I think we all had places we never told our parents about. Places we might have gone, or wanted to go to, but never mentioned because we knew, without even thinking about it, that our parents would just automatically overrule any idea of going there. The answer, if one dared to ask about going, could only be no.
By not asking, and not telling, you could always find a way to justify going to those places if you were found out. "We went to the park, and it was close by." or "You never said I couldn't go there." and even "Didn't you go there when you were kid?"
Father's Day, June 17, 2012
I was about six-years old. Dad wanted to go fishing in Canada and it would be my second trip there, although I was just a babe in arms for the first time around. Dad loaded the family into the car, packed it full of clothes, fishing gear, a tent and an old outboard motor.
He had reserved us a week at a resort on some lake with a name I can't remember. What I do remember is that it was kidney shaped, there were several rivers that fed the lake, and one river that emptied it. It would be a week I'd never forget and for a six-year-old boy, it left a pretty amazing impression on me.
This weeks adventure is dedicated to my Dad, and very appropriately, on Father's Day.
It was a long walk, complicated by the icy road and we kept slipping, sometimes sliding back five or ten feet. But we were persistent and eventually we reached our goal―the top of the hill.
"Fun hike," I commented.
"Are we going?" my youngest brother Chris asked. Probably because I had expressed doubts as to the sanity of the venture.
Honestly, I had reservations. But we had come with six or seven of my friends, including my girlfriend, and I really didn't want it to look like I was chickening out, and especially not in front of my little brother. I looked down the hill, maybe a mile, maybe even a little more. I could see them down there, standing around the van and some of them looking up the hill at us.
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.
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.