Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Draftee (A Buffoon in Vietnam)

     Pulled the trigger this morning on my second book, this one based off my Vietnam blog. Now it's in my son's court to add the cover he designed. The story's not bad but will pale compared to the cover. Couldn't make up my mind as to what kind of tale it was till I went and got honest with myself. Not an easy thing to do. Right off the bat Archie, the narrator, says what follows is as close to the truth as he can make it though he had to change all the names so as not to get his ass in a legal bind, so I guess it's a memoir. Anyhow, it's not as good a tale as the first book, a novel, but'll turn few stomaches. That's more or less what I was hoping for from the get-go back in '84 when the idea first passed through my thoughts.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Brain Death

     Haven't written for a few weeks. Those things happen in life when other stuff comes to the fore. Haven't been anywhere to wet a line 'cause my spare time's been in hiding. My wife had a full knee replacement and has been sidelined for a while. I've been busy burning food and ruining clothes in the laundry. Yup, incompetence is what love's all about.
     Also been putting the wraps on a second novel, called Draftee. It's not so much a novel as she's autobiography with the names changed. You might say I've been working on it in spurts for around six years. Like the first book, Draftee's written for my grandchildren, though my language leans a little more on the red side of civility. Hell, a man can't write about Army life and a tour in Vietnam as a grunt without dropping a little color on his words.
     Anyhow, I felt I should put a few words on the page and these are the best I could come up with. 

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Four Days

     I already miss the quiet. The noise and busyness began on the drive home. Two track driveway, gravel road, two lane highway, and finally four lanes for the last hundred-fifty miles. Traffic built and my brain returned to living in the world of white stripes and two tone, seventy-mile per hour slabs of steel and plastic. The drive home is always far more tiring than four days on the waters and in the woods. No doubt about that. Life's border line primitive at the cabin and sure hard to leave.
     It almost took more gumption than I could muster to load the canoe and fish a little. Though I enjoy all parts of being on the water, fishing has become not much more than the reason to paddle out. Also there's the matter of physical pain when paddling into a breeze. Caught a four pound bass on the fifth cast and a similar fish about as many casts from the end. They bracketed two afternoons on the water when the scenery was the highlight.
     I ran through my lake possibilities many times before deciding on proven water. Both lakes are around a hundred and fifty acres and hold enough fish to keep me upbeat about catching something. Been on both enough times to take the guesswork out of where to fish but the idea was to work as much shoreline as the wind would allow. Each day would give me close to three miles paddling, enough upper body exercise to assure joint pain in my aged body. I have no idea how fast I can cover water these days but for sure there were times it felt like I was dragging an anchor. Left no doubt I'd have to be cautious in setting mileage goals should I ever attempt a solo trip in the Boundary Waters. Probably not going to happen but I still get a kick out of daydreaming.
     What I enjoyed most was time in the woods when the deer and wood ticks were wherever they go in the fall. In the last couple of years we've had a few blow downs. The sight of a busted and hanging oak is not something I enjoy and have spent a few hours since last year pruning tree trunks. At the moment I've sawed and split enough hardwood to last till Lois and I pass on. In fact a fair amount of the wood will turn to soil before we can get to it. Never gave it much thought in my youth that someday my enthusiasm for work would outpace my ability. I guess there's not much doubt that day has arrived.
     More than anything what gives me pleasure is being able to set my own pace. Work when I want and rest when I damned well feel like it. S'pose I could do the same at home but that's not the way I've wired myself. Next time around I'll work on that.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Too Long - (in progress)

     It's closing in on three years since I've been in the solo canoe. Almost made it two years ago. Even had the canoe strapped atop the truck. A last second phone call and a family emergency had it quickly off-loaded and me packing. That will change next week. I was hoping for a fall Boundary Waters trip but will settle for the waters of the Chippewa National Forest. Mostly I'm thinking smallmouth bass and trout but will no doubt throw in an old favorite or two to get the feel of a fish on the line once again.
