Wednesday, July 20, 2011
This is a short story I wrote for my creative writing class. Hope you enjoy. Based on actual events. = )
Spontaneity is not a huge factor since the kids came so when my wife came home and stated, “Let’s get up early and go to Emerald Lake and do some fishing.” I instantly jumped on the idea. It all started out well the next morning. I am not an early riser, though as I get older I find it harder to sleep and more and more get up well before I intended.
As my wife put on her fishing makeup and tried to decide if she should fix her beautiful blond curly hair or just wear a hat (she went with the hat), I started making breakfast for the family. We had gone camping the weekend before so still had some left over Ore-Ida® Potatoes. I made some eggs and to my surprise both my kids stated, “Thanks for making breakfast Dad.” You must understand my kids are polite, but my daughter (who is one well stated opinion wrapped in an almost six year old body) seems to not like anything I make. Most mornings are more like, “Dad—I SAID I wanted cheese on my egg.” (She never eats the egg).
While I was cooking breakfast, I thought of all the pictures we have taken of Emerald and West Rosebud Lake. These lakes are located in the Absaroka Mountains and are part of the chain of lakes created (though they may have been then in some original form) by a dam that was built high up in the mountains. It is a hard climb and engineers even built a small rail system to haul supplies to the top of the mountain to create Mystic Lake. For years I hoped to hike up there and last year I was finally able to do it—it almost physically killed me. While the lake is beautiful, I was so exhausted when I reached Mystic Lake I all but passed out. What intrigues me the most is that it must have taken some rugged men (or women) to climb and build that railroad as well as build the dam.
I kept thinking of fishing on Emerald Lake (though I am sure it is really West Rosebud Lake we spend most time on). Mountain fishing is something I love to do. The water is clear and usually anyone can see the bottom of the lake. Often you can even see the fish just hanging out waiting to be caught.
The week before someone gave us a rubber raft. It is not a big one, but one that should hold me, my wife, and two kids. I had been hinting at wanting one, but it seemed to be a luxury we could not afford at this time. Part of the attraction to the idea of a rubber boat was memories from my childhood. My mom, brother, and I had a small rubber boat that we had played with for many summers. Actually, we had many rubber boats as we would play dunk the person in the boat and often it would create a hole in the boat. So, we would return it as defective. After about two or three returns I am sure the store owner became suspicious. However, the one memory I had the most thought about was when my Uncle Rich took my cousin and me up to a little lake in the Beartooth Mountains called Sheepherder Lake. Actually it was Little Sheepherder Lake where it happened. These lakes at the time had some rather large fish. My memory of the hike was of my Uncle paddling out into the lake in the little rubber boat and fishing from it. My cousin and I could hear when he caught a fish as Uncle Rich would let out a loud, “Woo-hoo!” when he caught one. Then we would look for him and watch him get pulled across the lake by the fish! That was exactly what I wanted to experience this weekend!
However—we did not receive any paddles with the raft--so the search was on. My first thought was a place we as a family call, Mr. M. Actually it is the Montana Rescue Mission thrift shops, but the sign looks like MRM so we call it Mr. M. I am not sure if anyone else in town calls it this, and at times I have to explain where I mean—even though the sign says it clearly.
As a family we shop at MRM regularly. I recalled that I have seen many paddles at this store and was convinced I could find it. So after we packed the gear, kids, and dog into the SUV, we went over there. After about 15 minutes of searching and having to agree to buy a plastic Pink Panther toy for my seven year old son, I found the one paddle MRM had. My wife then realized we forgot the camera at home so as we drove back, we noticed the huge pawn shop we had in town. They always had boats and canoes so we thought we’d give it a chance. My son and I ran in and walked over every inch of the store and then I had an idea—so I asked one of the people there if they had any paddles. They of course said—“No.”
We ran back and retrieved the camera and headed over to Wal-Mart. As we passed Taco Bell, I realized it was after 11AM and suggested we get a bite to eat. My wife was not hungry, but my son said, “Nachos with cheese—please.” I had three tacos. It was the longest wait in line at a fast food chain in the history of mankind! I could tell you about it, but you might desire death over the excitement of it all. Needless to say, my daughter decided as we drove off, “I now want nachos!” I smiled and said, “Sorry honey, you said you did not want anything.” She huffed and pouted and said, “I TOLD you I wanted nachos and you never listen to me.” My wife and I looked at her and reminded my daughter just how clearly she stated, “I DON”T WANT ANYTHING!” to which she replied, “YOU RUINED MY LIFE!”
We then headed over to Wal-Mart. My wife thought that if she just ran in, she could move faster. After a few minutes she called me on the cell phone to make sure she did not forget anything. She ran through the list in her head—I thought I heard everything—she stated she was coming out but—“There are so many people in here! It is like a freakin’ zoo!” I could hear babies crying over the phone and by the looks of the parking lot, I stated, “Sound’s like it--the parking lot is crazy also.” It was now 12PM.
“Hey, ask the kids if they want hot dogs. They are doing a fund raiser outside here and I figured it was noon. I guess the sandwiches I planned to make for lunch can now be for later.”
I asked the kids and they agreed. They had hotdogs and we finally hit the road.
The drive is about two hours. As we drove we noticed the flooding of the Yellowstone River. In fact, it looked angry! The river reminded me of stories of the Amazon when it hits the ocean. I understand that there are huge waves and it can be very treacherous—this river was very treacherous. We drove on and came to the final turn.
“Yeah.” I replied.
“What should we do?” my wife asked.
We sat there and watched three cars just drive on past the sign. We agreed that if it looked bad we would turn back.
We drove and came to a point where the road was diverted. What had happened was that a part of the road had literally sunk. We drove on the dirt filled detour and headed to the lake.
When we arrived, we noticed a large number of vehicles all parked at the end. We drove past Emerald Lake hoping to get to West Rosebud Lake only to find the road was closed.
”What’s going on?” I muttered.
We turned around and found a spot on Emerald Lake to fish. I carried all the fishing stuff down to the lake as my wife applied sunscreen to herself and the kids. She then began to fill the raft with air.
I walked back up to the SUV and began to help with the sunscreen. I put some on my son thinking he would rub it in; only to find later he was sunburned with a small heart shaped white spot where the suntan lotion was squirted on him. He thinks it looks cool.
We took the raft out. I tried it first, but found it rather hard to paddle and even harder to get out. In fact I felt like a trapped turtle trying to get out and wondered if my wife had not been there if I would still be trapped today.
My wife and kids then took it out and seemed to fair much better than I had. I watched them and took pictures as they paddled around the lake. So, they came back over and I tried to go out again. I took my fishing pole hoping to reenact my Uncle Rich’s experience, but as I paddled around, I realized there was not a fish to be seen. In fact, as I looked around at the other anglers not a fish was being reeled in anywhere. “Winterkill?” I wondered.
I then realized that this lake had a current—and I was drifting farther away from my family. As I paddled, I also remembered my bum shoulder. With each stroke of the paddle I remembered my bum shoulder even more. At one point I was trying to decide if there was a closer shore to paddle to, but realized that I would have to drag the raft around the lake.
I made it. But, then the wind came. We decided to pack it up and the wind blew harder. I carried everything back to the SUV while my wife began to deflate the raft. We then repacked the truck several times to fit the dog.
At 4AM this morning as I felt my shoulder pain and sunburned head (I even wore a hat!) the only person that seems more miserable than me, is my poor old dog. Getting in and out of the SUV is hard for her. She is over 100 pounds of butter flab from the tiring life of lazing around the house most her life. I could hear her moan in pain so as I reached for the aspirin for myself, I gave her some also. Don’t worry, I checked to see if it was safe.