October 27th, 2011
Published by: mooresb
Distant Island Chapter One Two By Robert W. Butche October 27th, 2011
By Robert Butche
Distant Island Chapter Two Fishing is as Much an Affair of the Heart as it is About Reeling in the Denizens of the Deep
Previously in Distant Island
A Picture Story for Adults by Robert Butche with Keith Bemis Downdraft!
Breakfast at Six In chapter One, Keith Bemis There's nothing and Robert Butche like the aroma of brewing coffee to fly into Gore Bay airport on get one out of bed. Canada's beautiful Keith and I are Manitoulin Island coffee drinkers, but he nearly always for a week of fishing and fun. gets the pot going Bob is a frequent first. visitor to the Lake "Holy Cow!, Keith," Kagawong region -- I muttered as I and is reunited with crawled out of his old friend Colin bed. "Is it morning Montgomery who already?" serves as fishing "Yep . . . coffee's and hunting guide ready." at Dawson Resort. I pulled on some The Ohio men trousers and an old rediscover the gray sweatshirt. I beauty and charm couldn't find my of the world's shoes in the dark so largest fresh water I tippy-toed on the island -- and the cold floor into the quiet pleasures of main room of the life far from the family sized cabin. madding crowd south of the border. Keith was bleary eyed and half
When I turned to see what Keith was talking about, the sinister clouds just west of Kagawong made it abundantly clear we were about to get wet. The implications of the fast approaching squall line were ominous. The giant roll-cloud was already skimming the surface of Lake Kagawong -and the towering Cumulonimbus thunderstorms behind would soon overrun us. The roll-cloud was well developed -- as is typical of the squall lines that accompany tornado-bearing cold fronts in the Midwest. My meteorological training gave me
The story picks up in the pre-dawn hours on their first full day in camp.
dressed -- but he handed me a cup of steaming java. "I thought you might need some of this stuff . . ."
to understand just how much trouble we were in. Just then, the first gusts from the downdrafts began to set our little boat "Perhaps you Bob Butche thought the Scots- dancing on the flavored water put suddenly choppy me down early last waters. I turned to Colin, Keith and Bob night?" "Maybe we better graduated in the "Whatever it was University School you went out like a get to shore. . ." but before he could class of 1954. Even light." answer, the wind as they pursued far gusted again -- and different careers, It took us little they often shared more than fifteen our boat began to minutes to sip our pull hard on the fishing trips. stern-mounted Usually, those trips coffee and finish were to Canada's dressing. I could anchor chain. As soon as Keith saw Manitoulin Island. feel the cold in my toes when I we were in trouble, This story is about pulled on a pair of he began to reel the people of extra heavy weight in the anchor, Manitoulin, and sox. By the time shouting at Colin, the lessons learned we reached the "What the Hell is from a series of Dawson house, it going on?" experiences on the was two minutes 'til fabled waters of six -- with breakfast "I think we're a'comin' loose," Lake Kagawong. served precisely at 6 A.M. We were Colin responded as the only ones in the he grabbed an oar Distant Island dining room -- no to steady the boat. ÂŠ 2003 Robert one else in camp "It's a squall line W. Butche seemed to be up. downdraft," I All Rights Soon, the town girl shouted back. "Bad Reserved who worked for the enough to knock an airliner out of Other Stories by Dawsons serving table, came in with the sky or swamp Robert Butche our breakfast. Two a three-masted sail eggs, four sausages, boat." morning tea, and I don't think they a high stack of heard any of what I buttered toast. had said for by then In fishing camp there are only two
the wind whipped the waters around 1
October 27th, 2011
Published by: mooresb
meals a day -us into a foaming unless luncheon fury. We were in sandwiches are trouble, big trouble. specially ordered A seasoned -- so breakfast boatman, Keith would have to stand knew what we us until dinner. had to do to avoid When we finished floundering and breakfast, Keith possibly sinking. and I walked back He sprang into to the cabin in the action -- for he dark. We picked and Colin both up our fishing gear understood that and made our way we were vulnerable down the hill to to wind and waves the rickety old fish -- and still the flat house. back of the boat "Yew ladies been sleeping in again, I see," Colin exclaimed, as we passed under the light on the pier just outside the fish house.
was facing squarely into the wind.