     I was thinking minimalist as to gear but have decided to carry enough to cover all possibilities, maybe even a fly rod. At the moment most of the fishing tackle still sits where I left it when Allan and I got home from Canada. I've salvaged line from the reels that'd given me the miseries but there's much more to do.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Where To?

     Good question. At the moment I've written myself out of adventures and have none solidly planned. There's a definite maybe in the Boundary Waters for this fall and a near for-sure, four day fling at the cabin near the end of this month. The cabin will most likely be a solo trip. Haven't been on the water alone for a couple of years. Usually when up there I enjoy my time in the woods. Call it quiet time and as I've grown older I've come to find wholeness in the sounds of nature as they drift in and out and through my thoughts.
     I've finally started sorting out the mess of fishing equipment from the trip Allan and I went on in Manitoba. A pair of my older reels constantly threw loops and quickly were set aside. Oh well, they had fifteen years of use and weren't all that good to begin with even though their price tags said they should have been. I've come to learn quality and price don't always go together. Cost is important when it comes to equipment but the cost I have in mind is time. When I've finally squeezed out the time to be on the water I don't want to lose any of it to faulty gear. Good thing Allan and I always carried a half dozen rigged rods during last summer's trip or we'd have spent a lot of time fiddling and untwisting bird's nests. The reels in question are now on their way out the door and have been replaced with entry level quality. By that I mean finely machined gears and not a dozen ball bearings. Somehow fifty years ago fisherman managed to catch fish without a single ball bearing. How was that possible? Anyhow, yesterday I began to spool line from the buggered reels onto the new ones. Worked slick so long as I took my time. One down and one to go.
     Sometime over the next couple of seasons I'd like to make a wood tackle box. Probably a simple one along the line of an old fashioned tool box. Wouldn't have room for more than a dozen lures, same number of snap swivels, reel oil and grease, a couple of reels, needle nose, jaw spreader, and some backup line. Call it a single purpose box for a second trip to northwest Manitoba. Yeah, it'd be an idiot's delight with little room for error but from what I learned from July's trip, such a box would be more than enough.
     Next, between now and then I'd tie up a dozen spinners, all red and white blades, number one treble hooks, and oversized buck tails. Yup, they'd go in the Canada box. Should Allan and I be rigged the same way there'd be no problem. At the most we went through eight spinners last time and two of them were the result of poorly tied knots. Call me a fool - guess I'll leave it there for now.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Chapter from Between Thought and the Treetops

     This is a fishing chapter from my novel. In 1965 Archie, the narrator, is eighteen and spending his summer before starting college up in Minnesota's Arrowhead region helping to build his Uncle Emil's cabin. At the moment they are still living in a tent on the building site. On this Sunday they are to meet up with Ted who works at the local sawmill and they'll do a little trout fishing. Ted is an even mix of Scot and Ojibway:

Cloudy With a Chance of Trout

 We rose in the dark. Though up and dressed I sure wasn't awake. Took a while for Emil's childlike excitement to infect me like a dose of the measles. Inside the tent the dark was so deep I first thought I was dead. Then blind. Isn't easy being caught between dreams and the waking world. He'd found me in the middle of a good one. But as I rose from the deep I lost it. Gone. Don't have many good dreams that I remember into the waking hours. They seem clear as day when I'm traveling through them. When I come around, all that's left is a smile on my face.
 The ones that stick aren't fun. More of a sweat, panic and get moving in nature. There's the tornado dream when I'm looking for a place to hide and the nuclear war one where I'm going like hell to get out of town before the big one hits. Had 'em both plenty of times. The only good part is I don't die in either. In fact, come out clean as a whistle. Maybe it's just a passing phase or maybe it's the way I am. Never ready, always something on the horizon blowing in to do me harm and me on the run. Run Archie run!
 "Rise and shine Archie. You've fallen back asleep. This is no day to dawdle. Don't want to keep the man waiting. As Ted said, the sermon for this Sunday will be delivered streamside and I don't want to miss a word."
