Those of you who know me fairly well know that I like to live pretty close to the ground. By that, I mean I like to do things for myself and be as self-sustaining as is reasonable in today’s world. I like to cut my own firewood, keep my wood stove going in the winter, grow a vegetable garden, can some tomatoes and beans and preserves, shoot a few deer, work them up myself and do those other things that tend to keep me in touch with this glorious place that I am blessed to call home.
That is all well and good. But the ground can be hard, uneven, full of holes and lumps, and will often put a man back in his place and have no reservations about it. Many years ago, a fellow by the name of Stephan Crane wrote words to this effect: “And man said to the universe, ‘Sir, I exist.’ And the universe replied, ‘Sir, that fact creates in me no sense of obligation.’ ”
The last week of June, my brother-in-law, Bunny Welch, and I ventured, once again, to the beautiful evergreen country of Ontario, which our northern friends call “the bush.” I still question why I travel 850 miles, one way, to catch a few toothy northern pike and see some old friends. Whatever the reason, this was Bunny’s second trip and my twenty-third.
To give you a feel for how the days were planned to go, we arrived in Three Bears Camp in Shining Tree, Ontario, at about noon on Saturday. It doesn’t take two old men long to unpack, and within a couple of hours that was done and we were on a lake catching our supper.
Back to the cabin, fish filleted, corn cakes made, skillet is hot, and the fish are frying. That first day there turned out to be, meteorologically, one of the longest days of the year, and by the time supper was over and the table cleaned off, it was after 10:30 p.m. and just getting dark. The guitars came out, and old tunes and songs were relived until after 1 a.m. As I said many times that week, who wouldn’t love this?
On Sunday, our first full day there, we traveled up the paved road about 35 kilometers and turned onto a logging road. If you want to catch fish in this part of the country, you better know the logging roads: They are the only way to get to some good fishing lakes, but they can be pretty rough, and there are no 7-Elevens on the corner to give you directions. After about 15 kilometers into the bush, we turned off again, this time onto what can only be described as a trail.
Dodging rocks, mud holes and logs, and thanking technology all the while for four wheel drive, we arrived at a spot in the trail that I recognized. I stopped the truck in the middle of the trail, and Bunny looked at me with brow only slightly furrowed, and asked, “Is this it?”
You can’t see very far through the brush, but I knew that over the bank and down through the forest, less than 50 yards away, was a shallow bay that we could put the little flat-bottomed boat in, that would lead us, about a half mile away, to one of my favorite lakes.
Using nothing but artificial lures, we had a blast hooking, fighting, landing and releasing probably 20 to 30 northern pike. They weren’t 14 pound monsters, like the one on the wall in my house, but they were good, standard Canadian northern pike, 20 to 24 inches. We kept two for dinner and started home. And yes, friends, there were a few bugs, but they were a minor aggravation in the main scheme of things.
We were dragging the boat up the bank to the trail where the truck was waiting. I had no more than one or two more steps to go and I would be on level ground. That was not to be. My left foot slipped, my ankle turned in on me and I hit the ground, hearing some sort of “pop.” The pain was ugly. Bunny thought I had had a heart attack. He said my face was red, and, yes, I may have mentioned that it hurt some. I got the boot unlaced far enough to see that there were no bones sticking out, and we, somehow, got the boat on top of the truck and got out of the bush and back to the cabin.
Getting the boot off proved to be problematic, as the swelling was horrible. It looked pretty bad. I have rather long, skinny toes, but they looked like overstuffed, purple sausages. The calf was swollen so tight it looked like it would burst.
Brandon Baker, the camp owner and a true friend, offered to drive me three hours to the closest medical attention and an X-ray machine. I held off on the offer and was able to talk with a nurse in a clinic a few hours away. I told her I was able to put some weight on it, on a level surface. She said it probably wasn’t broken and recommended the same RICE application that we used to use for the kids when they had a wrestling or soccer sprain – rest, ice, compression and elevation.
That afternoon, we trailered the bigger boat to a lake where we could put the boat in without having to drag it. We fished everyday we were there, except Thursday, when it rained all day. Unfortunately, Bunny had to do most of the heavy lifting, but he was a good sport, and we made it through.
Back home, a week and two days after the ankle incident, the doc took one look at it and said it was broken. I said something like, dang. She then looks at the x-rays and said, “Well, I’ll be, it’s not broken.”
“Thank you, Lord,” I replied. Then she remembered that I almost bit the big one 10 years ago with a blood clot, and sent me straight to the hospital for a venous Doppler. That’s a fancy sonogram, if you ask me, but I was given the go-ahead; no blood clots found.
They tell me the recuperation will be a long one, but I’m on the mend and expect to get the boats and fishing gear cleaned up and put away in a week or two. In the meantime, keep moving forward, and live your life like every day might be your last. And remember, if you choose to live close to the ground, you may get smacked around once in awhile. Some won’t agree with me, but I think it’s worth it. God bless.
The Flint Hill fire department is planning a two-day event Aug. 2-3, including a parade at 6:45 p.m. on Friday night. The town’s carnival grounds will be open, with barbecue dinners, games, concessions and activities for the children. There will be bingo and the food stands will be open with those great burgers, dogs and fries, while the bake stand keeps your sweet tooth satisfied. There may even be a raging bull to ride, if you dare.
Things get started at 2 p.m. on Saturday (Aug. 3). In addition to everything above, the afternoon features live music by From the Heart. The fire department is selling raffle tickets for $1,500 worth of cash prizes, and a black angus heifer, donated by the W. R. Welch family. If you don’t want the heifer, you can take $500 in cash.
Please watch for advertisements and announcements for more details. I hope you can come out and join us. We have been blessed by your support in the past, and we hope we can count on it this year. See you there!