After some time, several years, my Mom married that boyfriend with the blue and white Mercury. He didn’t have that car anymore, or the fuzzy cat with the red eyes. We moved to Michigan, which is where they got married. They bought a house next to a school, and we started a new life. I went to 7th grade at Jackson Park Junior High School.
Ron jumped right into Michigan life. At that time, there was a new thing where the DNR had planted all of these salmon in the rivers. Now they went to Lake Michigan in the summer, and in the fall they returned up the rivers to spawn. The sport of the day was to get a big fat deep sea fishing rod and some giant treble hooks and go down and snag these fish.
We went downtown to the Sixth Street damn to watch this spectacle. As we leaned on a railing watching, the people would stand in the river in waders and cast their line out. Then they retrieved it very fast, with a strong jerk, to try and snag the fish. Spawning salmon don’t feed I guess, so you have to just embed a hook into them to catch them.
As we watched, a man near our side of the river stepped into a big hole along the river wall and fell. It was common to put a belt around your waist, in theory so that water would not fill your waders if you fell. This poor guy had done just that, and in doing so had trapped a large amount of air in his waders with himself. Trapped air floats in water, right? So down the river he went, upside down, legs in the air, man under water. He eventually came to a shallow spot and righted himself. Pretty funny for the rest of us. I’m guessing not so much for him.
We decided we needed to try this amazing new sport. So we bought rods and big hooks, and headed off to the Muskegon River. We neglected to buy waders, or at least I didn’t get any. How cold is the Muskegon River in October? Shoulder to shoulder, cast and jerk. I never caught one fish. But I saw a drunk guy go stumbling over the rocky bottom with his line all tangled, cursing like my Grandpa. That was funny too.
Ron also decided that we should join the legion of Michigan deer hunters. I wasn’t old enough yet to hunt, but I wanted to go along. We had a little pop up camper. Ron bought a rifle. We got our rubber insulated boots and giant socks. Clothing technology wasn’t then what it is now. It was like the more you wore the warmer you would be. But you actually got all sweaty and froze your ass off. We went out to sight in the rifle, by the side of a country road. Two things happened. One, resting the rifle on top of the Buick LeSabre, Ron shot the box of ammo in half. No idea why there wasn’t an explosion. Two, he put his eye to close to the scope and got a nasty cut from it when he fired the rifle. If you have ever made that mistake, its not really funny. But hey, we were just learning.
November 14th arrived, and off we went to the woods near Big Rapids. We set up our camp, gathered wood, all that stuff. I went out with my 20 gauge single shot to get a squirrel or something. Not sure. Later, I was standing under a tree near camp looking up at a squirrel’s nest in a tree. Ron decided that it would be funny to shoot his Winchester .32 Special over my head, into that nest. While I tried to dig for China in the forest floor, he laughed his ass off. Sheesh.
We sat around the fire after we ate, and eventually went to bed. We kept lighting the lantern and the stove to get warm in our little camper. It was really cold. Ron’s watch had stopped or something. It’s the early 70’s. No cell phone. No digital clock in the car. We pretended to sleep for hours and hours, occasionally discussing what time it must be. I am not sure how we were going to know when to get up. You see, part of this ritual is stumbling through the woods way before dawn to get to your spot so the deer won’t know you are there. Because deer are stupid? And can’t hear? And don’t live in the same woods all year?
Eventually we decide, by looking out of the camper door, that the false dawn is arriving. So we are going to go into town to eat breakfast before we go to the woods. It has been a long night. We get in the car and drive to town, which happens to be toward the fuzzy light in the sky. We arrive at the Big Boy on M37 at exactly 10:30 PM. The false dawn was the lights of town. We had been in bed for about 2 hours. The food was good though.