Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The Lake that Captain Arnold owned

My mother's name was Harriet Hix. Before she married my father. She hated the name. I rather like it. And if I write a children's book the main character will be Harriet Hix. My mother grew up in Vestal, N.Y. Her father's name was Ike, or Ira. Her mother's name was Mary. She has an older sister named Joanna.

That is all for now.

My grandfather had a hunting cabin on a small lake in Otsego County, N.Y. The lake is called Arnold Lake, in the town of Hartwick, which is nearby to Milford, which is close to Oneonta, which is right outside of Cooperstown. I'm sure you've heard of Cooperstown, right? Baseball Hall of Fame?

Well, someday I'll show you pictures of the old place. But I'm too lazy right now. And someday I'll tell you a story about the place and how it smelled like wood and mold and particle board, and how my grandparents used to sleep out on the screened in porch, and how there was a curtain that separated the bunk beds from the rest of the one room camp and how my brother and I would lay awake at night and watch the shadows of the adults dance in front of the woodstove.

Well, now, now there is a house. A house with water that runs from a well and not from the lake. A house with a real tub and not a metal one. A house with different floors and bedrooms and a kitchen with counters. My parents gone and changed it all up. I'm still trying to get used to it.

Well, in the new house on the lake of Captain Arnold (who is related to Benedict Arnold) is a journal. The journal is there for anyone who wants to retell a story, playback a weekend, remember the time they had. And it is unfortunate that as of late my departures from Arnold Lake have been hurried and disjointed with trying to find lost articles of clothing, lost toys, lost shoes, lost toothbrushes, lost bike helmets, lost dogs. So, it has been awhile since I've been able to sit in reflection on the morning of my departure and write something in response to our time there.

Which is why I'm going to do it now and maybe it will get transcribed there, or not.

Journal entry dated September 6th, 2010:

I think there has to be a finger slammed in the car door story somewhere, someplace in the history of every kids' childhood. You must have one. Yes? Well, we have one now too. I'll be waiting patiently for a few more. But I'd like to give you details of Timmy's story, only because he can't write yet. But I know he's dying to tell you it.

We were on a hunt for elderberries for dyeing. We'd tasted them at the take out. Verified of their sweetness and color, we loaded up in Grandpa's truck to find more. We packed bags and Swiss Army knives and scissors and dogs. I rode in the back with Sydney and Liebe and watched as the familiar landscape of my childhood passed me backwards.

Right onto Lake Rd. Left onto County Rd. something something. Right onto Goey Pond Rd. Up, up and up. I was flushed with the memory of riding in Grandpa Ike's Jeep Willy on the four wheel drive roads that crisscrossed the state forest surrounding Arnold Lake. We moved trees out of the way with his winch. His deliberate way always worked.

Today we passed houses that shouldn't be houses and lots of No Trespassing signs, but upon arrival at Goey pond we spotted more elderberries. Dogs out, spawn out, mom out, grandma out. Pop Pop went further to look up ahead. I walked along the shoreline a little ways by myself to scout out more elderberries when I realized how perfect of a deserted place Goey Pond is for dumping dead bodies. Just sayin'. I picked up a rock full of fossils and walked back to start filling my bag.

Everyone helped and it didn't take long before we had picked the bushes bare. We started to head back down Goey Pond Rd. to seek out others. Grandma had spotted a few up ahead on the right, except that they were pretty high and behind a nice pricker patch. So, she started to move around to the right and Pop Pop came in from the left and I split the middle. We were attacking the elderberry bush when I heard the spawn getting a little rowdy in Pop-Pop's truck. Timmy was in the way back and Claire and Auggie were in the back seat.

Well, it's more fun to hear it from the horses mouth, or ass, however, you want to look at it. His version is full of details. Not really, but you get to hear the desperation in his voice:

And so other than that we road bikes, built Legos, took out the boat, took out the dock, took out a few fish, went out for ice cream, ate like it was still summer time, smore's included. Oh, and the most exciting news of all: after I crapped in the woods (just seeing if you're still reading), we found Captain Arnold's foundation to his house. Yes, the steps are still there. Yes, we'll be looking for his grave next summer. Supposedly he is still searching for his gravestone. Someone took it. If you happen to see his ghost while you're visiting Arnold Lake you'll know that's what he's looking for.

I thank you, lake, for your cleansing spring fed waters, for your on-top of the world feel, for your air that makes everyone sleep better and eat more, and for your proximity to the stars that make me feel so insignificantly small. It's a wonderful feeling.

Pop-Pop used to take me out in the old wooden rowboat, down the very end of the lake, to fish. He would burp and fart and refuse to take me home. I don't really like to fish now. But at least I know why.

Mmmhhhm. Cows on the barby. Nothing better.

The old blue boat. Runs like a champ, except at high speeds and then it sounds like the fiberglass bottom is going to fall out. Original Evinrude engine.


  1. poor timothy...glad nuthin' broke. the finger slamming story of my childhood involved my brother timmy and my mom - but for the life of me i can't remember who got the short end of the stick on that one. i'll have to ask because i can't stand it when i forget important things like that.

    i wish i could have recorded my conversation last week w/ your timmy as he was making bubbles in our lake (not with his mouth). he was all bragging on his mom's belching proficiency. he giggled when i mentioned i already knew of this from hockey, and he was proud to answer in the affirmative when i asked if words could be spoken via the burps.

  2. I shut my fingers in a car door as a kid. At least his wasn't self inflicted. You interview is the Ganzclan version of VPR Story Core. Nice.