A funny thing happened on my way to LakeLife

It’s funny how memories have a way of evoking some of the same emotions you felt when you made them. The laughter comes quickly as the details flood back of how this big city girl found a forever home on the lake.

I wasn’t always the seasoned veteran – or sailor – of LakeLife I am now. And those early years can’t help but bring a smile and a belly laugh of two as I recall them.

I had just been promoted at the newspaper I was working for back in the 80s, but the requirement was that I live in the city where it was located. I obliged and quickly found a home on the lake that resides within the city’s borders.

Catch and release

Now officially a lake dweller, I was ready to fish. Only problem was I really don’t like taking them off the hook. And I have never actually cleaned a fish in my life. But a friend and I were ready for LakeLife. We were on the bank fishing, and I caught a huge catfish.

Not wanting to take the fish off the hook and learning that my friend didn’t either, a real dilemma faced us – as did this foot and half long, whiskered catfish staring back at us. Luckily, her Girl Scout training kicked in, and she was prepared. She slammed the catfish, dangling at the end of my line, to the bank. I carefully placed my foot on its tail, and she bravely pulled out the hook.

“Catfish can cut you, you know,” she warned, as my foot stayed firmly planted on the fish’s tail. I looked at her, she looked at me, and without a word between us, we knew exactly what we had to do. She leaned the awaiting cooler on its side, and she kicked it in like a last-second field goal. It fit, but not for long. Animal/amphibian lovers that we are, it would serve as our first lesson of catch and release.

And that tough old catfish? Well, he made it through our less than delicate lesson, seemingly no worse for the wear, and swam back to whatever depth he came from. And a happy ending was had by all.

Learning the wildlife

Up to the time I moved to the lake, my only real encounter with wildlife was a party or two and college, of course. Not long after I moved in, some friends and I were grilling when a creature in flight cast a shadow so big that it encompassed the grill and those around it.

Its series of screeching sounds as it whirred above us had all the big city folks looking at one another in amazement. “What was that?,” we exclaimed in unison. Pterodactyl was all we could come up with at the time. Days later, when the story was retold, was my face red when I learned what was flying overhead was just a Great Blue Heron, a regular resident on our lake.

It was much like the time I learned that the tank on the side of the house was a propane tank, not a septic tank!

Spring has sprung

If you live on the lake very long, you know that the birds and the bees aren’t the only ones busy in the spring. Mallards seem to ‘couple up’ and waddle around the yard, the pier, the seawall and just about any direction you look. Just the two of them, apparently looking for the best spot, but for what?

Soon, the pairing is followed by duck eggs in the strangest places you’ve ever seen. They’re in flower planters, in tall grass or nestled next to a seawall. It’s like Easter as a kid.

But the strangest place we found them were the ones laid in a nest in the cubby hole of our boat furniture. We looked inside one day, and there was the mother, sitting pretty as you please on her nest as if we didn’t exist.

Not wanting to disturb the future family, we rode the mother and eggs around that whole spring.

Mr. No Shoulders
The Mama duck wasn’t the only party crasher on our boat that spring. A snake found a home inside one of the seats, no doubt waiting on the duck eggs for a meal.

I was at work, and a friend was going to take the boat out. She reached inside the seat that doubles as storage and saw the tail. She slammed the seat down, ran to the house and kept watch from the deck with a set of binoculars.

She had called me, and I went out to the newsroom to tell the story. “What kind of snake was it?,” they asked. “How would she know,” I replied, “she was running at the time!”

A neighbor later managed to get the snake off the boat, but it wouldn’t be deterred. It swam back the next day and climbed – slithered is more like it – aboard.

But we were armed this time. My friend’s dad had rigged up a broom handle with a razor blade attached, apparently some pagan ritual he learned in Tarrant City, where you behead the snake.

Coward that I readily admit I am, I wasn’t going near the boat. Neither was my friend in the end. A couple of bass anglers passing by heard our shrieks, and they used the broom handle to scoop up the snake and tossed it back in the water. We thankfully never saw him again.

Loving the LakeLife
If you live on the lake, you’ve probably experienced some early days just like us, and you can’t help but smile. Fact is, after 30 years, we’re still smiling. What a life!

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