors and friends and people I didn't know, who seemed to know me. Mom had half the town watching out for me and if I was three minutes late, the phone wires were probably burning. In the winter of 1967 I was a grand six-years old and proud to be in kindergarten. I was almost devastated to find out that I wouldn't learn to read until the next year, but that was how it was in 1967, kids didn't learn to read until the first grade.
Early spring, 1994. We were up north at the family cabin in Iron County Wisconsin and it was early May. Probably the first weekend of the month. My lovely bride Margaret and myself met my parents at the family cabin for a weekend of fishing, campfires and relaxation. We decided to visit a pair of lakes that are about a half-mile walk though the woods. It wasn't that far and the lake rarely had visitors.
At that time, someone had left a boat back there and if you could find it, you could use it. Who was going to complain really? The lake was on state land and if you left a boat there, it was free for anyone to use. Eventually, the Department of Natural Resources found the boat and removed it.
It was the first Friday after the first of November, 1996. That morning, I picked up a newspaper on my way to work and quickly turned to Pets in the classified section. I scanned down the list of ads. There were free kittens by the dozen. The usual mixed breeds of dogs. A rabbit or two. There! Black Lab Puppies for Sale. The phone number was someplace close. That day at work, the minutes were like days.
I didn't say a word to anyone—they might go buy MY puppy.
That night after dinner, I casually said to my wife, "So there's some black lab puppies in the paper, wanna go take a look?"
Now, she knew I wanted a dog, but I don't think she really knew what kind of dog I had in mind. I wanted a water dog.