Friday, Day 7 (the final day)

 The challenge of nature is not observing it, or admiring it. Being moved by the beauty of a blue lake, and the soft white clouds passing over the migrating geese is the easy part. What’s tough is keeping that with you. The hard part is taking that massive, passive beauty and putting it in your mental “live-well” and referring to it, returning to it after a week back at your real life.

 Part of why you find yourself sitting quietly absorbing the beauty of a place is that you’re involuntarily making an unconscious effort to commit the scene to memory. You may disagree and think it’s a conscious effort but it’s not. It the mind’s way of taking this balance back to the hurried and overpopulated existence we call home. Redwood, Mounds View, Vegas, even Sanborn…. Whether it’s three hundred people or a million  three hundred thousand people, it’s still a city. This is not.

 Many lessons in life, related to survival or to basic happiness can be learned from simpler creatures like dogs or kids. Sometimes it’s the simple way of looking at a complicated thing that allows you to tuck it up under your arm and carry it away with you. I think that’s a useful skill.

 You don’t have to be flattered by the grace of God. You deserve it. You’re human, you earned it. You don’t have to be awe struck by the majesty of a sunset, you deserve it. You earned it. Even the simple act of enjoying the special warmth of a setting sun can often be best demonstrated by a simple creature.

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 I think there’s a lesson there.

 One special and rare pleasure associated with beautiful places is watching someone new experience it for the first time. You get to see it a little fresher through their eyes. Betty is only now, after a full week, beginning to realize that she’s leaving this place, leaving this feeling, leaving this way of seeing the world. I guess that was true for all of us. Think back to that first visit. You probably didn’t realize until the last day, that there was in fact, a last day. You immediately begin soaking it up and making a concerted effort to remember as much detail as possible. And then, your very next thought is “Next time, I’m going to be more aware of the whole week. I’m going to enjoy each day and each breeze. I’m not going to take this for granted. This is more than I can grasp in just a few moments on my way out. I’m going to make this place a part of me.”

 And that, I think, is why the cabin experience is so special to us. It has honestly become a part of us and as such, we are uplifted forever.

 First order of business today, as yesterday, was to catch some fish. You can find beautiful scenery and pine trees in lots of places. But you can’t find Walleye except in but a few. So we were once again determined to land some fish today.

 Slept a little later than yesterday, but still we were loaded and lures in the water by 8:00 AM. Over to the flats for a couple passes first thing. We’ve just decided to keep going there until we don’t get fish.

 About half an hour passed and we were not having any luck. On the third pass, taking a lesson out of the Denny Wersel school of Walleye Fishing, I decided to change my rig. Abandoned the spinner in favor of a simple 1/8 oz jig with a couple of small weights squeezed on the line about 4 feet above the lure.  About 15 minutes later, I hit the first fish. Wow. I couldn’t believe it. Just making a simple equipment change seemed to make all the difference. Or did it?

 Another hour passed, no more fish. One last pass and then we moved to some place, anyplace new. But it was hard to leave. This seems to be some kind of flyway or something for the Honkers moving north. They were noisily sailing overhead most of the morning. Big, beefy geese making a lot of noise as they flew north.

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 Heading south east around Flag to the south west corner of Oak, we stumbled across a charter. It was the guide boat out of Sunset Lodge. Based on last years experience, I figured, “They must know what they’re doing… I’ll try it here.”

 Not true, they pulled out, we stuck around for about 45 minutes and got diddley.  But the weather was nice, and the fishing was fun. We fooled around long enough to get out the radio and catch Paul Harvey at 11:06 on KQ 92… the Lake Country’s best Country. Note the precarious position of the radio. Only very calm seas permit this configuration.

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 Don’t let the winter clothing fool you. This is someone who believes in being comfortable, temperature wise, and I can not disagree. Truth be know, it was still only about 56 degrees so I guess a jacket was justified. And the rain suit is a natural. It did sprinkle on us earlier in the morning.

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 Drifted around in the sun, out of the wind for about an hour and then, reluctantly began discussing our plans to leave. We have to stop by and settle up with the resort (gas and bait and such). Then maybe it would be helpful to load up the car today. In the morning, we can just get up and leave. So that means a trip to Young’s Bay. Which is fine, I owe them for some gas and for parking.

