May 16, 2000

Beginning of the Road

By Dane Sorensen


Last week was a big week for me. On the weekend I got to open up my parentís cabin that had sat like an unopened tomb for two years. Their cabin is on one of the 365 islands on Lake Vermilion. It is a lovely bit of paradise. The reason for the islandís neglect was not from choice. Last summer I was too busy doing two important things. The first was rehabbing the old Legion Building. I worked my tail off ripping out walls, painting, hauling garbage and a hundred other chores. At least, until I jumped thirty inches and landed in St. Maryís Hospital. That led to the second important thing I did that summer Ė convalescing. So much for relaxing in paradise.

This year breaking another leg is not on the schedule, so I fully intend to take advantage of my parentís lovely cabin. With that said, I went to the lake and lowered the boat into the water, then pumped up the old gas tank. I would have bet the farm that the boat battery would have been dead as a doornail. To my surprise the motor fired right up. It takes only a short five-minute voyage to get to the island. With a spare tank of gas as part of my cargo I ventured out using up the two-year-old gas.

I was amused at what time had done to the island dock. The dock is shaped like an ďLĒ and is a hodge-podge of logs, stones, and boards. Parts of the dock are at least 40 years old. The dock is now italicized to one side, probably from the big storm that took out half the BWCA. At least three boards were broken from rot. I am going to have to spend a lot of time this summer trying to fix this baby. Especially the italicized section that is suppose to hold a 2-ton sailboat.

The cabin and bathhouse were filled with spider webs, but luckily no tomb robbers or critters had made there way in to make a mess. It is an odd feeling going into a place that had not been inhabited for so long. It is also odd to see a place that is meant to be full of activity sitting so empty. It is bad enough that we can only use our summer places for three short months and it is just plain unnatural to leave them vacant for two years.

One of the first things I do in resuscitating the summer address is to reinstall the water pump. It is a job I really hate. First off, the pump is heavy. Every Fall I disconnect it and drag it back to Ely to our basement. Every Spring, except for last Spring, I drag it up the stairs and over to the island. The wiring needs to be connected and that usually means a fight to get the wires routed to where they belong. I usually get at least one good cut. That is the warm-up exercise. The main event is to prime the pump. The pump is about 40 feet from the lake and at least 10 feet above the water level. If the hose were placed on an even incline it would be easy to pour water down it and fill it. However, our hose goes up hill and down, around trees, under the ground and above it. What that means to us non-plumbers is that those air pockets and water pumps donít mix. Every year I haul water to the bathhouse and slowly pour it down. The cycle of death requires I fill the pump housing with water, screw on the plug, run the pump for 30 seconds, take off the plug, and again fill the pump housing with more water. This repetitious ritual of priming takes about two hours and 20 gallons of water.

Why I donít buy a submersible well pump and just throw it into the lake, I donít know. Maybe it is because I can brag so much to my family that ďIĒ got the water system up. When the pump finally kicks in and the pressure gage rises above 20 psi, I feel like Mosses when he divided the Red Sea.

I would move out there even now, if it werenít for my kidlets. They are at the age where the pleasures of quietude are boring. They yearn for the big city action of Ely. They claim there is way too much going on at school to be stranded on an island. So I shall have to wait until summer to make my escape.

Meanwhile, I accomplished another miracle even more impressive than the water pump. I mowed my lawn last Tuesday. Now that may not sound like much, but to a guy who has seven screws, three washers and one metal plate in his knee, it is a lot. It was the first since that fateful jump last July 13, 1999 that I mowed my very own lawn. During my convalescence, Paul, my neighbor with an angelís heart, took care of that chore for me.

I felt it was high time for me to rejoin the brotherhood of mowers. Mowing is a ritual of property ownership that goes back centuries. Even before Toro lawnmowers, Man has mowed his lawn. I think it is one of the Ten Commandments if I am not mistaken. It is listed right after the commandment on fertilizing.

First, I attacked the boulevard, then the front lawn. Feeling giddy I made for the side yard and then onto the Mother of all yards - the backyard. Now that was a challenge. Due to the ample shade my backyard grass grows like it is on steroids. Normally, tall grass is not a problem, but here is my religious quagmire, I refuse to use my bag attachment and bag up all the grass clippings. I prefer to let the clippings fall where they lie and go back to whence they came. Unfortunately, my mower is almost an antique and was only designed for suburbia. I donít have a chute to allow the clippings an easy escape. They can only leak out of the bottom. With tall or wet grass my mower gets as clogged as the Minnesota Legislature on the last day of the session.

Thus my backyard was a fitting challenge to my bionic knee. I refused to listen to the pain. I laughed at my tensing neck muscles. I fought on and on. Many times the mower quit, but I did not. Restart after restart I kept up my attack. Finally, all those heathen blades of grass were laid low. I and my mutant Toro had won. Like a good soldier, my mower and I limped back to the garage and retired to an ice pack. My only price was a two-day migraine headache that kept me from work.

Alas, the lawn lives on and demands a rematch. With plenty of sick days left, I promised the back yard a second chance next Tuesday.

Yes, it was an exciting week. First opening up the tomb of the unknown summer cabin and then conquering my backyard jungle. I look forward to another exciting summer in Ely.


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