The cabin sits on what once was glacier country. Our lakes are the pot holes left by the ice sheets and at first, melt water filled them. Who knows, maybe some of those ancient H20 molecules are still floating around in a few of our Minnesota lakes. Now they're filled by what falls from the sky.
To the north of Deadman, out in the middle of the big lake to the north, sits an island of reeds. On warm summer evenings hundreds of purple martins will be found above that tiny emerald isle, swarming and diving through columns of hovering mosquitoes. Carnage or supper, all depending on point of view. Though tens of thousands of skeeters perish on the lake each and every evening, I've my doubts they'll ever make the endangered species list.
The martins are there 'cause the mosquitoes are there 'cause the reeds and calm water are there 'cause there's this immense, at least from my small point of view, boulder pile beneath that doesn't quite break the surface. On that pile roots and rock form a marginal friendship.
Been out there a few times in the canoe and have thought, "Now those are some seriously big old rocks down there." But I never appreciated their true size 'til my friend Greg and I passed over them on a cross lake swim. My bare toes and other poorly protected body parts told me to choose wisely the course taken above their mossy surfaces.
No doubt what's there is a moraine, a spot where the retreating ice shucked off a bit of its load garnered from points south. To the glacier my immense mound wasn't much more than a sand hill. More likely, the ice never gave it a passing thought 'til some hair brain like me anthropomorphized the possibility in print.
Piles like that are all over the place in the north half of Minnesota. But don't think for one minute they're everywhere. Take our piece of land on Deadman for instance. Over the years I've driven three sand tip wells, dug several burning pits of size, and grunted down fifteen piers on which to place the cabin. What I've consistently found is an inches thick layer of root and topsoil followed by sand that might stretch all the way to the middle of the Indian Ocean.
Rocks? Never seen one bigger than a golf ball. And those rare stones are cause for celebration, the stuff of sharing and legend, "I believe it was '91 that we found the grey one over on the shelf. Ever so often we take Eldon down, we named him Eldon after a good friend, and set him a place at the table. But only if we're having meatless spaghetti as he loves his tomatoes and pasta. But better not toss in the tiniest scrap of meat or the little bugger will raise a fuss about torturing God's creatures and the dangers of feedlot beef...."
When it came time to build the piers I wanted some stones to add to the concrete and rebar mix. Too cheap to purchase what lays along the backroads for the picking, what would have been a simple job for a mason turned into several expeditions for me and a nephew or two. As it stands today, what's down in those holes represents a cross section of our township's road grader efforts.
The fifty pounders lining our cooking pit were gathered the same way. But lifting them out of their roadside resting places was only part of the effort, the small part. Each and every time I hoisted and loaded one I was sweatin' it out that the county sheriff would pull up in mid-lift and arrest me on the spot for grand larceny. Innate guilt is most of the weight I carry around every day. Should the Cass County Sheriff's Department ever read this blog, I promise I'll put the rocks back when I'm done with them.
Over the decades Lois and I have gathered stones or sand from Minnesota, Canada, Wisconsin, South Dakota, Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico, Hawaii, Alabama, Florida and no doubt other places I've long since forgotten. Our garden beds are lined with them, drawers are filled with them, we've moved them from one house to another and are anticipating our next move with a South Dakota quartzite migration to the cabin.
At age sixty-six there are many things I can no longer do as good I once did. Given one wish to regain a single glory of my youth I believe I'd choose being able to hoist and tote a hundred-twenty pound stone once again. Having my forearms hurt like hell would make me feel good all over.