English instructor James McCullough, at North Central Michigan College, in Petoskey, asked his students to write essays about Northern Michigan life. Then he asked MyNorth to share six of the essays on the World Wide Web. We said yes. We are posting one each weekday until the set is complete. Enjoy a piece, by Tim Koeller below.
I trod lightly over exhausted groomsmen sprawled on the floor. My fifty pound golden lab, Penny, stretched across my brother on the couch. I turned and smiled as I crept into my office.
I reclined my desk chair and thought about the conversation before dialing.
“Andrew, what’s up? You ready to camp?” I burst out.
He replied in a soft, low tone, “Yeah man! How was Chicago?”
I felt the excitement return, “It was amazing. My brother got us a trolley until four in the morning. We barely made it to the boat on time.”
“Oh yeah, you guys took the ferry, right?”
“Yeah, the S.S. Badger. We pulled into Ludington and drove through the Manistee forest. Beautiful drive! We stopped at a roadside park for about a half hour to watch the sunset.”
I recalled the drive through the shade of the trees as the sun prepared to set. A gentle summer air welcomed us through cracked windows as I captained my spacious Cadillac north. My four groomsmen rested quietly, over-exerted and under-slept, as Miles Davis and Cannonball Adderley softly accompanied my thoughts.
Overtaken by the serenity of nature, I pulled into one of the many captivating roadside parks of Northern Michigan, the Hodenpyl Dam scenic turnout off of M-37. We sauntered down the well-maintained staircase and relaxed by the calm creek. Within minutes, the five of us stood barefoot in the water, leisurely admiring the sunset, embracing the tranquility we shared.
Andrew responded, “Right on. Well what are you thinking for today? Should we head to Tahquamenon or drop the boat in the water?”
“Well, everyone’s still passed out and I doubt they want to drive anymore. How about some walleye fishing at Young State Park?”
“Sounds good to me. I’ll get the boat ready.”
I returned to the living room of the dead and tickled my best friend until he woke, shortly afterward, Penny joined in on the excitement. The three of us strolled to Johan’s Bakery for coffee and donuts. The instant we returned, everyone awoke, sniffing curiously, stretching at the scent of the bakery.
Andrew arrived in his little white pickup with a canoe strapped to the top, towing his beat-up fishing boat. He opened the back door and his dog jumped out to play with Penny.
Andrew walked over as I packed my trunk, “I still can’t believe they were born on the same day.”
“Soul mates,” I replied as I slammed the trunk.
Only a twenty minute drive, Andrew let the dogs in his truck, while I followed in the Cadillac. As I backed onto the campsite, I noticed my dog in the rearview mirror.
Andrew yelled, “Dude, she jumped out of the window while I was parking the truck.”
“Penny!” I chased her through two empty sites to a nearby RV, where she had befriended the owners, a married couple in their sixties. I gripped Penny’s collar and apologized. They were nice and understanding, but I was grateful for the distance between our sites. The bible on the picnic table suggested they were looking for peace and quiet, an inalienable right in Northern Michigan.
I secured Penny to a tree and prepared the fishing gear. Andrew already had the boat in the water.
“We’re all set. We can only fit 3 guys and my dog in the boat though.”
“That’s cool, we have the canoe too, but let’s take the dogs swimming first. Penny needs to burn some energy.”
After tiring the dogs on the beach, I convinced Andrew to let Penny in the boat. I held a short leash as we cruised around the lake, enjoying the sun and fresh air over cold water. I felt Penny’s happiness through her excitement. Our focus shifted from fishing to fun in the sun.
Andrew peered through his binoculars, noticing two of my groomsmen in his canoe, slowly following us in the distance. We decided to have some fun.
We circled the canoe, creating havoc for the paddlers. Everyone laughed.
I reminded them, “You guys got a long way back!”
“Yeah, we need more beer!” Shouted my brother.
I threw two in the water and we returned to camp.
Andrew and I talked to some fellow campers. They claimed to be professional fisherman.
“How’d you guys do today?” asked Andrew.
“Got the limit again. It’s hard not to catch ‘em out here.” The cocky sportsman chuckled and returned to his RV to prepare his propane grill.
With extra motivation, we returned to the boat without the dogs. I curled up in the bow and my brother stretched his legs in the stern, as Andrew trolled a few hundred feet from shore.
The sun prepared to set as we floated along the shore. “Check out the loon!” Andrew handed me the binoculars and trolled toward the bird. The tail feathers pointed towards the sky as it fished underwater.
“Wow, this is the closest I’ve been to a loon. They don’t normally let you get this close.” Andrew remarked.
I set the binoculars down and pointed to an eagle majestically perched in a tree, directly ashore from the loon. The three of us stood silently in awe, feeling our connection to nature.
“I say we fish where they’re fishing.” I said.
“Sounds good, is this close enough? We don’t want to scare them away.” Andrew responded.
“Works for me.” I launched my night crawler towards the shore and began slowly reeling, relaxed by mother nature. Instantly, adrenaline took over, as I felt the weight of the walleye. “Fish on!” I yelled, as I accidentally knocked over my beer.
Without a net, I lifted it over the side of the boat by the line. Dangling from the line, I grabbed his belly and looked down his throat, past the horrific teeth. No hook in sight, I opened the live-well and cut the line.
I picked up my beer from its side and leaned back in my seat, smiling uncontrollably as the last sliver of sun disappeared. Andrew cast a few more times before he turned the navigation lights on. We trolled back to camp through darkness, over still water, ready for a Northern Michigan fire, as I occasionally opened the live-well to admire dinner.