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Topic: Water (04/26/04)
TITLE: A Memory Worth Having
By Linda Miller
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One of my fondest memories as a child is Newman’s Lake. It was a small lake, about 40 acres or so, but it had the freshest, clearest, bluest water in the world. My mom and dad took our family on vacation there every summer. My two sisters, three brothers, and pet beagle enjoyed our time there unlike any other place on earth. If you were to ask any of my family where paradise was on earth I think we all, without reservation, would mention Newman’s Lake. This lake was a fisherman’s dream. We fished for perch and bluegill during the mornings, bobbers bobbing happily while we sat basking in the warm sun. Closer to dusk and throughout the early evening the boats were taken out with happy fishermen ready to fight the largemouth bass that lay along the edges. We knew just where to go for the biggest, best fish and we were seldom disappointed.
There were no cottages, no hotels, and no signs pointing to our lake. We walked a mile through deep woods to get to the lake from the road. My dad drove his ’63 Scout in four-wheel drive, filled with everything imaginable for a great campsite. Add to that our flat bottom aluminum boat which was roped down on the top, plus one or two kids who were too young to walk the full mile and the Scout had its work cut out for it. Over ruts, up and out of holes, sometimes filled with muddy water, branches and other obstacles our old jeep labored on. It was an old logging trail we followed and not much of a road at all.
When we finally made it to the lake we were overjoyed. Nothing but tall grass, sandy beach and water; us kids felt like we had hit heaven on the run. After a half day of setting up camp; which consisted of a large tent, a screen tent, a latrine, shelves, with a tarp behind and above, for the food plus the table and benches we were ready to go explore. We made short work of getting our boats in the water, our fishing gear, cushions and pogybait ready and waiting for our first fishing trip.
Newman’s Lake had a beach. A beautiful, sandy beach with tufts of grass and shaped like a scoop. It came up from the shoreline and was dug out of a hill. Our whole family enjoyed that beach, towels spread out and sand toys everywhere. We played volleyball on the grassy plateau above the beach area and played a game called Jarts that was like horseshoes. We roasted marshmallows and hot dogs and had bon fires and sang corny songs like “Shoo Fly don’t bother me” and “Hit the road Jack.” Nobody worried about what they looked like, although my mom was a stickler for us washing up every morning and, of course, we went swimming with a bar of soap along for the fun.
We used an old stove that was left there for cooking and we also had our trusted Coleman stove and lanterns. We made a table out of sawhorses and plywood and homemade benches to sit on. We also used stumps to sit on and we even took the seat out of the Scout to sit on sometimes. We would bring in our own water to drink. My mom cooked the best fish this side of heaven on that old stove, not to mention flapjacks in the mornings and Hunters Stew for lunches.
There was wildlife too. We saw does with their fawns coming down the beach to get a drink of water. We saw bear, porcupines, chipmunks, and many other furry little critters throughout our time there, not to mention a snake or two. The loons would call to one another and the whippoorwills would sing their mournful tunes.
I cannot leave you thinking there wasn’t one thing bad about this paradise.
The mosquitoes were numerous and we found a blood sucker or two on us after swimming that we had to take care. However, that just showed us that when you visit nature you deal with it. Make the most of it. Find ways to cope with it. We had smudge pots going with plenty of smoke and liberally applied the mosquito dope. I don’t ever remember any of us complaining too much about those things. Such was life in the backwoods in Upper Wisconsin in the month of July!
This place is what memories are made of . . . a place where dreams come true laying on our backs watching the clouds go by . . . a place where we can go back and enjoy it all over and over and over in our minds eye.
In telling this wonderful memory I want to emphasize that this vacation wasn’t oozing with commercialism. You won’t find a brochure on a place like this; you probably won’t even find it on a map. Places like Newman’s Lake are around but you have to go looking for them. They won’t pop out at you on the internet or in a magazine, or a newspaper. My dad and mom will gladly tell you it was a lot of work to take their six children and pet dog on vacation but it was worth every last muscle ache. Thank you mom and dad for the very best this world has to offer – being with family, loving each other and finding time to work together for a common goal. I will forever be grateful to you for showing us the way to Newman’s Lake.