Lake Memories (our stories)
How we found Little Siss - Chuck & Carol Abrams
Christmas Awakening - By David Dow
How We Discovered Our Island Home - By Peter Lytle
To My Best Friend - By David Dow
The Bass that Changed My Life - By David Dow
Marie Fargo Story
To add your story, email Chuck Abrams at email@example.com.
How we found Little Siss
We had been staying in the general area for several years at the cabin of a friend of ours on nearby Slim Lake. We mostly visited in the fall, winter or early spring when he was not using his cabin much. We trekked through the woods quite often and fell in love with the area, particularly in the winter months. We had both wanted a cabin for years but had never pulled the trigger.
In the summer of 1999, for some reason, we decided that late July was the perfect time to start looking for a cabin.
We spent the morning looking at places with an agent. Nothing quite felt right. In the afternoon, we made new rounds with our friend’s builder. A few lots, a few cabins. Still nothing was right. Close, but not there yet. Late in the afternoon, he took us down some twisting county dirt roads. We were totally lost. We pulled up in front of a cabin that the agent had listed but not shown us. Once we walked in the door, we knew it was right. Although elevated, we felt like we were sitting up in the trees. The lake bay was spread out below us.
We brought our friend over the next day and he told us it was a gem of a lake and if we did not buy it, he would.
Sp with that, we contacted the builder and said yes, even though we had never been on the lake itself due to a hornets nest on the stairs to the lake.
We later purchased an adjacent lot from Jake Leinenkugel to build a garage on. We have put a lot of work into the lot and the cabin and named it 50 Pines Lodge in memory of the 50 white pine seedlings our friend gave us as a house warming gift. We planted those 50 pines and 48 of them survived to grace our lot.
We love the area even more today enjoying its wildlife and the many friends we have met on the lake and in town.
Chuck & Carol Abrams
Muskie #1 By David Dow
The year was 1952. Things were different….and yet the same back then. I was 9 going on 21, Ike got elected President and our family even went to Washington DC to see his inauguration….on the train.
Stories about the 50’s almost always talk of a different era, before computers, cell phones and space travel were part of our lives.
When you get down to basics though (the really important things), some things were very similar to things today. Fishing is one of the “basics”. In a boat, with a pole and bait, trying to coax the finicky fish to bite on your line.
Sure the Fishing Industry has grown and become automated over the years, but it has not changed nearly as much as many things.
I don’t remember a ton of things from when I was 9, but I do remember one adventure from that year that I will never forget. Many of us have fishing tales that are memorable and of course at least a few of us have been accused of embellishing those tales as the years go by.
I too have many of those stories, especially because of my love for fishing for 50+ years, but my mind always drifts back to that summer day in 1952.
This story about me as a 9 year old, can be said to be about education, mentoring, passion and love. The story includes two men who were both influential in a young boys life. One was Walter Crandall, guide, caretaker, father and husband to Mary, whose knowledge of fishing, rowing and all things of the Northwood’s including tapping maple trees for syrup and harvesting ice from the lake to provide refrigeration, were unmatched. The other was my Grandfather, who I affectionately called “Pappy”, who in 52’ was still President of the Gerlach Barklow Co. in Joliet, IL, President of the Illinois Manufacturer’s Association, my Mom’s Dad and my Pappy. For this story though, he was one of the most passionate fisherman I ever knew……and a great one too.
This was one of those “perfect” days for fishing Muskie. It was cloudy with a threat of a storm, choppy water and with a Northwest wind. What could be better than a Northwest wind? My Pappy told me when the wind was from the North, the monsters come forth and when the wind was from the west, fishing is the best. Northwest had to be “Perfect”.
Walter had equipped our 16’ Shell Lake Lapstrack Rowing Boat with two custom made chairs, one for my pappy and one for me. He had oiled leathers that he carefully inserted into the oar locks to assure a perfectly quiet ride. Another quick reference to Walter in regards to his rowing ability. When Walter rowed a boat, the boat just glided. You never heard the oars hit the water and there never was a splash of any kind. The oars were never in the way of incoming or outgoing line or of incoming fish. He also always maintained the proper distance from shore dependent on the casting abilities of his party. I never really appreciated his talent until later in life when trying to duplicate it.
