Wednesday, July 4, 2012

let's talk about Lake Poinsett.

Now that the Fourth of July is upon us, families across the country will be buying fireworks, firing up the grill, and stocking up on beer. Nothing says “America!” like explosives and alcohol, that’s for sure. Don’t get me wrong: I’ll be doing the exact same thing. I, however, will be at Lake Poinsett.
Can you blame me?
I’ve mentioned before how Lake Poinsett has been our go-to summer spot ever since I was a kid. Don’t underestimate how important the lake is to my family: my dad almost never gave the go-ahead for family vacations in the summer because that would cut into his lake time. Only under great duress would my dad be parted from Lake Poinsett in the summertime, which, unfortunately for him, is chock-full of obligatory events. We’d duck out of a number of family reunions and wedding receptions because my dad would say, “Can you hear the boat calling? ‘Take me out, Tim. Pleeeeease.’” You didn’t have to ask us twice.
Even the dog loves the lake!
When I was a young kid, though, there was no boat. There was a camper instead. I absolutely loved camping. I got to explore the hiking trails and ride my hot pink and turquoise bike down the HUGE hill (which is not nearly as huge as I thought it was when I was six). I spent a great deal of time at the swimming beach, splashing around and chasing after runaway Fun Noodles. There was even a screen where they would show a movie on Saturday nights. The only movie I remember seeing was the old cartoon version of The Hobbit, which was fairly traumatizing to a seven-year-old… sans parents… in the dark. I had taken my sister, who was three at the time, to see this movie. At the end, Darrah assured me that she could get back to our camper by herself, so I took her at her word. When I showed up at the camper without my sister, my parents were less than pleased with me. Darrah, very proud of herself, arrived just a few minutes behind me. See? I KNEW she could get home alright.
There was always something to keep us busy at the campground, whether it was hunting for mud puppies or participating in fishing derbies (where I won a Styrofoam bait holder, but have no recollection of catching anything larger than a minnow). However, our days with the camper were not meant to last. Mom – generally the household voice of reason – wondered why we were camping when she could just about see our house from the camper. This was no exaggeration: our house sat a mere three miles from the campground. Mom had three small-ish kids (my brother was no more than a year old), and what a pain to haul them and all their supplies to the campground after a long week of work. Dad conceded: shortly afterwards, we bid farewell to the camper and said hello to our new boat.
Let me tell you, that was the best idea anyone in my family has ever had. We spent way more time on the lake with the boat than we did with the camper. It was much easier to take the boat to the lake for a summer afternoon than it was to drag the camper around, so our lake time increased exponentially. Dad bought skis and tried to teach us how to master them: everyone succeeded but me. (Poor balance. What do you do.) We also got a pair of tubes, and my siblings and I quickly evolved into master tubers. 
We're especially good in the giant three-person tube.
My father loves nothing more than to send someone flying off the tube into the lake. He’ll aim for waves and toss you outside the wake; he’ll ram the two tubes into each other in hopes of flipping one (or both) of you.
After many painful trial-and-error sessions with my friends and siblings, we came up with the best way to win in the battle of Tim v. Kids. You sit down in the tube and dig your heels into the front, and always make sure to lean away from where Dad’s turning. Most importantly, grab the handle of your friend’s tube, and they will grab your handle: that means you’ll travel together, and Dad can’t ram you into each other quite as easily. Then you hang on for dear life. Of course, sometimes, he’ll still manage to do so: one time when Dad threw me off the tube, he also managed to give me a bloody nose. Worth it? Absolutely.
This is the only way Mom will
ride in a tube when Dad's in charge.
However, when Dad takes a break from driving and is in the tube next to you, all bets are off. It’s every man for himself. One of Dad’s favorite things to do – especially when tubing with someone significantly smaller than him, is to drag the neighboring tube on top of his tube so they’re stacked two high. He’ll ride like this for a bit, and I have to admit: the view from the top tube is pretty nice. As you might expect, it doesn’t last. When Dad’s had enough, he will unceremoniously throw the top tube off, sending its rider careening into the water. Meanwhile, he will cackle. Whether you’re his neighbor or his own child, no one is safe from the Wrath of Tim.
My brother is not a kind driver, either.
I am ashamed to say that there were a number of years when I didn’t take full advantage of the lake. I don’t remember exactly when it started and when it ended, but it was certainly too long of a time period. All I know is that one summer, I decided that I would not be wearing shorts. This was in the middle of my ugly duckling phase, and I was a stubborn and grumpy teenager. I was going to wear jeans all summer long, no matter what the temperature. I wore jeans in sweltering July heat, and no matter how miserable I got, I was NOT going to wear shorts. I stopped wearing shorts because I didn’t like my legs. I have always bruised easily: to this day, I’ll find all sorts of unexplained scrapes on my shins. At that time, though, I really cared. I didn’t want my bright white scuffed-up legs to be seen by anyone but me. My refusal to let my legs see the light of day led to all sorts of mockery and head-shakes from my parents and their friends, but I held fast… until I realized that I was an idiot. Nowadays, I’ll wear shorts, dresses, skirts: bruises and pasty legs be damned.