 While we’re there, maybe we’ll stop in Jerry’s and give it a once over before pulling out. As luck would have it, we had the bar to ourselves. Jerry was in the back getting walleye filets ready for “Friday Night Fish Fry” so we had a Bloody Mary and a LaBatts (one each).

 Then who comes in but George himself. George Alvin Guibault the wise old local gentleman that took such great care of my boat for the last 10 years or so.

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 I mentioned that the boat was a honey and I was very happy with it. I said, “Now you have a friend in Vegas.” Well that just opened a whole can of worms. Turns out George played high school hockey against a guy named Ralph Englestad. Dad will recognize that name immediately. He’s the owner of the Imperial Palace Hotel Casino in Vegas. Turns out George and Ralph are still close. Last time George went to Vegas, about three years ago, they had lunch. OK, so now George has two friends in Vegas.

 Met a nice couple that just bought a cabin on Oak. They were up going through the place for the first time and also putting in a dock. Much like us, they were amazed to find food, clothes, and even fancy dishes still in the cabin from the previous owner. I guess that’s just how it is done up here.

 Settled up with Jerry, and Rick, and got driving directions for the return trip. I overheard someone picking up a keg from Jerry. I guess that’s an option. Just something to think about next time there’s a large group coming to the cabin.

 Luckily I remembered that the Canadian Border is closed at Roseau until 8:00 AM. The check point at Warroad is open 24 hours so going that route ads about 22 minutes to the return drive. The plan, remember is to be in Redwood by 1:00 or 2:00.

 So now it’s back to the cabin to pretty much close up the place. We’ll pack what we can and eat what we can and try to get ahead of the game for the morning departure. Also, I still have that Walleye in the live-well, I guess I’ll have to eat that.

 Once back at the cabin, the weather’s too nice to talk about leaving and Rush is not really convinced we’re actually leaving in the first place. “Why?” he keeps asking with a chuckle. “Why leave? Are you nuts?” then he looks at the lake, looks back at me and then gestures toward the water. I have to admit I didn’t really have an answer.

 But to take his mind (and mine) off of leaving, we decided to play a little more deep water fetch. This is a 5-step game. (and I use the phrase “we decided” very loosely)

 Step one, (if you’re the dog) is to position yourself just close enough to the game piece as to make you and it appear easily in the same field of view. But just far enough away as to make your master believe it was his idea to play and your proximity to this game piece is purely coincidental.

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 Step two is the throw. It has to be far, but also high. Hopefully leaving the dog’s vertical field of sight. That way, when it drops from the sky, it’s all that much more exciting because as a dog, you can only ASSUME it is the same object that the Master just threw, but you can’t be absolutely sure. You must now be all the more serious about your retrieve because there is a chance that it is some new, and unknown object.

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 Step three is the return. This is the best part for the dog. He has already done the hard part. He had to sit, stay, heel, all that crap, and the excitement of the pursuit is over, but this is the real important part because all the way back you can make and maintain eye-contact with the Master. That is the best thing in the world for a dog, is to be swimming, running, climbing and struggling with some dangerous object which you have securely in your teeth, all the while KNOWING that the Master is watching you. I think dog’s love that shit.

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 Step four is the presentation. It is surpassed only by the grandeur of the Academy Awards. This is the part where the dog proudly, and willingly surrenders the “object”. If you think about it, he’s never seen you actually do this part. In fact the dog has never even seen you retrieve. For all he knows you, the Master, may be completely incapable of fetching anything. He’s seen you use the phone and operate heavy machinery, but he’s never, even once, seen you fetch anything. There exists the possibility that you simply can not do it. And therefore, God has given you The Dog.

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 The last step is optional. Many dogs forget this one or do it in such a clumsy and oafish fashion as to make it seem obvious. But it’s the bait and repeat step that is correctly executed by only the finest dogs. This is the part where the dog allows you to have the object, and though not excited about the prospect, may actually we willing to run this whole drill again…. You don’t know. Nothing is certain. The only way to find out if the dog is in fact prepared to go through this entire process again is to throw the object.  So it starts all over again and you’re back at step 1.