We had a Gaff hook and of course our poles and my Pappy’s tackle box, which had absolutely everything you needed for fishing.
We unhooked the boat from the boathouse dock. I was in the middle and my Pappy was in the back. Walter was right behind me in the rower’s position. We were off. The boat was green on the outside, gray on the inside and had orange gunrales all around. A real beauty. One thing that always frustrated me about these boats was the rales on the floor because if you dropped a minnow into the bottom it was a real challenge to fish it out. If you didn’t get it, you could expect a strange smell after awhile.
As was usual, the first 50 yards or so we were getting our fishing rods baited and getting situated in the boat. My Dad had bought me a new pole for my birthday along with a Pleuger Skilcast reel. For the day it was going to be my job to troll a #5 Skinner Spoon w/pork rind attached behind the boat while my Pappy casted an assortment of Bucktails and Pikey Minnows.
We went West and then quickly South over open water and then East down the shore of Long Island. We circled the uninhabited Island and I remember waving to my Sister and Mom, who were on the back dock of the Island. Around the point we went past Mr. Serley’s and then back West on the South side of Long Island.
We went past Smith’s, which is where we often would take the Rubber Raft over the hill to fish Deep Lake for Bass and Crappies.
On we went. I thought I had a fish a couple of times, but it turned out to be weeds. Felt good anyways. Pappy and Walter seemed to know exactly how far out they wanted my line, because if it was a little too close or too far away, they were always letting me know so I could get it “just right”.
After going over the bar several times at the West end of Long Island, because my Pappy had once caught a 33lb Muskie there, we continued up the West shore.
As we went along, my Pappy and Walter were constantly sharing stories and thoughts of previous trips, which made for an exciting atmosphere.
When we got to the mouth of Muskie Bay, it happened! Another weed, I thought, but in unison, upon seeing my weed “move”, both Pappy and Walter yelled, “Hit Him”. Being 9, of course, I knew what that meant, so I raised my pole up, causing both of them to yell in unison again, “Harder, Harder”. I yanked with all my strength. It must have made the fish mad because he pulled back as hard as he could and began taking my line. Give him line, Pappy would say from the back of the boat. Keep your line tight, Walter would say, from the front. Give him line……keep you line tight………..give line…..keep tight……reel…..let him go…..hold him tight. I was getting more instructions than I ever new what to do with, but I just kept doing what I heard them saying. “He’s a good one”, they would say. “You’re going to get this one”.
After what seemed hours and hours, but was probably only 10-15 min., the fish was beginning to not run away as hard as he did at first, so I would reel a couple of turns and he would take 1 ½ turns back. I kept this up and finally the fish appeared. “It’s a good keeper they said”. “Hold him steady”.
With this, Walter reached into his tackle box and pulled out his 38 revolver. (This practice stopped soon after this time, because I was told that too many fishermen were shooting holes in the bottom of their boat). As the fish glided to the surface, Walter took aim and with one shot. Got the fish. He used the Gaff to pull the Muskie into the boat.
The Muskie filled the yard stick. 36”. My heart was beating so fast. I couldn’t stop talking. “I got him, I got him”! Pappy and Walter were congratulating me and each other on our successful catch. I wanted Walter to just row the boat home as fast as he could so I could show everyone what I caught, but I learned that day that just because you catch a fish, you don’t stop fishing.
Walter wet down a gunny sack and then put the Muskie in it and put him under his seat.
Although I continued to fish that day and even though my Pappy also caught a keeper, I couldn’t keep my thoughts from the great adventure I had just experienced.
There was great celebration back at the Island that evening. I felt like a “real fisherman”.
Dad mounted the head of the Muskie along with my bait in its mouth and I kept that fish all these years, until last summer when I passed it on to “my’9 year old” grandson, Zach.