Once I began wearing shorts and swimming suits again, I really began to appreciate the lake and what I’d been missing. It was like a long-lost friend: after too many lost years, I had a lot of time to make up. 
Starting with lots of tubing.
There was one thing that I didn’t miss about the lake, though: the shrimpies. The Lake Poinsett shrimpies (that sounds like the name of a terrible basketball team) are just what they sound like: teeny tiny little shrimp. They’re about the size of a pencil eraser, and they’re incredibly irritating. The shrimpies appear towards the end of the summer, and they really like dark swimming suits. Luckily, they don’t come around every summer, but when they do, they come in droves. As far as we know, the shrimpies don’t bite; they just get uncomfortably stuck in your swimming suit.

Several years ago, our friends Don and Carol bought a cabin on Lake Poinsett. This was probably the best thing that has ever happened. Ever. My parents installed a boat lift, and now the boat remains at the cabin all summer long. It takes about five minutes to drive from our house to the cabin, and we’ve spent many a summer day there, drinking beer on the beach. My friends, that truly is the life.
At the cabin, no subject is off limits. You would not believe some of the things we talk about there. I would tell you, but I’m bound by sacred cabin law: what happens at the cabin stays at the cabin.

No person is off-limits at the cabin, either. If you come to the cabin, expect for someone to make fun of you. I can’t even count the number of times I’ve been asked if I had a real job yet or how it feels to be 25 and OLD. It’s all in good fun: as a cabin visitor, you’re expected to dish it out as well as take it. A day at the cabin serves as a sort of initiation for significant others: if they can survive a day at the cabin, they can stay. Let me tell you: for the person unfamiliar with my parents and Don and Carol (mostly Don), this is no easy feat. James, who is a much nicer person than I, was a little taken aback at first, but he’s gotten used to it. I’m still trying to teach him say mean things back, though.

Last year, much to our dismay, there almost was no cabin. There had been a great deal of snow that year, so Lake Poinsett’s water levels were extremely high. 
Where are you, sand?
They had been high the year before, too, so this extra snow wasn’t helping anything. When the ice melted, chunks of it rammed into cabins, totally destroying some. Don and Carol’s porch was completely ripped off. When the ice had melted, the surviving cabins had to deal with high waters and flooding. The highway near Lake Poinsett even flooded. Luckily, Don and Carol’s cabin weathered the storm: minus the porch and all their beach, but survival nonetheless. We even managed to get the boat lift in on the Fourth of July.
Fireworks are best when viewed from
the middle of the lake.
This summer has been much more promising. With the easy winter, water levels are down – Don and Carol even have a beach again! I took my first boat ride of the season in mid-June, and even that was too long to wait. As soon as Memorial Day hits, I’m itching for a boat ride. To me, that’s what summer is all about: friends, family, and boat rides.

Every year on the Fourth of July, we stake our claim out on the middle of the lake. As soon as the sun sets, the neighboring cabins begin to light off fireworks. Let me tell you: no view is better than the view from the middle of the lake. I don’t know about you, but that’s how I’ll be spending my Fourth of July. I hope yours is just as good!

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