With the squall line directly overhead, the sky took on a ragged look with only a small hole of light remaining "Maybe our to the east. Still the watches are still on winds were raging American time," and the lake waters I retorted. Of roiling around us. course there is no difference at all between American and Canadian time -- except to Colin who found most things American untimely, suspect or overvalued. Keith couldn't contain himself, "It's only sixtwenty-five," he argued, "at least in the real world . . ." I looked up -surprised to see that Keith was indeed in a jocular mood that morning. With two of us, Colin was surely in over his head. Or, so we thought. Colin Montgomery was sharp of mind and quick of tongue. Sometimes he might talk
"Better get some power going," Keith shouted at Colin over the howling wind. Even as he spoke, Keith was hanging onto the sides of the wildly rocking row boat with both hands. "Yep," Colin was shouting as he grabbed the small Evinrude outboard and began to
incessantly while at others he would be silent. No matter which, his mind was racing ahead -- searching for an angle -- for he enjoyed the camaraderie and teasing of people he liked. He was a most remarkable man for while he appeared woodsy and rough hewn at times, he was far more sophisticated than he cared to show. Sometimes when he was particularly animated, he would jab and dance about like a prize fighter to emphasize his comments. For Colin, conversation was as much about having fun as it was about sharing ideas. But that was only when he was talking, for when Colin was quiet he remained, for the most part, a mystery. It was after these silences that he was at his best. At those times, Colin chose his words carefully and savored the challenge of verbal combat. Behind his ruddy face and bright eyes was an incisive mind and and genuine interest in others.
sharply pull the starter handle toward him. The little motor caught momentarily then haltingly came to a stop. Even as the starter cord was reeling back into the motor housing, a powerful downdraft from the squall line hit us with what must have been a gust well over sixty miles per hour. Suddenly our small boat was listing to port and rocking uncontrollably. With Colin to my back I couldn't see how much trouble we were in -- but the look on Keith's face told the whole story. For when Colin yanked on the starter handle the second time the cord suddenly broke -- sending the un-tethered and now handle less starter cord snapping back into the motor housing.
By then the anchor had broken loose from the mud shallows and our tiny row boat was adrift and moving toward mid-lake. Even worse, windwhipped waves soon sent frothy waves breaking over the sides of the boat. I don't know how Keith Colin was so perplexed at Keith got by me, but he was suddenly in jabbing back at the back of the boat him, even before with Colin yanking the light of day, in the anchor that he suddenly became quiet. He chain. When I turned to see what stopped loading our boat, pulled a was happening, I 2
October 27th, 2011
Published by: mooresb
fresh white pack of cigarettes from his shirt pocket, carefully unzipped the top of the pack, ripped open the wrapping paper and extracted a single cigarette. Then, in an action I had seen many times before, in one single motion he pressed the pack back into his shirt pocket and removed his Zippo lighter. Colin's first drag set the tip of the Export bright red in the darkness. Seeing it was lit, Colin rolled the cigarette into the left corner of his mouth and commenced to finish loading the boat.
saw Keith standing in water over his shoes motioning for Colin to pull open the motor cover. "Yew better start bailin'," Colin shouted at me, as he wrestled with the motor housing latch. I reached for the bait can at my feet, threw the remaining bait into the rough lake waters, and began to bail over the sides. No matter my motivation, my bailing efforts were no match for the wind driven water coming over the sides.
Just then the motor cover popped open and all I could hear was Keith and Colin hollering at It was cold that one another in the morning -- and winds. Even in all completely still as that confusion, we worked under Keith managed to the only light to kick the fish keeper be seen anywhere. bucket towards For the longest me. I tossed the time no one said fish over board and anything -- giving began to bail with Colin plenty of time the gallon-sized to size up his two bucket. I was so prize customers. busy bailing I didn't Then, he squinted notice the winds at us on the wooden suddenly stopped dock and ordered, as the squall line "You fellers better passed on to the get into the boat," east. Still the waves motioning toward lapped over the our fishing tackle, sides of our little " . . . Sun's gonna boat. be up by the time Fortunately, as the I get the motor squall line moved going . . ." away, the lake waters began to settle. We were still adrift and without power -but we were afloat. Even so, we would have our hands full keeping that way.