54 years later, I can still feel the excitement in my heart, recalling the day that my Pappy, Walter and I caught my first “keeper Muskie” at the mouth of Muskie Bay on Little Sissabagama Lake.
Molly Tomczak Family Story
I wanted to share my memories on Little Sis for the new website. I am the oldest daughter of Dianne Nelson, who shares ownership of the Ballou property with her sister. Our cabin was built by my grandfather, Bill Ballou and his uncle Ellis Ballou and Ellis’ son-in-law Brian Brown (Ellis and Brian were Joy Poulakidas’ Grandfather and Father respectively). Construction started in October 1964 and I was born 1 month later. Thus I have been coming up to Little Sis my entire life.
My memories of the lake and our time up there are some of the most treasured memories of my childhood. Luckily, we are creating more memories as a family every year.
For many years, we didn’t have running water so we brought buckets up from the lake. We would heat the water for washing dishes. We cleaned up in the lake. We used an outhouse. We got drinking water from a well that was just off the road on the way to Birchwood.
We also didn’t have electricity for many years. My grandfather and I would head into Edgewater to get blocks of ice from a barn in town that we would put in the icebox to keep the food cool. We used oil lanterns and flashlights in the evenings. Without electricity, we didn’t have TV. That was always just fine though…we played card and board games and talked forever.
Although it was ‘rustic’, I wouldn’t have traded our place on the lake, no matter how fancy. We all pitched in to make it fun for everyone. Chores were done in the morning and the afternoons were reserved for play…swimming in the lake, fishing in the crappy hole with cane poles and bobbers, walks along the Underwear Trail between our place and Joy’s, canoe rides to explore the islands nearby. 5pm was always time for a cocktail party with the relatives that were up. Joy’s family included her Grandmother, Auntie Bee and her mother Barbara. The Olsons and Frazers were in the cabin on our other side. We would sit in the front room of the host’s cabin and chat and look out over the lake…enjoying some of the most beautiful scenery in the world.
My grandfather was never happier than when he was at the cabin, crawling around under the cabin, working on his pontoon boat, fixing whatever needed fixing. He also loved to take us all on an evening cruise around the lake on his pontoon boat…a tradition we still carry on today. He would start to get cabin fever very shortly after we closed up for the winter and could hardly wait to get back up in the Spring.
My grandmother always made sure we had wonderful meals after our busy days. She had a cowbell she would ring that we could hear from as far away as Boy Scout Island to let us know it was time to come back. She would cook a meal, clean the kitchen, putter around inside the cabin cleaning and straightening, cook another meal, clean the kitchen, and continue the pattern. She seemed to love every minute of it all. She started a log on the day construction on the cabin was started. An entry was and still is made every time someone is up there. What wonderful fun it is to read through the history of our 40+ years there.
Most of all, our time there was quality family time with few interruptions and distractions. It was and still is the greatest gift my grandparents and parents could ever give us. It is a sanctuary away from the busy lives we all lead today. It is a place to share time together as a family…with the fourth generation of the family now as children, developing their own memories. It is truly the most special place on Earth for me.
Christmas Awakening by David Dow
For me 2006 will always be remembered as a year of transition.
For those of you who know me well, you know that I have always liked being thought of as someone who was not a quitter, someone who stuck to the job at hand, rather than jump ship when the ride became rough.
Well I’ve learned this year, after being “downsized”, that transition to new opportunities and challenges can be an exciting positive time. I’ve learned that it is a time to look forward to the excitement of new horizons.
I am fortunate also to have many, many wonderful memories of my 28 years in the printing business. I have made wonderful friendships that will never be forgotten. Being a third generation printer, I can be even prouder of a long history begun by my grandfather over eight decades ago. I can truly say that printers are a great group of people. They are hard-working, genuine craftsmen dedicated to the communicated word. Thank you all for the times we worked together over the years.