 By the time I'd stumbled out to relieve myself Emil had the stove fired up and coffee perking. Grumbled a good morning to my uncle as I passed and headed toward the woods. While emptying I raised my eyes to the heavens. The stars above drooped from their intense weight of light. I feared I might bump my head against one and set my hat afire. Could have sworn some were lower than the treetops. That's when I smelled the bacon welcoming me back to earth. What a morning! Felt uplifted and I had to make myself useful. Did a brief wash-up under the freeze of the pump. While Emil cracked eggs into foaming butter, I sliced slabs of fresh bakery bread, slathered them thick and dropped a pair into the waiting pan. Oh yeah, bacon and egg sandwiches for breakfast. Even had mustard. By five we were brushing our teeth and ready to hit the road. Inside the cab on the seat and floor rested a thermos of Emil's mud, a box of sweet rolls and fixings for lunch. In the truck bed an expedition's worth of trout tackle laid waiting.
 "Archie me lad, we're as ready as can be. Hope the trout are too."
 We sat idling in the brightening gray of Hovland when Ted came rolling up in a mud-splattered, green pickup truck nearly as old as me.
 Ted wasn't a man of many words. In less than fifty he gave us the lowdown, "First choice here'd be the Flute Reed but the water's down and the fishing's tough. So we'll do what my grandpa calls the Wiskode-zibi, Bois Brule to the French, just Brule these days. Follow me. We'll head up the Camp Road. Let's get to it."
 Seemed the Camp Road was named after a CCC camp built near Tom Lake during the Depression. The C's put a lot of unemployed men to work replanting timber back in the late '30s on land the lumber barons had clear-cut back in the early years of the century. Twenty-five years doesn't allow for a lot of growth in the short growing season of the Arrowhead. The pines we were passing weren't more than ten inches on the stump.
 The dry spring might have turned the Flute Reed unfishable but made Ted easy to track as we wound our way up from the lake. Just followed the yellow plume of dust. Fifteen minutes of zigzag on the Camp Road took us to a rough looking stretch of two-track. Another five minutes of bump, grind, paint scrape and boulder dodge and we were there. Wasn't but a widening in a trail where we squeezed tight to the brush.
 Ted rolled out of his pickup, "We'll pack our gear down to the river. Maybe throw an arm load of sticks and kindling down and tarp the pile over. Weather’s moving in and it looks like it could rain buckets. There's a nice spot off a couple of islands where we can cook up some lunch."
 Took me a minute to realize what I took for aspen leaves rustling in the breeze were actually the rush of the river about a hundred yards below. What I'd had in mind was more like the brook bordering Emil's land. This sounded different. Bigger. More exciting. And the truth be known, a little more challenging. I mumbled, “Big water, big fish.” Yeah, I was all-atingle with excitement and nerves.
 In fact, everything about this day struck me as different from any other I'd spent with my uncle. This time he wasn't in charge; didn't have all the answers. For a change he was walking in my shoes. And he seemed to relish it.
 While winding up the Camp Road he'd said, "Archie me lad, it's not often you get a chance like we have today. Ted's grown up on this land. Probably knows where he is just by the smell. His bloodline's been in these woods for centuries. I'm thrilled just being here with him. Doesn't matter whether we catch a thing today as far as I'm concerned. Being able to share this river with Ted is reward enough."
 That sure put a different spin on it. Maybe Emil never thought of himself as being the boss in any situation. Seemed to be all about sharing and learning and doing. Even back at the cabin he was like that. I barely knew how to hold a hammer when we'd started. Each time something new came up it seemed to me he was telling me how best to tackle the situation. From my life in the city I'd come to see telling as being the same as ordering. With my uncle it was different. For him telling was the same as sharing. He wasn't demanding I do things exactly as he did. No, he was passing on experience and information. More like 'I do it this way, give it a try. It might work for you.'