The Face of Fear When the thunderstorms moved overhead, the heavy rains began. Almost at once, rain was coming down in sheets. I was bailing as fast Keith and I boarded as I could, but the row boat and it was clear I stored our gear wasn't making any and tackle boxes. progress. In the Anybody who has back, Keith and fished small lakes Colin took turns has been in one of trying to pry the these row boats starting cord off at one time or the reel -- but to no another. The ones avail. The blowing used at Dawson's rain made it all were sturdy Cedar but impossible for shells with a small either of them to shelf on the bow, even get hold of the two mid-body, and slippery nylon cord one at the stern for -- so we remained the pilot. When powerless and we were finished adrift in the still stowing our gear, raging waters and Keith took the pelting rain. forward seat and I the one closer to the stern. There was plenty of room for three and all our gear. Before we were settled, Colin set the fuel tank into position on the floor behind me, and re-checked the motor mounts to make they were secure. Then, as he had no doubt done thousands of times before, Colin leaned over the fuel tank with his cigarette dangling from his mouth, pressed the fuel line into the fuel can receptacle, and lowered the motor into the lake.
Start rowing," I could hear Keith shouting at me." "Rowing?" I shouted in disbelief, "To
Fortunately, Colin's cigarette rarely, 3
October 27th, 2011
Published by: mooresb
if ever, stayed lit. All the better for the butt to remain in the corner of Colin's mouth -where it could hang perilously for hours. Later, when there would be nothing better to do, Colin would relight the butt and take a big drag -only to have it go out again. "OK, yew guys," Colin said, as he untied the bow rope, "let's get agoin' here . . ."
where?," I foolishly asked. Keith pointed toward the tree line along the west shore -it could still be seen occasionally between the sheets of rain. I mounted the oars into the fulcrum sockets and tried my best to turn the little boat around. The wooden row boat was sloppy and heavy with all the water we had taken on, but my efforts finally paid off.
Dawn's Early Light Finally, Keith No more had we and Colin gave slipped away from up on getting the the pier than the motor started. Colin began to bail and Keith offered to take a turn at the oars. While it seemed to take forever in the pelting rain and wind, it took little more than perhaps ten minutes for us to reach the first glimmer of shallow waters dawn shown in near shore. Keith, the eastern sky. an experienced Slowly, but not boatman, worked at all silently, our us into a little cove. tiny boat puttered There, even if we toward the twin sank, we were in islands not far from less than a foot of camp -- leaving a water. Good thing gentle wake behind too, for the rain that little disturbed suddenly turned to the mirror-like hail the size of golf surface of the lake. balls. What else could go wrong? Dawn on Manitoulin is something to behold. Maybe it's the clean air, or the northern latitude, or even our own imagination, but the first bite of the
I don't know why, but I grabbed my little bait can and joined Colin in the bailing. I could see him looking at me disbelievingly, the soggy stump of his morning cigarette still dangling along his lower lip. His
day always tasted best. For those who love the outdoors, these moments are priceless. Our route took us between the twin islands. I had forgotten that the channel between the islands was only a few hundred yards wide. As we approached, Colin preceded at trolling speed until he had placed us precisely where he wanted. Then, the motor stopped and the silence of dawn again engulfed us. Colin looked around in the eerie first light to make certain we were at the right spot. As near as I could tell, we were just off shore of the smaller island -- still far from the main body of the lake.
face was tense and tired. Hell, we all were. We had barely escaped death -- we all knew that, but none said a word about it. As quickly as it had begun, the hail turned back into rain. The inside of our boat looked like a bathtub full of golf balls. I don't know to this day why none of us were injured by the hailstorm -- but we came through without physical damage.
