Up North in Wisconsin, living in the many lakes, rivers, and streams is an elusive fish properly called a muskellunge. Most people, me included, just call them muskies. "Get any muskies this year?"
Muskies grow quite large, but are not North America's largest fresh water fish. Still, record-breaking muskie push 60 inches long, 30 inches in girth, and tip the scales at 50 to 60 pounds. There are lakes with legends of giant fish, and tales that go back into the dim past.
I will freely confess, this is not my adventure. No, this belongs entirely to someone else. I'm more than certain that if my mother had found out I did something like this, I'd have been grounded for a lifetime from everything except school, and even that would have been in question. No, this is not my adventure, but still a tale worthy of telling for in a way this is partly about me, even though it is not my adventure.
This story takes place in Small Town America. A town much smaller than the one I grew up in, and even more close knit. It has all the elements required for adventure. A bit of danger. Some internal fortitude. The surety of youth and the belief that one will never die.
In January of 1983, myself and three friends took a ride to the family cabin in Northern Wisconsin. Along the way, we stopped a couple of times to take in Small-Town America and by the time we arrived, it was quite late (or very early, depending on your point of view) and it was very cold. January brings sub-zero temperatures and in Northern Wisconsin back in the 80s, really cold meant way below zero.
Did you know that mercury freezes at 38 degrees below zero Fahrenheit? If you have a mercury thermometer and it freezes, it will separate
So there I was, this guy who was born and raised in The Woods and Small-Town America, on my own and making my way in The Big City. I was just about fed up with that and began making plans to move back to Wisconsin. But apparently, there were other plans for me. Somehow, I got roped into joining the company bowling team and for a short time, put my moving plans on hold.
I had started packing my small, garden apartment into boxes in anticipation of the end of the bowling league and had quite a few stacked up in my closets. But moving was not my destiny. One night in January we were short one bowler on our team and asked the desk if there were any substitutes. Just before we started bowling, there was our substitute―The Big City Girl who very quickly stole my heart.
It didn't take me long to start regaling her with stories of my deep woods adventures. I'd chuckle when she bundled up against the cold and I was still walking around in a flannel shirt. The longer we were together, the more I knew she was the woman I wanted to spend my life with, but how would that mix with The Woods and Small-Town America? There was only one way to find out, and that was to take her home and show her those things. And so began a new set of adventures for both of us...
Read Part 2 here.
Having been born and raised in "The Big City," I thought that at 28 years old, I knew just about everything I needed to know. I figured that growing up in The Big City gave me more experience than someone who grew up in a small, remote town in Northern Wisconsin which I commonly think of as "The Woods." Of course, as you probably expected, I was wrong.
The Woods was not unfamiliar to me since my father took us on family vacations to Northern Wisconsin when I was growing up. He would rent a cabin on a lake and take us fishing and swimming―never camping or hiking because there were dangers lurking in The Woods. After all, we were city people and although we could appreciate the beautiful scenery, we were all scared of The Woods.
It's a half-mile walk from the family cabin along the town road to the main logging road, which we just called 'The Main Road,' then another half-mile to 'Tommy's Shack.' If Tommy was home there was sure to be coffee on the wood-burning barrel stove in a giant pot that literally held gallons. If he wasn't home you could help yourself to an icy drink of the best water you ever tasted from the spring house in back. Years ago, someone dug out the spring, made a wooden box about two-feet deep and three-feet square, and put it in the hole. The sand bubbled up where the water entered the box. A copper mug that held a lot of water hung from a nail, and an even bigger tin dipper hung on another nail if you wanted to fill a container.
The Main Road travels north-by-northeast as you walk past Tommy's. Keep going a short distance and it veers a little left to travel straight north a short ways before it forks. The left fork goes roughly northwest, and the right fork goes north-by-northeast. At this junction is a wide clearing known as "The Meadow." The Meadow is part of another landmark called "The Triangle."