"The day began as all such Northwoods days should -"
When I was a boy, we lived in Duluth, Minn., where my
father was the pastor of a large West End church. Members, most of them of Swedish descent,
were God-fearing, kind, gentle and frequently invited their minister and his family to Sunday
dinner. It was at one of these Sunday dinners that we - Mom, Dad and me - were invited to spend
a week's vacation at our host's summer cottage on Lake Vermilion. Mom hesitated, fearing a
first time experience in the state's north woods country. But, we all agreed and spent a
wonderful seven days in accommodations that were a part of the camp's boathouse.
It wasn't sumptuous, this Lake Vermilion summer home, but it was comfortable with a rustic combined living and eating area that included a large stone fireplace, and a screened-in porch bedroom with twin double beds that hung from the rafters of an open ceiling by heavy metal chain. Never slept better, lulled to sleep by the gentle movement of the bed and the sounds of the surrounding woods and the lake where the cry of the Loon was almost commonplace.
Dad was a swimmer, so he found a lot of time to dive in and swim away the frustrations and problems of his ministerial job. Mom was happy making meals and cleaning - something she did whether on vacation or not. A preacher's wife never knew which one of the members would "drop-in" for a visit. Me? Well, I was content with an old wind-up record player and a stack of records, a huge pile of back issues of National Geographic and other magazines. And, a small row-boat, equipped with oars, a life jacket and a one-half horsepower motor.
"For me? I asked the owner. "Yup, with your folks' permission, of course." And, then there was the proverbial "BUT" - "but, you have to stay close to shore and only as far and back as the small half-gallon gas tank would carry me." Well, I'll tell you, I was one happy 8-year old. I had brought a fishing rod, line and a shining spoon that my Dad loaned me. He several times came home with a good supply of Landlocked Salmon he and his male parishioner fishing friends caught at least once a summer.
What did I catch? Well, it's been a long time ago, so I don't know if I was far enough out in Lake Vermilion to catch a Northern Pike or a Walleye. But, one evening I did return with a bucket full of Perch - 32-of 'em, presented with pride to my Mom in the kitchen. I have no idea what happened to my catch; I do remember we ate some other fish given to us by the camp's owner for a couple of meals. But, I do remember the 32 Perch, the boat and the one-half horsepower outboard motor that introduced me to one of the most scenic lakes in the country - Lake Vermilion.