Across from me was Keith, who was soaked down to his skin -- even his hair straggly hanging in ever which direction. Although we were now safe from everything but lightening, the pelting rain and wind continued "Let's see what's-a- with considerable doing here," Colin fury. There was no said as he opened shelter, no place his little tackle box, to go, so we had to ". . . got some nice endure it. bass around here a Before long the couple a days ago." rain abated and the lighting moved Colin gently east. It was then plopped our small anchor into the icy that the tension broke. blue water. In a matter of minutes Colin saw I was all of us had our looking at him -lines in the water. It his pursed lips was still cold at that tightly holding hour, but the bright on to his soaking morning sun would cigarette. When he soon be dancing saw me watching, on the nearby tree his drawn face tops and yielding widened into a warmth to the night palpable smile. air. Then the laughter erupted -- sending In the silence of his soaked cigarette morning I could spewing out into hear songbirds the lake. He was as well as the 4
October 27th, 2011
Published by: mooresb
occasional splash of looking directly a surfacing fish. For at me -- no doubt the longest time laughing at the nothing was said. image of us both It's not that we bailing water long were busy catching after there was no fish that morning, danger of sinking. for there was little It was one of those evidence as I recall moments when to suggest that the laughter is both fish were up at that spontaneous and hour. Even Colin delicious. For the was quiet -- plying longest time the his line with his three of us sat there fingers to detect the in the gentle rain slightest activity laughing like mad below. Perhaps we men. were not yet fully When the rain awake, but memory finally eased, Colin suggests that we was the first to were more likely speak. "She ain't hypnotized by the gonna start," he developing sights said confidently and sounds around to Keith. Then to us. me, "You better sit As we waited in in the back -- and silence, the stillness see if you can get and tranquility rid of summore of around us slowly this water." transformed dawn's With that, Colin early light into a turned our little gorgeous Canadian boat toward the morning. Before distant tip of the long I could see peninsula and nearby treetops began to row. taking on a bright "Where are we yellow cast as going?," Keith their leaves were wanted to know. bathed in the warm "Home," Colin said morning sun. matter of factly. "Pretty as a pitcher, "You sure it's ain't she?," Colin said, breaking his safe?," Keith and I said almost in long silence. unison. "Yessir," I replied, "Dunno," Colin "it surely is replied, " . . . but beautiful this morning" -- for by it's a three hour trip with the oars and then Keith and I it's already dinner were reveling at the iridescent blue time. Missus don't reflections on the want me on the still waters. Fishing lake after dark . . ." is as much about "Maybe someone being at one with else will give us a the outdoors as it tow," I suggested. is about bait, tackle "Halfta be the and landing fish. dumb ones," Colin Being on a cold retorted -- speaking
boat in the early dawn is as good as it gets -- at least until the fish start biting.
of other boaters and fishermen and strongly emphasizing the word dumb. "The smart ones were off the lake before all hell broke loose." Goin' Home While we each took turns on the oars, it was clear that Colin -- fifteen years or more our senior -was the strongest oarsman. By the time we rounded the peninsula and started down the east lobe to the west of the islands, there was a break in the clouds. For a brief moment, the late afternoon sun shown brightly on the shore. By then the cold front had passed and the northwest winds were freezing cold in our wet clothes.
Soon, the bass were hitting our bait. From then on, the business of fishing increasingly consumed our attention. Sometimes they would steal our bait, but for the most part we landed those who found our wiggly bait an attractive breakfast. We were fishing with worms that morning -It was well after the kind everyone nine p.m. when who has ever fished we spotted the fish has used. We had house at Dawson's more exotic bait in the distant twain with us, but night of twilight. Even as crawlers are the we got closer, we mainstay of shallow could barely see the lake fishing. dock. Fortunately Every few minutes the fish house one of us would light was still on snap our rod to - undamaged by hook another the storm. Tired hungry bass. Most and weary as we of the time we were, we unloaded set our hooks the small boat and reeled in the and threw our surprised fish. belongings and Sometimes we tackle boxes onto landed a pesky the dock. yellow perch, but Then, like mostly we'd find a ghosts, we slowly small mouth bass disappeared into wiggling on our the darkness of hook. night. By then we found we were 5
October 27th, 2011
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damned hungry -- so Keith and I proceeded to the dining room to see if anything remained of that night's dinner. There was -and although our clothes Once we had the were still damp, fish out of the we ravenously water, our audience consumed the was fast to react warmed over fish with plenty of dinner. We said laughs for the little or nothing of little ones that we our day. Perhaps dropped back into we were too tired, the lake while the or maybe just angry bigger ones were at ourselves for sent plopping into getting into trouble, the fish bucket. but it was clear the Truth be told, day's experiences while these fish were too fresh in were bass, most of our minds and our them were pretty bodies too tired. small fish. After a Colin completely while the routine of constant activity disappeared after gets boring. It was we left the dock, at such a moment and, unbeknownst to us, had some that I reminded Colin that we also dinner in the kitchen before wanted to land returning to the some lake trout fish house to that morning. make repairs on the little black "They ain't up yet!," Evinrude. Colin he snapped with a was a survivor in broad smile. Then, life who took little pointing towards heed of what had our fish bucket, happened that he sarcastically day. For Colin, enquired, "How tomorrow would come yew fellers be another day -ain't catching and he planned to bigger fish?" The be prepared for it. impish smile and Keith and I were his flashing Irish far less pragmatic eyes revealed his -- we knew fate had delight at our been after us that expense. When I afternoon and that turned to answer, I we had survived. saw he was reeling in a fish twice the While it's true we had nothing to size of any Keith and I had landed. show for our day -- what happened That did it. The bass fishing began on the lake that day in earnest.
