Twenty-four Hours at Bob’s Lake

26 Jun

Barth at Bob's Lake

My brother Barth, who was experiencing the misery of a summer cold, accompanied Mom and me to our Canadian cottage for a “hard day’s night.” We left Barth and Rhonda’s house at 6:45 in my mother’s gray Vibe, knowing that the late start would mean we would arrive at the Thousand Islands near dusk. I was the driver on the way north to the border and beyond. I kept “the pedal to the metal” all the way up Route 81, with the exception of our usual stop at a gas station in Watertown. Barth was content with my progress at first, since I drove about 75-80 for most of the long stretches. He sat in the back with his Kleenex box, taking the occasional nap, while Mom sat in the passenger’s seat next to me.

The first sign of possible discord was our conflicting answers to the border officer. First, I proffered our two passports and an enhanced license. Barth had said to turn all three items of identification to the pictures. The idea is not to provoke the agent unnecessarily.

Officer: “Kathryn, when was the last time you were in Canada?”
Mom: “About a week ago, I think.”
Me: “I think it was two weeks ago.”

We were then given a stern look and waved on.

Mom to me: “Don’t argue with me in front of border patrol. He can see when we came through on his computer screen.”
Me: “That’s the point; it was two weeks.”

Barth continued to be happy up and over the last bridge, until the exit where I took the first right off of the King’s Hwy., 401.
Barth: “Why are we going this way? It’s longer.”
Mom: “We take this way on the way to the cottage and the other way on the way back.”
Barth: “But it’s longer and you can’t see anything at night. It’s dangerous. There are too many twists and turns.”
Me: “We’ll drive the other way on the way back.”
Mom: “This is the way Mr. Durfee [previous owner of the cottage] went.”

All the rest of the way to the cottage, I drove in complete darkness, taking the twisting and winding back roads slowly. There were occasional blowings of the nose and disgruntled comments from the back seat. I kept hoping a bear would appear to cheer Barth up. Ever since I saw bears on two different occasions, he has been jealous. The second time it occurred, the bear stood up right in front of our car. He couldn’t believe my luck and his lack of luck in not being there.

When we finally arrived at the cottage, he found a large spider in the bathroom, much to his delight. He put the spider in a plastic glass, so both Mom and I could see. He had a similar reaction to a bathroom incident the next day. He walked in to use the bathroom and found a fat mouse had jumped into the toilet and drowned. Both creatures were liberated outdoors. We recently had the caretaker replace the windows, so we expected we would see fewer creatures. So far we only have fewer mosquitos.

The next morning I was hustling through the morning dishes when I saw our “cottage phoebe” flying under the roof to her nest. Obviously, the phoebe hasn’t been the same one over the years, but we have consistently had them beneath the overhang next to the kitchen window. This pleased Mom no end. A couple hours later Barth exclaimed when he saw a merganser duck fly over the cottage and dart down to the lake and then back up. This sighting was indeed unusual. A more ordinary viewing occurred later when I thought I saw a lynx or a fisher. Barth followed the direction I indicated south of the cottage and discovered my great find was indeed a lowly raccoon, but that fact didn’t dampen his mood. I think that what’s so special about Bob’s Lake for us is the succession of creatures we are liable to run into in a short span of time. We even get excited about the deer, because seeing a deer in this part of Canada is unusual, unlike in Ithaca.

The shortness of the visit was dictated by the need to bring Barth along to work on the sixty-year-old boat in the boathouse downstairs. While Mom and I worked on more tedious tasks like vacuuming the window sills and washing the many dishes that we took down from the shelves, Barth was busy preparing for our second set of renters by cleaning out the boat house and washing out the boat. Our cottage is built on the top of a half basement or boathouse, while the remainder of the building stands on cement piers. The lake flows right into the boathouse in the spring, usually flowing all the way to the back. Gradually it recedes as the dam at Perth takes in more of the lake water. What Barth had to do first was to clean out all the mud and dirt that he could manage from the boathouse. Since there was still water coming a third of the way in, he wasn’t able to clean the entire floor. Then he wrested the boat from its platform and brought it outside so he could wash it.

In the process of cleaning it, he pulled up some rotten wood and found a hole in the fiber glass bottom. Next, he went to town to buy supplies for the repair of the hole, but he neglected to buy one important item–plastic gloves. When he came home, he mixed up the resin, which is combined of two different ingredients. Then he picked up the glass fiber dipped in resin and smoothed it onto the bottom of the boat. If you’ve never seen glass fiber, it looks like the angel hair we used to decorate Christmas trees with when we were kids. I was horrified to watch him put the combination on the bottom of the boat with his bare hands. Afterward, the only thing that worked to take the hideous mixture off his hands was Pine Sol. Attention: Don’t try this at home.

He let the boat dry for two hours; then he put the tank with the new gas in the boat and drove it out into Long Bay. Up and down, around and around, he motored the boat. He drove the boat in circles and crazy eights, smiling with glee, the way he smiled when he was a mere boy and just learning.

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