At 63, “semi”-retirement offers some attractive benefits, which I must say I rather enjoy, but how many times can you mow the yard or even shovel the snow? And read…..I think I just finished my 6th book!
So…so much for “full” retirement. What to do? Go back to the industry I loved? Nope. Time to move on. What then? What do I have a passion for? Fishing? Whoops, sliding back into retirement, sorry. Lots of long discussions with Lin and family. After this research, I discovered that my solution was simply a part of me.
As most of you know, I have atherosclerosis which sidelined me a few years ago after open-heart quintuple-bypass surgery. Long story short, a friend of mine from Rockford told me about some potent nutrients that he had been on after a similar surgery and other complications, and he was able to get off all medications. So about 18 months ago I began taking the nutrients. At this writing I have cut meds twice and now am on less than half of what I was taking with the hope to be free of all meds by mid 2007!
Besides God and family, what could you be more passionate about than your own health? Hence a business is born. Lin and I have added a new division of her business. We will be sharing our stories with as many people as we can and, hopefully, they will share in our health success. Visit us at www.healingwithheart.usana.com .
One sadness will be not seeing your smiling faces on my visits to your shops.
Merry Christmas to you and your families!
I wish you success always, and may 2007 be your best year ever.
And remember, if it is transition that you face, do not be afraid as I was, it can be yet another chance in your life to be fulfilled. I’m excited about my new adventure.
And by the way………..My best to you and yours always!
How We Discovered Our Island Home by Peter Lytle
It was in the early 90’s, on one of those mid-September days, when the temperature was in the upper 80-degree range. The fall colors on the trees was just starting to show so every room north of the Hayward area had been rented. This was our annual weekend trip with the kids to the Northwood’s; it had become a tradition over a ten-year period. We had rented a condo at Telemark Lodge and fully expected a pleasant weekend. Unknown to us, Telemark Lodge had just gone into another bankruptcy, so there was no service, restaurant or maintenance to speak of. We arrived in the evening hours and for some reason the heat in the condo was on. The temperature inside the building was close to 100 degrees. All of our unscreened windows had been left open and the mosquitoes had formed black clouds around the lights. The TV, with a pair of bent rabbit ears, covered in metal foil, broadcast one snowy channel from Duluth, the radio and VCR had long ago broken down along with almost everything else that require electricity. Cigars were still soaking in glasses next to the beer cans in the sink. The frig was unplugged and we really didn’t want to look inside.
I recall looking at the carpet and wondering, “when was the last time had I seen mustered colored, thick pile, shag. It was full of dog and cat hair and indescribable black spots”? At about this point a mouse shot across the floor, went into the bedroom. My daughter said there was absolutely no way she would sleep in that room. There was no getting back our deposit or going home, the front desk was now unmanned and it was well past the time we would be able to drive home to the cities. We closed the windows, fiddled with the keyed thermostat until it fell off the wall, settled in and looked through magazines and real estate brochures that dated back about a decade, hopping our hungry kids would fall asleep before they realized there was no where to go and nothing to do but swat bugs and sweat until morning arrived. My fear of a weekend vacation from Hell was starting to be realized, Chevy Chase had nothing on us.
Over the years we had casually looked at property in the area, but never became serious about anything, renting this condo convinced us that we needed our own place if we wanted to come back the following year. In one of the older real estate magazines there was an ad with a photo showing a slanted, second floor, back door, of a what was described as an in-water boat house, on an island, on Little Siss, (I assumed that was a lake although the ad never stated it was a lake). The ad was only one line long; it gave no other description, phone number or price, only a real estate agents name in the Hayward area. It was without a doubt an ad so strange, due to the picture and limited information, that I was fascinated by it. My wife didn’t say anything; she just patronized my curiosity with a “isn’t that interest” smile. These were pre cell phone days so the next morning I called information from the only working phone in the lodge and located the agent’s office. Sure enough he had left the business (likely due to his marketing techniques) and the person now in charge had no idea where his files were or where the property was located. They did offer to show us properties in the Lake Owen area if we were qualified buyers and interested in given our personal financials to them for evaluation; maybe next year I said.
