Forever 1.10: Northern Days

            Glen spent little time at home during the summers.  At least several weeks every summer were spent in the Northland at a private club that covered ten-thousand acres of wilderness.  There were three lakes on the property, the main one full of sun-fish and bass, and the proverbial river ran through it.  For anyone who wanted to shop on vacation it would be a nightmare, but for communing with nature, it was paradise.

            The river was just deep enough, even in August to meander down in a canoe.  The wildlife came up to the banks unconcerned in the early morning and late afternoon.  With even the slightest breeze there were no bugs at all.  In fact, the most bugs the trout ever got came from those inclined to stand in chest-high waders and try their hand at a cast or two.

            Some members – and there were only 40 altogether – would arrive in their private planes which they landed at a grassy strip some distance from the cabins.  They generally buzzed the main lake once or twice before landing to alert the caretaker and chef that they had arrived.  Otherwise, life was a very calm and quiet affair at the club.  The lake allowed no motorboats and the cars could not do better than ten or fifteen miles per hour on the dirt and natural two-rut roads that snaked around the property

            Glen’s Grandpa had a log-cabin he built himself.  There were back bedrooms on the ground floor, but the kids usually slept up in the loft which overlooked the living area with the cathedral ceiling.  That living room had a dining area at the far end from the front door.  From the table, one could look out the picture window on the dock and that picturesque lake.  Mother would often sit there or on the screened porch just off the dining area and read where she could keep an eye on the swimming area beside the dock. 

            Only one other member built his own place, and that was next door to Grandpa’s beautiful, rustic cabin.  Fortunately, there was a row of evergreen shrubs that blocked the view of that house.  The man, a bank owner from the city, built a bungalow more appropriate to the everglades than the northern woods.  There is no accounting for taste.

            Just up the path from the Banker’s eyesore, and it was uphill, at the highest point along the lake, there was the Big House where most members stayed when they came for a visit.  The two wings of the two story building faced the lake and had a dozen rooms up and down in each wing.  In the center, there was a common living area like in a fine hotel, with one side lined with lake view windows and the other filled with a fireplace big enough for Glen, brother Tom and sister Carol to all stand in when they were young.  The club had been designed originally as a hunting club, and there were signs of that everywhere, including pictures on the wall with men hovering over deer and showing off the bear they killed.  By the time Glen arrived, the club had morphed into more of a summer spot for fishing, swimming, gentle boating and just plain relaxing.  Most of the members, after all, were Grandpa’s age by then or older.

            A little bit down from the Big House was the Cabin.  That was all it was called – the Cabin.  Like the Big House, it was built in whole log style and stained ruddy and dark, the color of morning coffee.  The Cabin could sleep eight, or up to twelve if there were children.  It often had to be reserved in advance.

            At the bottom of the other side of the hill, there was the dining hall with the two new “apartments” that shared a connecting wall.  By new, I mean they were added in the 1960s or the late 1950s.  The dining hall served breakfast, lunch and dinner and asked only for reservations to know how much to cook.  There were always a couple of college age young women hired for the summer to wait the tables and act as maid service for the apartments, the Cabin and the Big House.  It was quite a tranquil life.

            Across the dirt parking lot where several Douglas firs were left standing to make it appear like less of a lot, there was the old farmhouse where the caretaker and his family lived.  Next to them was the old barn where a few boats and jeeps were kept dry and under tarps to await their owners.  Once, there were horses there and in the stables that jutted out from the barn, but by the time Glen arrived, the horses were long gone.

            That was all of the buildings on that ten thousand acres.  Everything else was left to nature, except as I said for the dirt and two-rut roads that snaked around the place, and the grass covered air field.  When the family drove in the gate, there was always a contest to see who could spot the lake first.  It was harder than you might think since the lake was so blue, it was hard to tell what was lake and what was sky.

            The car would mostly stay parked after arrival, but for the occasional twenty mile trip to the nearest little town for supplies and the once or twice per visit trip to the other lakes.  The middle sized lake was stocked with lake trout.  The little lake had pike, some up to six feet long and with sharp teeth besides.  The car also came out around sundown.  Everyone would pile in the station wagon for a slow and quiet drive through one section or another of the property, and they would count the deer out to feed at sundown.  There was an old farm field cleared of trees and a ridge that looked down on the field.  Sometimes the herd grazing was a hundred or more deer.    Once, while riding in an open jeep, Grandpa stopped short and Glen, who was riding in the front wondered why.  A brown bear stood up just inches from the front bumper.

            Grandpa got out.  To be sure, the bear looked more startled than aggressive, but Grandpa showed some courage.  He said. “Shoo!  Skat!”  and the bear went back to all fours and loped down the ridge-side to the open field below.  Glen never knew how his Grandpa felt about that, whether he was scared or what, but when Grandpa got back into the driver’s seat he found a bee resting on the steering wheel.  He squished it with his unprotected thumb, brushed it out of the jeep and drove on.  The man had seriously calloused thumbs.  And he looked at Glen and laughed about it.

            Glen’s grandma died when Glen was still fairly young.  The world had not yet mastered diabetes.  Glen was old enough to remember her well, but at the same time, his grandpa lived alone for years.  Grandpa went up to the club in the early spring and returned to the city in late fall.  Grandpa lived for the club, especially in his last years.  In fact, he died there in a room he had in the Big House.  He died in the night, content to be in the wilderness he loved so well.  When Glen was growing up, needless to say, Grandpa looked forward to their arrival as much as the family looked forward to getting there.

            Then Glen had someone else there who also looked forward to his arrival, at least when he was young, like between the ages of eight and thirteen.

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