 And that's how he stood with Ted. Ted had knowledge passed down generation to generation. The dirt beneath our feet coursed through his blood. As it did his parent's, grandparent's, who knows how far back? - Just as it had with our ancestors in the old country. At one time the blood of all our families down through the ages had walked the woods somewhere, Sweden, Germany, Asia, the Middle East, Africa. Today we were passing through Ted's woods on our way to scare up some trout for lunch or maybe bologna sandwiches.
 Down below, the track of the Brule split the forest and bared its flow to the sky. What had been partly cloudy down in Hovland had grown overcast and was hanging lower by the minute as we set down our gear.
 "Don't know about you boys but this Ojibwe's heading back to the truck for his rain gear."
 Emil gave me a glance and we followed. We might be wading wet but dry underwear held its appeal. Taking no chances we donned both pants and jackets.
 Back on the beach Ted gave us the lowdown, "This here's a pretty spot to eat and watch the river pass but not so good for trout. We'll head upstream a ways. The Brule narrows a bit up there. Couple of runs of rapids and some plunge pools that nearly always hold fish. Both brook trout and rainbow in the pools behind the rocks waiting for lunch to come along. Should you have a choice, kill a handful of the rainbows, the DNR stocks them. The brook trout are native. Might even be kin so take care with them. Treat 'em like they're your children. Pack along only what you'll need. Fly box, rod, some extra tippet and needle nose. Should we catch a few I'll show you what to do.”
 Off we traipsed upstream like Christopher Robin and Pooh on an expedition. Up front, Christopher Robin was smoking Camels and far to the rear Piglet was drawing on an Old Gold filter. Ted's smoke cloud didn't rise an inch. Just hung there in the cool, sodden air till Emil passed through and split it into whirlpools and eddies. We wound along streamside on jumbled stone and root, occasionally cutting uphill to avoid wading lengths of bog or climbing over car-sized boulders. The Brule had eroded a valley quite a bit wider than what now flowed through the bottom. At the islands where we'd dropped our gear the stream was better than thirty yards across. A lot of water but spread thin over fields of rubble. Wouldn't have much luck floating the Grumman through there.
Occasionally we traced a faint, rising path. Could have been fishermen, more likely deer. Typical of a deer path the ground was trampled but bowered over with brush three feet above. Emil had taught me well and I followed safely out of whipping range. Hard to tell distance when bushwhacking but I figured it as a quarter-mile when the twenty foot high valley walls narrowed and squeezed the Brule to about a long cast wide. Here it sped up and rumbled down a long series of shelf and boulder. Didn't take a genius to figure out we were there.
 Ted said, “We’ll let Archie and his spinning rod have the first pool. Little spinners'll work just fine. So will a tiny jig and a strip of pork rind should you have any. Me, I learned on worms and a hook. Ain't fancy but it's deadly. This is one of the best pools on the river so knock yourself out. One moment…."
 He pulled his black-handled lineman’s knife, walked into the brush. Returned carrying a straight length of alder branch trimmed to four-feet with an inverted, v-shaped stub midway up. "Should you catch any rainbows Archie, first break their necks then slide the branch through their gills. The stub will hold 'em. Lay the rig in the shallows where it's calm and put a big rock on it. Simple as pie. Lunch is up to you. Me and Emil will head up to the next set of pools and do our best to not fall in. When they stop biting come up stream and bring your catch along."
 He sure seemed confident I wouldn't screw up. I was already working up excuses before I'd even tied on an orange and black beetle-bug and tipped it with a strip of pork rind. Back on the Aspen trial and error had told me that combo almost always produced. The men in the pools up above might be here on some kind of religious pilgrimage but not me. I was here to catch trout. Didn't need to be dozens but it sure would be nice to provide lunch.
 Began with a backhand flip into the edge of the closest run where the river sluiced through a pair of moss-sided rocks. Moments like that have always gotten my juices flowing. Possibility was open-ended. Being eighteen only magnified the feeling. My world had shrunk to twenty feet of fast water and the feel of blue monofilament line sliding over my index finger as it spoke to me of the tick, tick, ticking, rock-tumbling rig.