We packed our gear, climbed in the car and drove south toward Hayward asking at each gas station and restaurant we came across if anyone had heard of Little Siss, of course no one had. One young man in a hardware store though maybe the island was owned by the real estate agents little sister? Again the kids and my wife put up with the driving and looking because they knew there was little point in saying, “let’s go home”. Like a slot machine we now had too much time invested in our investigation to stop and we all agreed we needed a cabin of our own. By the second day of looking we ran into a cranberry grower that had heard of a lake called Big Siss Lake near Stone Lake. We drove to Stone Lake and found “Big Siss”. There we found a resort owner that told us the name of the lake we were seeking was really called Lake Little Sissabagama; Little Siss was just a nickname used in the area. He gave us directions to Alberta Lane, off of Ranch Road, a few miles away; he said there was a resort over there where we might get more information. We missed the actual resort and ended up at Mike and Karen’s cabin (which has a lodge sign at the entrance). We found a contractor staying in their cabin (it is really a lodge) with his family while he finished doing a kitchen remodel. He knew of an island with an old resort on it and knew where the landing was; but he had no idea who owned the island or if it was still for sale. He thought that the DNR or State had taken over the property after a legal battle on ownership some years prior.
We dove to the south side of the lake on unmarked gravel roads and found only one little road that dropped down a steep hill and went to the waters edge (was this a landing, it was not like anything I had expected for a resort landing). No signs for an island or resort were anywhere around and no sign of people, only a few cars from Minnesota on the side of the road. Just as we started to drive away a beat up, very old, bright blue, steel pontoon, badly listing to one side, was pulling into shore. It was full of Boy Scouts and a couple of Dads, one holding the pontoon’s broken steering wheel. My wife and I walked down to the landing and asked if they knew of an island for sale on the lake. As luck would have it they had just been camping on the island and knew the owner. One of the men told us we wouldn’t want to stay there due to the plugged toilets, broken windows and “assortment of vermin” that had taken up residence in the buildings. He said we could use the pontoon, if we could keep it going, and if we could figure out how to steer it without a steering wheel. We took the owner’s name and left.
After several more weeks we finally connected with the owner of the island and found it was again on the market. There had been a long legal battle for ownership with the Sate of Wisconsin. Steve, the owner, met us at the landing on a cold, rainy, fall day and after fixing the pontoon drove us out there and gave us a tour of the island (he and his family later turned out to become friends). My wife said after a few minutes “this feels like home”, the kids and I had to agree. The buildings were in need of lots of TLC, but how could you not love the giant old growth pines, the views and knowing this spot had once been full of wonderful memories for so many other families. I called a good friend and business partner of mine from the twin cities who was temporarily working in Mexico on a project and told him about the island, he and his wife said they were interested even though they had never seen a picture of the island. Several days later we purchase the island and began the 11 year long, but rewarding process of total restoration. The island turned out to be a 100-year-old private resort, the oldest private island in Wisconsin, an island with rich, deep history, fans from around the world, wonderful turn of the century cabins and a lodge, and the place Raggedy Ann was written. It took a long time to find our island home in Northern Wisconsin, but like any treasure hunt it was well worth it.
How we came to live on Lake Little Sissabagama by Don and Adele Garretson
One Spring Saturday in 1985 Adele and I, with no weekend engagements, were sitting at our breakfast table considering calling a Sioux Falls friend to invite ourselves over for a weekend visit. Sorting through the mail I found a mimeographed announcement of a one-day, fixed-price, sale of property on a small Wisconsin lake we had never heard of. I passed it over to Adele. She read it and said, ìThis is not as far away, letís go there insteadî.
So we drove up, found the place and strolled around the property. We were not impressed with the mice-infested, junkñfilled log cabin and itís decrepit, smelly privy, but we fell in love with the site. We shared our impressions and decided to buy it as casually and with as little thought as if we were buying an ice cream cone. We even offered a small premium only to be reminded by the honest and somewhat insulted realtor that she had said ìfixed price, no bargainingî in her flyer.