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 All the while this is going on, I can see through the cabin windows that Betty is furiously cleaning and preparing the cabin for our pending departure. This is hard for me to watch. Partly because I know we’re leaving, but also because I haven’t really helped at all and I feel somewhat guilty about that. So, I decide to be a stand-up guy and do what I can …. I convince her to take a coffee break. There. Now I feel better.

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 An hour or two passes and things are being done. Stuff is getting packed, and tossed and put away. The wind is calm, the temp is about 55 so I’m thinking, “fire pit.” Not because I wanted to sit down some more, but because one of the tasks Betty had given me was to dispose of the garbage. Well one of these bags was wisely identified as being for “paper only”. This is the bag I elect to dispose of first and the best way to do that, as you know, is the fire pit.

 It takes only a few fleeting glimpses of a campfire from the other side of the dining room window to lure even the most stalwart worker down for a closer look. Soon we’re both enjoying the fire, with some summer sausage on the end of a stick, crackling in the fire. The worms have not gone away but fortunately, they’re not smart enough to pick safe landing spots as they descend from the trees. Therefore some of them land in the fire. Just saves us the time of picking them off our clothes and throwing them in the fire.

 It was here, at this moment that I began to see that I was right about first time visitors. It’s about this time that they get a worried look on their face. They’re just now beginning to understand that they’re leaving this place.

 We sat quietly for a long time. Finally Betty got up and wandered towards the lake. It was as if she were being pulled to the shoreline by the view of the lake or by some sympathetic need to be near the dieing day.

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 This is when you realize that newcomers see the time here differently. They truly believe that a week is a long time and there’ll be plenty of time to soak it all in. But you know better. People just have to learn that for themselves.

 So an hour or so later, it’s up to the cabin to see about some supper. I’m at the table thinking about today’s events, when I hear a voice behind me. It sounds a little like Betty but it can’t be. It’s not even language that I recognize, more like syllables… word fragments interrupted only by short, staccato breaths. “Kelly, Get… Oh, Geeze !! Get the… You gotta …!!!  #@!*!!! Camera !!!, Get… !!! He’s back !!!. Look, Look Look !!!”

 It was the bear standing quietly outside the back window and looking longingly at the hamburger cooking just on the other side of the open window. This time I did have the camera.

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 As soon at I took his picture, he immediately began moving towards the cabin. It looked as if he was going to ask about coming in. He was very gentle, not threatening at all. He looked almost sorry for disturbing us. Really just looking for something to eat. Moved with the relaxed pace of a lonely guy at a nice party. Happy sort of, but something was missing. I felt honestly sorry for him.

 He stopped long enough for Betty to pose with him.

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 Eventually he wandered around the back yard and back into the woods.

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 Not even 30 minutes later, he came back. This time I’m sitting at the table, writing this update when I see this black spot move across my field of view. It was him, wandering slowly across the front yard. He snooted around the fire pit a little, probably smelled the summer sausage, and then moved over toward the walkway. Stopped there, appeared to eat some weeds or chew the dandelions or something. And then again, sort of started toward the cabin. By this time I was out on the balcony. I wanted to get a better picture and he was clearly not a threat in anyway.

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 He wasn’t approaching the stairs but rather, my presence on the deck made him uncomfortable. He walked right past the bottom of the steps, up the hill by the basement door and off into the woods. It almost appeared that he was using the same trial we use to get over to the Blue Eyed Chief. Maybe that’s why that path looks so worn, even after a winter of disuse.

 I was happy to see him again, after yesterday’s little run in I was glad to learn that he’s not a dangerous presence. Rather a nice old guy who lives in the neighborhood. I like this neighborhood even more for having met him.

 It’s 11:35 PM now. Almost dark. We’ll be up in about five hours so I better close this out. I won’t be doing any more updates for this trip. I’ll be in Minneapolis tomorrow night (who needs updates about that?) and back in Vegas by Sunday night. I’ll miss these updates a little. They have given me a chance to live each day more than once. In some cases many times. That’s neat and I hope you have enjoyed them. Thanks for giving me an audience.

 Kj