 Ted was right. This pool was hot. No more than a half-dozen excited heartbeats later I was into trout. The fight was short and sweet. My first landing was no work of angler's art. I simply horsed it in, removed the hook and rind, and squatted there in the shallows admiring the foot-long, dark-backed and silver-sided fish. They call them rainbows but I always figured that an exaggeration. The color's there alright, just not much of it. Snapped its neck and branched it.
 My next, a brook trout, was another story. Had all the darker colors of the rainbow above and the woods below and spread them willy-nilly from nose to tail. Throw in some spots and squiggles and you've got yourself a fish to admire. Looked like something Van Gogh might paint. Starry Trout. I took care with this one and didn't even touch it. Carefully turned the hook out with my pliers and watched the fish wriggle back into the flow.
 Finally, the drizzle started. Not that it mattered much. Slid my hood up and went back to work. My feet grew near numb wading the Brule but I joyfully managed to fish all three chutes. When I headed upstream I carried better than five feet of rainbows on my stick. The drizzle seemed to be getting bigger ideas. Had we been back in camp we'd have been tent-bound listening to the patter on the nylon. Out here the rain seemed a good thing, a friend. The dark above brightened the fishing. Also put a grin on my face.
 Emil and Ted had fished their way upstream through several pools. I came on Ted first and held up my catch. Got a simple nod in response like he expected nothing less. After dousing the trout I found a knee-high boulder beneath a mist shrouded white spruce, sat down, lit up and watched the man fish.
 I'd figured Ted's method would look like the pictures I'd seen in magazines. Maybe even something like the way Emil fished. Long arcing line gracefully waved in and out before laying down many yards away. Then he’d cautiously watch his daintily floating fly drift with the flow. Instead Ted seemed to be all about position. No long casts for him. When he wanted to reach a new target he'd stalk his way within striking range. Never had more than twenty feet of line out and pinched it to the rod with his casting hand. Could have been doing the same thing noodling with a fifteen-foot cane pole. Simple as simple could be. Lift, whip, whip, blip. Sometimes he'd wet and sink his fly, let it drift. Other times he'd blow it dry and skitter it across the surface with a waving motion of the rod. He only retrieved his line when he had a fish on. In the short time I sat there Ted caught and landed three small brook trout, none more than ten inches. Two trout he touchlessly released in the knee-deep water by slipping the hook with his forceps. The third required care. Ted scooped it from the shallows, cradled it in his left hand and carefully eased the hook from deep in the fish's throat. Before the release he quietly said something.
 Half-a-dozen empty casts drew him from the pool. Joined me above and lit a smoke. I asked what he'd said to the fish. If I didn't know better I'd say Ted actually blushed through his leathered skin, "Told her she was beautiful and should go out and make some babies. Hey, fish are people too. Let's you and me go see how the old man's doing."
 Fifty yards up we came on my uncle in mid-stream sitting on a boulder the color of a businessman's gray suit. Alongside him lay two dead trout with heads snapped back. He wasn't taking a break. Though perched, Emil was still going at it. Took me a moment till I realized he was throwing his fly pretty much like Ted.
 "Your uncle's a good man. For an old dog he sure picked up a new trick in short order. Before moving up to his first pool he stopped and watched me for a minute. When I leapfrogged him, I returned the favor, gave him a pointer on how to skate the fly. From the looks of the rock he's been doing just fine. Hope you're hungry, we've got seven trout to eat."
 Catching sight of us, Emil reeled in, snatched his catch and waded over. By now the rain was getting serious. He slid his fish with mine, anchored the branch and joined us above. That's when the skies opened. Not much else to do but sit and hope it'd let off sooner or later.
 Slowly the two of them opened up a little on what they had in common, the war. I figured it best keep my mouth shut. Hadn't been anywhere or done anything to speak of. The two of them were men who'd faced their deaths and no doubt taken part in the deaths of many others.
 "That a glass eye? Seems like every time I look at you, you're only half home."
 "Yeah. Lost it before the war out in the Dakotas. Gust of wind and a bit of wheat chaff did it in."