So, without a lawyer and absolutely no concept of lake property values, we signed the purchase offer and learned a day or so later that we now owned it.
Then came the question of ìwhat in the world will we do with it? A one-room cabin and out-house was not in our plans. We explored ideas of a larger more comfortable dwelling and the thought of trying to use the log cabin as part of the bigger, more livable home, came to mind. Local builders laughed at us (truly!), but our new lakeshore neighbor, a builder named Del Anderson, helped us with a plan. Then after only a brief acquaintance and a handshake--no contract-- no firm price-- we built with his help a new cabin incorporating the 50-yearñold log structure as the entry and living room.
We, and now our kids and grandchildren, have come to love this special place even more every time we get there to enjoy it. By Don Garretson, November 2006
To My Best Friend by David Dow (transcribed from hard copy)
October 30, 1988
You and I have shared so much together, old friend. You were always there for me when I needed you. Thank you for your help all those times. Thanks also for the fun times, like my first muskie with Pappy and Walter showing me how! And for letting me experience the lodge with all its beauty. And oh, the fun teenage years with my lake buddies Art, Bill, and Doug. What great times we had on our trips and just enjoying those fun years.
I remember so much. The old Ford Station wagon, the ice house (and loading the ice boxes), the scow and those roaring trips across the lake, fishing with Mom and Dad in the rubber raft in Deep Lake, Mary Crandall's old-fashioned cooking, the Beckwiths, the Ballous, Mr. Blum, the Serleys, 'Smitty', the Petersons, the Haberkorns.
Oh, so many trips across the beautiful lake, I wonder how many times the 'big white' has made that trip? How about one November morning when Chuck and I found ourselves marooned on you with two inches of ice surrounding us. (We made it.)
I have so many special spots on you where I like to be with just you, like my special white pine down by the back dock or the special sitting rock on the southeast shore, or on the glorious hill where, I'd swear, there is no closer place to God himself, on the screened porch above the boat house, or in the dining room with the sun sparkling on the water or that special wicker rocker in Mom's cottage that looks north through the oaks, bitch and pine.
And your special sounds! The loons, oh, the loons! What glorious sounds they make across the lake. The hoot owls, bull frogs, coyotes, woodpeckers, and your sounds, like the opening of the top back door in the shop, the great bells that can be heard in the farthes bay, the laughter of all those who have come and enjoyed your beauty and those rustling pines whistling in the wind and honking of a big 'V' going overhead.
And the smells, So many--great food being prepared on the cook stove or outside grill, the unique smells that each building has, moth balls in the chests, smoke from a crackling fire and especially just the clean air that has not been polluted by man and his factories.
You have taught me much, my friend. You have helped me grow up (more than once). You have taught me the importance and beauty of nature, the earth and the delicate balance. You have taught me that it is the simple things that are the best things. From dust to dust.
I can't say good-bye to you, my friend, because that would mean that I would never be back. I will be back, I will again set foot on your shore. You must now pass on to another caretaker who, although not proven yet, seems to have found you special. From the Hools to the Crandalls to the Gerlachs to the MacKeevers to the Dows and Kransbergers, and now to the Friendshus. Time moves on, too fast we find as we grow older. Take care of yourself, old friend. I'll see you again someday.
The Bass that Changed My Life By David Dow
We all have experiences in our life that because of their excitement and/or life changing events stay etched in our memory forever.
One such experience, in my life, came in 1959 at the age of 16 while spending the last “work free” summer of my young life in the North Woods.
In 1960 my Mom and Dad purchased a Dog N Suds restaurant which would then occupy my spare time for the remainder of my school years.
Being my swan song, for freedom as a teenager, I was intent on making this vacation one to remember……and remember, I do!
