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Thursday, June 14, 2012

Okauchee Lake

That lake was everything to us,
bathtub in the summer,
a shortcut to town during winter,
source of food and fun.
There are bigger lakes, deeper too,
but none more important in my
Huck Finn childhood.
It was glacier-carved,
darkly deep and huge at one end,
bluegill small and shallow at the other,
a squiggly channel in the middle,
looking like a misshaped dumbbell.

We were all poor, but,
with nothing to compare it to,
we didn’t know it.
We might have been needy,
yet we all had a boat of some kind.
Mostly, they were rowboats,
aluminum if your dad had a job,
an Evinrude motor on the back if
there was a rich uncle somewhere.

That lake had its mysteries,
and it ate a human or two every year,
sucked them down into the weeds,
next to the cars it swallowed every spring,
the ones driven on to the ice in March,
at the American Legion jamboree.
In late spring, early summer,
before vacationers’ traffic clouded the surface,
you could drift idly,
see the ancient tree stumps below,
wonder what the land was like before the floe.

If you had a motor,
or a young person’s energy,
you could get out to Stumpy Bay,
or to Stone Bank,
where the best fishing was.
You’d see birds of every type,
small crabs near the shore,
piers and docks of all shapes and lengths.
You could stare at the sky,
see where it joined the water,
watch that lake swallow the sun if
you stayed out late enough,
waiting for the star show,
catching a night bonfire up the hill.

That lake was everything to us,
and I bet, on still days,
it served as a mirror
for God’s morning primp.
They say that there are 10,000 lakes
in the state next door,
even more up north, near Canada,
but we only needed one,
and it made us richer than we knew.

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