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Camping With Barley Part 2
Day two started with breakfast. Nothing fancy, just bacon, eggs and toast. But there is nothing like the smell of bacon cooking to get the campers around you up and looking around; it’s like a magnet for the nose. I perked some coffee over the fire, and enjoyed the fruits of my labor waiting for Bailey to get vertical. It didn’t take too long for his nose to follow the scent.
After breakfast, we launched the canoe and took a leisurely paddle around the small lake. Bailey dropped his fishing line in the water, and it wasn’t long before the bobber was doing the tell-tale dance of fish’s curiosity. What I most enjoy about fishing with a child is the absolute excitement. It doesn’t matter if the fish is 3 inches long or 3 feet long; they enjoy the battle just the same. What’s great about these little lakes is that something is biting most of the time. That’s all that’s necessary to have a great day of fun. This morning they were little ones. We beached the canoe and snacked on some sandwiches.
While we were beached the red-haired kid emerged from the bushes, fishing pole in hand, yelling “Barley!” After clearing it with his dad, and getting him a life jacket, the three of us took off for ports unknown, even if we could see them from where we were.
A Fish Tale
We anchored the canoe at the end of a point. I baited Bailey’s hook, and he commenced fishing. All the while the red-haired kid was asking questions; he didn’t want to miss a thing. He was trying, unsuccessfully, to bait his own hook. It was obvious he hadn’t done much fishing. I had him face me while I showed him how to bait the hook. About that time Bailey started pulling in a fish. As you can imagine, curiosity got the best of my pupil and he quickly spun around; his fishing pole followed; so did the slack in his line. I had now successfully baited his hook with the end of my finger. At that particular moment my mind was awash with thoughts of my love for fishing and the penalties for child abuse. I don’t usually carry thimbles in my tackle box, but they would have been a welcomed addition that day.
With the hook now properly baited, and the bleeding stopped, I proceeded to show him how to cast the pole. After a few tries on his own, a near tipping because he thought it would be easier that way, and tackle whistling over our heads in circles, I gently relieved him of his pole and proclaimed that I would cast it from now on. I failed to mention that the pole he was using was a Barbie pole he had borrowed from his sister. It may have been three feet long in total, and was covered with pastel colors; the fishing line was so old that when slack it looked like a lock of Shirley Temple’s hair.
It wasn’t long before his bobber disappeared, and the fight was on. Screams of excitement filled the air. The red-haired kid was reeling for all he was worth and the little reel’s drag was chirping in protest. I was witnessing a battle on a scale only Ishmael could imagine. Then I looked at the rod tip. Remember that reference to Shirley Temple’s hair? It seems the line had wrapped around the end of the rod. Reeling did nothing but tighten the wrap. I grabbed the rod and undid the wraps, while the red-haired kid barked his disapproval. When I let the rod tip go the balance of power shifted, and the mighty beast was hauled aboard: all five inches of him. A trophy nonetheless in a child’s eyes. It even coaxed some whistles from the crowd, lining the beach, observing the commotion. Bailey, who had been quietly taking care of business at the front of the canoe, nodded his approval and carried on; he was apparently unmoved by the whole scene. I grabbed the little Bluegill and proceeded to unhook the miniature prize. About that time Bailey spotted a turtle in the water and let us know. It took a little longer to stop the bleeding the second time.
We spent the rest of the afternoon looking for the big one we never found. And when it was time to head for the shore and call it a day, the protests were plenty. Nothing, however, that couldn’t be cured by the promise of a trip to the beach.
Day three involved some mini road trips. The first being a trip to one of my favorite spots in Michigan: Ocqueoc (pronounced Ahk-Yahk) Falls. They are not well-known, except by the locals who fish and those that use the falls as a swimming hole in the summer. They are very pretty, with lots of trails to explore and places to play in the water. Not much interest on the part of my companion, however.
The next stop was Mackinac City. For someone seeing the Mackinac Bridge in person, it is rather awe inspiring; unless you’re nearly five. In that case, the rocks and beach below the bridge are the great attraction. I’m not complaining. I relaxed in the sun and Bailey threw rocks. We eventually did a little walking around the city, and the lighthouse. A picnic on the shores of Lake Huron was the perfect way to end our road trip.
Puppa, I Gotta Go
Nothing breaks the splendor of a deep woods slumber like the words “Puppa, I gotta’ go.”
In a state campground like Tomahawk Lake the amenities are adequate, but night lights are not in the budget. Darkness takes on a whole new meaning. Don’t get me wrong. I love the dark. Looking at the stars is one of the greatest benefits of camping. But wandering around in the dark, rubbing sleep out of my eyes, looking for a bathroom is a different animal altogether. That is a prime toe-stubbing activity.
I quickly found the lantern and we were off on our adventure. Since this was Bailey’s first time going in the dark, in a “one-holer,” anxiety was a little high. The hoots of an owl didn’t help either. When we arrived, I opened the creaky door and followed him in. Apparently, there is a point in a young boy’s life when urinating in front of somebody is no longer tolerated. I was asked to leave. I shut my eyes and leaned against the building, contemplating the return to my sleeping bag while fending off mosquitoes. I heard the next set of words. “I can’t go.” I knew why, so I tried to talk him through his stage fright. It was partly to help him, but mostly for selfish reasons. The biggest being the knowledge that I would here those four words as soon as I was comfortable again; the words that had brought me here to begin with. Eventually I did.