My grandma, who we called Bam, my Mom, my Sister and Brother along with frequent visits from my Dad on weekends when he wasn’t working, enjoyed all the wonders of the Island on Little Sissabagama Lake, outside of Stone Lake, WI that summer. I also remember visits from our cousins, the Dow’s and the Tischbein’s as well as many other visits from friends.
My sister was 18 and I’m sure her recollection would include dating and swimming long distances. My brother was only 6 so he was also swimming a lot and learning to fish, which he did amazingly well, for his age.
I was lucky to have 3 friends, my age, on the lake; Bill Beckwith from Morris, IL, Art Lemke from Arlington Heights, IL, and Doug Dunlap from Bowerston, OH. Their families all had homes on Little Sis as well.
We all had great fun together. Some of the things that I remember include having a Muskie contest for the most fish caught and the biggest and motor boat races in our fishing boats. I must digress a bit and describe the boats and motors. In lane # 1 we had Art Lemke and his 14’ flat bottom scow with a newly purchased 5 ½ Hp Sears outboard. In lane #2 you had Doug Dunlap in his 16’ round bottom fishing boat with; I believe a 5 Hp Evinrude motor. In lane #3 you had Bill Beckwith with a 14’ Alumacraft boat and a 5 Hp Johnson motor and in lane #4 yours truly was piloting a 14’ steel boat (I was teased that it was made from old cans) with a 6 Hp Mercury. We raced across Little Sis, over and over, with no one ever getting more than a boat lengths lead.
Other things we did included, on the 4th of July, throwing cherry bombs into Mr. Serley's and Smitty’s aluminum boats and then making a “quick” exit in our high speed boats. Many late evenings found us playing cards or a board game around a slightly lit table in one of our families cabins.
One of the most memorable happenings that summer, which I will never forget, was a camping/fishing trip the four of us took back into the Loyhead lakes. This was before the Birchwood Firelane was constructed, which ended up going right between Loyhead and Wolf lake making this remote area accessible to the many “trailer pulling” fisherman that followed.
We got a ride from Bill’s dad, Tom Beckwith, in his pick-up truck, as close to the lake as possible, down a single lane, pot hole infested, overgrown lane that came off County B, the road to Stone Lake.
We had packed for a week, but were only staying for the weekend, so we had plenty to carry including Bill’s canoe and my 8’ pram that my Dad and I had built in our basement back home one winter. The pram was made of mostly plywood and seemed to have leaked from the first day we launched it. I think it was designed only for little people.
We arrived at the lake mid afternoon with our hearts pounding with the anticipation of our adventure ahead and of course…monster bass!
We found a perfect camping spot on a small island. It was an elevated spot, with plenty of open space for a great campsite. It was dry and had cross ventilation.
Digressing again…..another camping venture that we had that summer had us arriving at Ole Lake at dusk. I, of course, knew of a spot on a point that would be a perfect camp site. It turned out to be a mosquito invested swamp and then when it began to rain and we were totally bitten up, we gave up and just went fishing.
So much for that “bad dream”, back to our perfect spot.
We quickly unpacked and decided we would go out and catch our dinner. It was about 4 or 5 PM and we headed out on the lake. Bill and Art took the canoe and headed for the hot spots on Loyhead Lake while Doug and I decided to take the short portage into Wolf Lake. After a short 5 minute walk we were at the Shore of Wolf Lake. Our anticipation was at a fever pitch. The lake was like glass, and you could start to see the reflection of the trees on the lake as the sun receded. There were many wakes out on the lake as the fish were feeding on bugs on the surface.
We quickly got out on the lake and got situated in the pram, which didn’t have a lot of choices where you were going to sit. I sat in the back, with the oars and Doug sat in the front with our tackle on the middle seat between us. It was sort of like two men in a tub.
We started down the shady shore and quickly had 3-4 nice bass. They were biting!
We continued to glide down the shore.
What a great weekend this would be. We were 4 guys in the woods, sprouting our independence and self reliance. All you could see was the beautiful lake and gigantic pines, oaks, poplars and birch surrounding it. All you could hear were frogs, loons, birds and crickets serenading us and all you could smell was the clean aroma of pine and of course….FISH.