 Ted paused a moment, "Let me get this right, you had a glass eye and still ended up in the Army? What'd you do, bribe the doc?"
 "Nah. You know what those days were like. Had a friend with my blood type take the physical for me."
 "So, you coulda sat out the war 'cause of your eye. You coulda sat out the war 'cause of your age. And for sure you coulda sat out the war 'cause you're totally crazy."
 "Hang on a second Ted. Weren't you a jarhead? Might just as well have walked up to the recruiting sergeant and volunteered to get shot. Lucky for you Marines it wouldn't have been a head shot unless the sons of Nippon were aiming for your butt. At least I had sense enough to take my chances with the Army. Might have spent the war learning a trade like typing or painting curbs. You dumb-ass Marines more or less jumped up and down yelling 'me first, me first!'"
 Besides being idiots they agreed the A-bomb was the right thing to do. Though they'd both been seriously wounded near the end of the war, the Army and Marines were doing their best to patch them up and ready for the invasion of Japan.
 "Emil, that'd been hell on earth for sure. Don't know about you but I was scared to death. We'd have beat 'em, no doubt about that, but odds are neither of us would be here enjoying this rain. Just the thought of not invading the mainland makes me thankful for every morning I wake up and put my boots on."
 What struck me most was neither mentioned combat. They'd both seen their share but said nothing. I didn't get it until my days in Vietnam. You can talk your way around the outside of combat but never bring up what it was really like. You think and dream about it all the time. Even think you speak of it aloud but never do. The words rise to your tongue then are swallowed like you're embarrassed or ashamed you survived when so many others didn't. Could be they'd have had more to say if I'd have not been there.
 A moment later Ted showed us the fly he was using, "Only use two kinds. One always sinks and the other tends to float." There wasn't much to either. No feathers that I could see and not much color, gray and brown.
Ted said, "They're about as natural as I can make them, a little deer hair near the eye of the hook, coupla turkey spikes for a tail and a few turns of fine wool yarn down the shaft. To the one that'll sink I add a turn or two of copper wire. The secret is in knowing how to work one. They don't look like any kind of bug so you have to make them swim or float like one. Maybe doesn't even matter how I fish them seein' as how the trout up here are so easy to fool."
 The rain had slowed to the point where Ted lit up another Camel, "Damn, this is one fine day. And hungry? You bet. I'm so hungry I could eat two and a third trout. Let's get back and rustle us up some grub."
 Lined up with Ted again in the lead. They gave me the honor of carrying the trout. Right off I slipped and slid on the greasy, clay slope, bottom down, trout arm raised, nearly to the jagged shore. My backside may have gotten caked in soil but lunch was spot free.
 Back at the islands Ted quickly strung the canvas tarp, Emil got a fire kindled and I set to gutting and washing the trout. Ten minutes later Ted had the beans and coffee heating in the twig fire. On the Coleman Emil was tending two pans, trout in one and taters with onions in the other. A north woods feast backed by steam rising from the Brule and hanging in the cedars above. Emil fried the headless, skin-on trout to a crisp in butter. The pink flesh pulled easily off the spine and ribs and steamed like the river below.
 Lunch lasted an hour. Nary a word was spoken till the coffee, sweet rolls and oatmeal raisin cookies came out.
 “Lena never had much use for these. Said the raisins looked too much like dead flies. Who knows? Maybe dead flies taste like raisins.”

 Ted piped up, “Nope. You’re wrong about that. Grandpa used to say when he was a kid they’d eat flies during the starving months in spring. Said they tasted like chicken. ‘Course so does squirrel, frogs, ducks and muskrat. Me? I think chicken tastes like moose poached in a delicate white wine sauce with capers.” 

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Pan Bread and an Extra Day - 2003

     Making it to the Burntwood Lake Lodge on Thursday was the plan from the beginning. I figured we'd fly in and leave Snow Lake by ten o'clock to begin our sixteen hour drive and spend the night in Winnipeg. Yeah it'd be nice to have two days. As always there was a job with a six o'clock starting time waiting on Monday. Having a whole weekend at home to clean gear and rest up would make life a lot easier.
