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The Place


From the kitchen we raced into the living room where the great stone fireplace stood. Over the mantel lay
Uncle Johnny’s longbow. Our imaginations ran wild with the stories that bow could tell! On the other side of
the room was a doorway leading to a screened-in porch with a view of the water. Above the doorway was a
stuffed zebra head that was always adorned with a cigarette in its mouth or a humorous hat of some kind
perched on its head.
Beyond the doorway we ran to the porch. This is where we would eat most of our meals, except when it
rained or was too cold. There was a set of stairs that led off the porch to a path that ran across the yard. At the
end of the path was a small channel of water, where an old wooden kayak rested, submerged in the muddy
water. It was a dirty red-brown color, and the wood was lifting off in several places. It had become a home to
frogs and salamanders, and one could often see the occasional water snake slither through the holes in the sides
and back into the water. I was told it was an Eskimo kayak, and from the looks of it, the Eskimo could still be in
there.
Next to it was an old wooden rowboat. The oars weighed more than I did and were as battered as one might
expect from years of use. It did have oarlocks, so even a little guy like me could maneuver his way out to the
main channel without too much difficulty. Getting back, however, was another story. The main channel led to
the lake in one direction and to a fishing pool in the other. The pool itself was fed from the creeks and marshes
on the other side of the road that led into the camp. There was a small bridge over the road alongside the pool
where one could see the water flow into the pool, then out again to the channel and the lake beyond.
We ran back from the porch and made our way to the bedroom, which consisted of two sets of bunk beds
meeting in the corner. This arrangement made for some wonderful pranks and lots of opportunities to surprise
one another with all the imaginings of children. I immediately claimed the upper bunk, while my brother Bob
took the lower one. As soon as I jumped up to my new space, Dad walked in and smiled, then told me it would
better if I took the bottom bunk. I knew why. I wet the bed as a child, through no fault of my own. It was just
one of those things, I was told. I never felt bad about it, but that would change later on when it prevented me
from visiting cousins for an overnight sleepover or from joining Boy Scouts. But for now, it didn’t matter. My
sister Mary and my brother Tommy got the upper bunks, and Bob and I were just as happy to be together on the
lower ones.
“Okay,” said Dad, “everyone out to help unload the car!”
We raced out the door and into the clearing, where the car stood next to an old wooden swing Uncle Johnny
had built many years earlier. It was the highest swing I had ever seen. The ropes were attached to a wooden log
he had managed to place in the forks of two trees. The seat hung far below, allowing one to fly high into the air.
We moved quickly to take our share of supplies into the cabin, and in no time at all, the car was empty.
The next order of business was for my dad to take anyone down to the lake who wanted to go for a swim,
enabling Mom to get beds made and things put away, unencumbered by little ones underfoot. Mary and Tom
stayed behind to help, but Bob and I didn’t think twice about the offer. In a flash we had our bathing suits on
and were ready to go!
“C’mon Dad!” I yelled. “We’re ready!”
Dad emerged from his bedroom on the other side of the cabin, dressed in a bathing suit and shoes. He had
towels for each of us. He asked, “Who’s going for a swim?”
“We are! We are!” yelled Bob and me in unison, and off we went. Dad stopped and gave Mom a good-bye
kiss as we passed.
The journey through the woods on the way to the lake was always exciting since we never knew what we
would see along the way. The deer and other wildlife were prolific, and we all kept our eyes peeled for anything
that moved. I was as excited as a boy of six could be.
Bob clung to my hand like it was his last link to a world he was still trying to understand, enjoying the
wonder of it all while he navigated through it. He was my closest friendmy only real friend. Everything we
did, we did together. Good, bad, or indifferent, I could never imagine my life without him, and I loved him as
much as a six year old could love his little brother.
As we moved quietly through the forest, our footsteps were softened by pine needles underfoot. We passed
the old red outhouse, laughing and holding our noses. I saw my father smile as we continued on our journey.
We broke off the path and ventured into a small clearing where the channel of the river became wider as it
poured into the lake ahead. We carefully balanced ourselves while passing over river rocks, gravel, fallen logs,
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