Then our adventure truly began-
I took another cast up to a sunken log that was surrounded by lilly pads and got an immediate hit on my 4” mud minnow. I knew I had a good one because he immediately took the bait and moved out towards us into deep water and basically just turned the pram around with him. When I was sure he had it good, I hit him and he pulled hard, working my drag for all it was worth.
He fought hard for 4-5 minutes pulling the boat around as he pleased and then finally I thought I had him worn out. I pulled him up to the side of the boat and he looked ready for the net. The net was a little wooden trout net that easily fit into my miniature boat and was just big enough for the girth of this fish.
Doug kneeled on the middle seat and was reaching (short handle) to net the fish as I held him at the surface…..then the unexpected happened…..the line broke! I reached for the fish (big mistake) and Doug reached with the net at the same time.
Our movement was too much for the pram. It came over on top of us dumping us both into Wolf Lake along with all our tackle. The shock of the cold water and feelings of helplessness and stupidity made the moment unforgettable.
I felt a little strange as I struggled to get to shore discovering when I got there that there was something wrong with my shoulder. It hurt really badly if I tried to move it.
While I sat on the shore in pain, I watched one of the most amazing things I have ever witnessed…..
Doug was still out in the lake doing his best to recover the pram and the tackle that was floating away. He then spotted the trout net…..floating….moving…..MOVING??
He swam after it and got it only to find our disruptive 4lb largemouth trapped in the bottom of the net. What an amazing scene! I almost forgot about my shoulder!
When we got settled on shore, we discovered that the shoulder was in bad shape (4” out of the socket) and the pain was excruciating. Doug yelled for Bill and Art and they came quickly to help.
When they arrived we gathered our gear, made it to the Wolf lake landing, portaged back to Loyhead lake and then traveled to our campsite.
We somehow got back to our camp and it was decided that Bill and Art would walk out the path to get help. It was now nearly dark as they left. Doug and I sat in the tent waiting there return. Doug teases me to this day that I wouldn’t let him tear my shirt off because I said it was brand new. He also teases me that I moaned and groaned the whole time they were gone.
I really don’t remember anymore how long Bill and Art were gone, but it seemed like forever. They did return and they got me across the lake in the canoe, down the path and finally to the truck somehow. They then returned to camp while I was off to Hayward Hospital 20 miles away.
The doctors immediately cut my shirt off, as Doug continues to remind me, and then set my shoulder sometime around 2-3 AM and I finally could rest after a long day. I’ll always remember the cast and the way they had my arm draped up over my chest. I could tickle my chin. I could also do a mean “Thinkers” pose. The time in the hospital was also interesting as I was in a double room with an elderly Indian who had many visitors. It seemed like the whole tribe. I couldn’t understand what they were saying. It was probably something about the stupid kid, in the other bed, who broke his arm over a fish.
So “my” weekend ended up to be mostly in the hospital. When I returned to the Island, myK”friends” were just returning from “our” trip. They had enjoyed eating all my food including the 4lb bass, using my gear and using all my bait. Oh well, I really had no one to blame but myself! “They” had a great time.
That shoulder injury turned into a chronic dislocating shoulder that I eventually had to get surgically repaired, which is why it is so easy to remember this story.
Whenever someone comments about my shoulder scar, they are in for a story of how it happened.
This adventure taught me rather early in my life that sometimes when your plans are set, changes can occur, when you least expect them, which can change your life forever.
Marie Fargo Story
"This article was written by the Marie Fargo of Green bay, neice of Bill Wiese. Bill Wiese used to work with Jim Kissinger at WHWC (Public TV). She used this essay as part of her college application. Bill's family, including siblings, parents and kids, had an annual vacation week on Little Siss, staying in the large cottage at Alberta Dunlap's. Most of Marie's generation attended UW-Stevens Point in the College of Natural Resources."