Rockin’ the Boat

Grampa Jim was a loving and kind man who did anything he could for us.  He was slim and short, only five foot two inches tall.  His hair was grey and thin.  He sported a neatly trimmed mustache.  On the left side of his face, right in front of his ear, he had a lump nearly the size of a golf ball.   He never worried about the lump even though he looked funny with it.  It never hurt him or bothered him in any way.

My wish to go fishing got through to him, and he agreed to take me to Little Paw-Paw Lake to fish from a boat.  Dad dropped us off.  Grampa never owned a car nor did he know how to drive, but he always got to where he wanted to go by walking, and asking for rides.

The lake comes up to the front door of the house next to the road. The owner rented row boats.  Little Paw-Paw is unique in that power boats are forbidden. The result is that there are no water skiers or speed boats tearing up the lake.   The lake is small, serene, and quiet.  There are houses on the lake, but much of the shoreline is still wild and undeveloped.  Gramps and I rented a boat, and I rowed out into the lake with my gear and a can full of worms.  The water was smooth as glass. Only the wake of our boat and paddles disturbed it.  Occasionally, a fish jumped nearby with a huge splash; making my adrenalin flow.

A third of the way across the lake we stopped and set the anchor.  I baited my hooks and swung out the bobber.  I used the bamboo pole that Grampa Jim bought for me. I waited patiently for the bobber to dip.  Here I was, fishing in the middle of the lake, in deep water.  Oh how I had dreamed of this moment.  I envisioned pulling in lots of fish when out in the deep waters.  With all the fish jumping around us, I thought we’d see non-stop action; nothing happened.  After awhile, I pulled up anchor and rowed to the lily pads near the shore.  I read that fish lurked in lily pads.  This time, we anchored about 30 feet from shore at the edge of the lily pads.  We’re going to fill the boat with fish at this spot, I thought.  Again, there were no bites; not a single one.  Gramps started to get antsy.  I was not a swimmer, so sitting in a boat was exciting enough for me.  The least little bobble of the boat terrified me.

Gramps couldn’t take it any longer, his bladder was aching.  Suddenly the boat began rocking and rolling as Grampa Jim stood up.  I hung on for dear life with visions of drowning.  I hollered at him to sit down, but nature called him.  He stood up straight, turned away from me, and took a whiz.  I sat there holding on for dear life. He rocked the boat again when he sat down. I was frozen with terror.

It turned out that Grampa Jim’s whiz was the most excitement I had that day.  I didn’t get a single bite during four hours of fishing. Dad came to pick us up, and asked how we did.

“There are no fish in this lake,” I responded. Grampa Jim didn’t say a word.

Tough Old Bird

Grampa Jim’s daily ritual to Fish Corners often left him coming home after dark.  He socialized with anyone who came in and sat down with him.  He sat at a favorite table, and everyone in the area knew him.  It was almost as though he was the township Godfather.

Most of the time, he got a home, but one summer night Gramps had to walk.  His house was a long quarter mile away along a desolate road.  There are only two houses between the tavern, and the farm; both of them are immediately behind Fish Corners.  After that, the woods grew out to the road.  The side opposite the woods is farm field void of any buildings.

Gramps walked with traffic in the dark.  On this night a car came up behind him, and hit him. It dragged him for three hundred feet before the driver stopped. Fortunately, the driver sought help. An ambulance took him to the closest hospital in Ann Arbor, Michigan; a hundred and fifty miles away.

I was eight years old, and I remember mom getting a call at our home in Chicago. It was the hospital; her father was critical, and not expected to survive.

Mom talked it over with dad, and left for Ann Arbor, by train, the next day.  She stayed as long as she could and came home after a week.  She expected to receive a call that he passed away.  Mom was very upset, and cried allot.

A week later I came home from school, and who was sitting there, but my seventy-two year old grandfather.  He had a lot of abrasions on his arms, legs, and head. Otherwise, he looked good.

Gramps told us that the doctors were planning to experiment on him, and he had to get out of there.  He kept repeating over, and over that they were planning to kill him.

He survived for many more years, but did have a skin problem after that. We often saw him applying hot wet cloths soaked in boric acid solution to his arms and legs.  He always blamed his itching skin on that accident.

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