The morning went would change our fast. We all caught lives and provide plenty of bass -ample catalyst but, truth be told, for allegiance few were really and increased worth cleaning and confidence in gutting. As the sun one another. For rose higher in the Keith and I this morning sky, we day would last changed location a lifetime -- and from time to time forever frame a searching for a hot- relationship of trust spot of hungry lake and respect, that trout. No matter lasts 'til this day. what we tried, there If fishing is as were no lake trout much an affair to be found. Maybe of the heart, as it Colin was right is about landing about the trout fish, this day had sleeping in. Who changed all three knows? Colin was of us in ways young among the very men seldom fully best fishermen I comprehend. If had ever known, Keith had been an but I doubt even outsider to Colin he knew when the when we arrived, trout were biting -- that distinction if at all. no longer existed. By noon our meanderings in search of lake trout had taken us far into Kagawong's west lobe.
Unlike women, men rarely connect very well with one another, but adversity seems to change the rules -- and the bond between Keith and Colin grew strong in the years that followed.
Little was said in our cabin after dinner -- nor as we sat in front of the sizzling We finally found a fire Keith built. little action perhaps While our clothes a kilometer off were drying in the west shore. the warmth of the While strikes on fireplace, we found our bait were and consumed a infrequent, they measure of the were suggestive Scots Whiskey. of larger fish. Unfortunately, as is sometimes true, as the sun got higher the fish bit less often. In a matter of perhaps an hour, our fishing 6
October 27th, 2011
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had gone from being too busy to something far closer to boring. It was great being on the lake, but this was our first day out and Keith and I had the fisherman's urge to catch a whale Tomorrow would -- something not be another day. We even Colin claimed didn't know it yet, to be possible on but what we would Kagawong. By discover about how lunch time there our relationships was little activity had changed would below which was come as a total reflected above by surprise to all our boat becoming three of us. Ah, increasingly quiet. the aroma of a Being fishermen, warming fire after we stayed the a day of adventure course, repeatedly and tribulation. baited our hooks, plopped the bait into the water and Fate is the hunter, waited -- oblivious and each of us to nearly everything mortal. None of us was handed an around us. That instruction book proved to be a major mistake, for at birth describing how one might while we caught nothing, fate was live a constructive and meaningful soon to catch us. life. We each have to discover for Squall Line ourselves that life is very much about Fishermen are finding and living a strange lot, our fate. That day sometimes as bored by catching on Lake Kagawong, like all the others of too many fish our lives, was about as by catching none. Perhaps our seizing opportunity, earlier success that confronting adversity, and morning was our problem -- for we discovering one another. moved around the west lobe of We had all done Lake Kagawong these things that several times trying day -- yet every new places and day is new, and revisiting favored every opportunity a spots from years potential fork in the before. The fishing, road. It's up to us at least for Keith whether to live life and I, steadily to its fullest or to got worse while avoid living in favor Colin, who thought of spending time fishing for lake doing as others might wish. I liked Colin as
trout on a hot July day to be silly, continued to land an occasional bass or perch. Maybe that was why it remained quiet on the boat -- not at all typical of a day on the lake with Colin.
not a man of letters, he well understood a man's enduring sense of CarpĂŠ Diem. Seize the day! That we had done. We had survived. Bring on the next.
Finally, the silence was broken. "Yer face is as red as a monkey's ass," Colin said to me matter of factly. "We better do some shady fishun doncha think?" That question would never be answered. Even as Colin spoke, Keith gestured at the sky from the front of the boat. "Look at those clouds guys -it's not going to be sunny out here for very long."