We launched out in the lake in the pre-dawn darkness of opening day. Opening day, what a joke I thought to myself, it’s not day if the Sun is not up. Being all of 15 years old I was wise beyond any accomodation and if I had just been “unruly” it would have be a giant step in the right direction. But here I was with my Uncles and my sister’s husband heading out in to the dark abyss in hopes of bringing home some trout. Not only was it dark, it was down to the bone cold. Not breezy, just damp from the high mountain air that only Western Washington can produce. I don’t remember too many details of the boat launch other than the things I still complain about: Dark, cold, damp, and I ended up in the bow of the boat.
Skrauny is probably the highest praise my Uncles would have used to describe me. I had a skrauny frame, and a skrauny mind set. I was the lightest, so they put me up front so the boat wouldn’t plow through the water on our way to this secret fishing mecca on Mineral Lake.
Mineral Lake is a very, very cold body of water within sight of Mount Ranier, and about a mile from the family farm. The loggers would dump their cargos in the lake. The cold water would soften the bark, and Carlson’s Mill would do the rest. The whole of Thurston County is built around logging. When it was first settled in the 1810’s the families had a hard time growing food for man and animal because the stands of wood were so thick. In the Summer time of the early 1960’s all our kin would go to the Logger’s Jubilee. All the Aunts, and cousins would bring fried chicken, cucumber dill pickles that could take your breath away from ten paces, and 500 varieties of potato salad, maccaroni salad, and please don’t make me remember the pies. I think I will just break down and cry when I remember those pies. The young stappers, and the mature able loggers would show off their skills in log rolling, tree topping and backing their logging trailers between rows of eggs just wide enough for the tires to get through. They got out their buck saws and raced to see what team could get through a log the quickest, they had chopping, slicing and dicing. Any way you could think of to be competitive with an ax, a saw, a pike, or a truck – they did it. Even a surly 15 year old built fond memories of golden hues.
But now I was just stuck in the bow of this boat with my ogre uncles. Everyone was just real quiet waiting for the Sun to peek up over the horizon. A lot of time passed until the pitch black gave up it’s domain to a ghostly grey. The wet air had become a thick fog that had dropped right down to the water line. “This is what passes for day?”, I said to myself. Out come the rods, and everyone gets their tackle wet and again silence is broken only by the repetitive lapping of swells against the side of the boat. Countless grim hours later the Sun is having it’s way with the fog. As it burns off I do not believe what I am seeing. The entire lake is so full of fishing boats that you probably could have walked across the lake from shore to shore by going boat to boat. I still don’t know how we did not drop our tackle into our neighbors boat, or they in ours. And how could so many people be so quiet that you think you are the only ones within a hundred miles? It still boggles my mind and imagination to this very moment.
My Uncles and Brother-in-law, always on the ready with a prank or a tease; got their revenge on me on the way back to the dock. They told me to grab the bow line and as we slowed to approach the dock to jump out and secure the boat to the pier. As soon as I had one foot off the bow they reversed course and pulled away. My nimble foot never made it to the wood planking. I went in over my head into some of the coldest water known to man. The cold was bad enough, but the taste was much worse; a combination of fuel, oil, and sawdust. Kind of like licking a presto log. Everyone in our boat, and in a thousand boats across the lake heard the splash. So much for the sweet silence of these jolly rodgers. I found it pretty amusing too. Especially after being out on that lake for several hours with a full bladder. Now at least one area of me was warm. And since I was wet from head to toe, what a relief that was.