     Yes we did make pan bread though calling it bannock would've been an insult to the old timers. What we had was a couple of bags of premix I bought on line from up north in Minnesota. Would've been nice had it gone as slick as advertised. My first attempt was German as all get-out. Why not? After all, I'm half German and have a compulsive need to follow directions. Usually that's a good way to go. What the heck, the same people who the stuff together must've actually checked to see if it'd pan bake like they claimed it would by following what they wrote on the bag. Well, my first shot sure did stick to the pan, almost like the pan was supposed to be part of the bread. However, it did eat good in a kind of torn, chunked out, slightly burned on the bottom way. Second time around Allan gave the bread a shot. The difference in his method had to do with butter, lots and lots of butter. Man oh man, he floated the dough on a sea of yellow. As a result it didn't stick to the pan and there was no need to add anything to the bread but our greasy lips and teeth. Lord was it good.
     Come Thursday morning we dug into the dirty clothes bag, chose our relatively best with the idea we not stink too badly, and set off under a calm overcast with intentions of paddling into the lodge by eight a.m. Once in sight of the buildings we straightened it up to set a strong rhythm and as straight a line as I could muster. Yup, should anyone be watching the idea was to fool 'em good. Seemed to be a party going on as we approached. The dock where the big Norseman float plane was moored was crowded with sports surrounding Larry. Hoping to show off and show the world we knew what we were doing, our landing was nothing short of spectacular. We smoked straight at the poled shore like true north woods maniacs. Just before we'd have smacked head on into the wood I buried a paddle, spun us a full ninety degrees, and we gently touched ashore. As it was we were the only ones to see it. Seems the crowd was more interested in what Larry had to say. I could understand that as it appeared no one was leaving for a while. The Canadian Aviation officials had temporarily shut Gogal Air down till all Larry's paperwork was checked. He assured us he'd be back in the early afternoon to cart all his customers to Snow Lake. Not knowing what else to do we pulled our canoe and gear onto the lawn and headed uphill to the main building with high hopes there was some food left in the kitchen.
     Turned out there was, a full breakfast with eggs, toast, fried potatoes, ham, and juice. Yeah there was enough on each plate for two people. Oddly, as I sat wiping the dregs up with my toast I was still hungry. Made me think we burned a lot of calories in the canoe. Might even explain why our pants always fit looser at the end of a two week paddle. When I asked for the bill we were told Larry had said everything was on the house till he returned, even a boat and motor should we want. Looked like our plans were thrown off kilter but what the heck, the lodge was just short of spectacular and the food wonderful. Not bad at all.
     Come lunch they fed us again. We passed time by checking out the photo albums and came to learn the Gogals had hauled all their thousands of board feet of building material by air. I guess strapping our canoe to a pontoon when leaving Snow Lake was nothing at all. Two o'clock rolled around with the news Larry wasn't returning today. Can't say I was disappointed. We were given beers during cocktail hour, showers 'cause we were well past ripe, dinner, and a room, all on the house. Tomorrow would be a misery of driving but there was nothing we could do about it but take it easy and enjoy the hospitality.
     Mostly we spent a lot of time talking with the guides. Each of them took turns hoisting our kevlar canoe like they'd never seen one before. Could be they hadn't. All thought it was light as a feather and I began to fear they'd play catch with it. Come evening we were again offered a boat and motor but instead walked down to the dock to spend our hours waiting for the sun to go down. When push came to shove that's what we did best. Fishing was great but we'd had enough of that. Instead we talked of next year's trip, that is if there'd be one. Allan was done with school and on the job as a graphic designer. As far as trips went, this might be the end. As it turned out it wasn't but we didn't know that at the time. Al's future was wide open and coming up on him fast as could be, mine was growing shorter as I slowly moved toward retirement.
     Larry did show up early the next morning saying something about not having crossed his T's and dotted his I's. Come the wee hours of Saturday morning we rolled into the garage, another trip of a lifetime in our past.