Wednesday, July 6, 2016

The Lake (a/k/a Summer Magic) by Gail Roughton

A few years back, Alan Jackson sang of  " old plywood boat, with a 75 Johnson with electric choke". I love that song, love its poignant lyrics that hark back to childhood for all of us born in a far-away time warp when there was enough technology to make life pretty dang sweet but not so much that it'd taken over the world to the extent everybody posted pictures of their meals on Facebook.  There was no Facebook, there was no such thing as a smart phone, cause there was no such thing as the internet. Heck, there was no such thing as a cell phone, and texts as a means of communication were far in the distant future. Life was simpler then. Nobody had to tell kids to play an hour a day. Mothers hollered out the doors for us to "get in outta that hot sun a minute 'fore y'all fry alive!" But it was modern enough that suppers were cooked on electric or gas ranges rather than wood burning stoves and refrigerators had replaced iceboxes, even if folks still called them iceboxes and would continue to do so for years. Ice was plentiful to chill beverages even if came from ice trays and not ice makers and milk and diary products were actually delivered to your door should anyone so desire and most folks did.  Air conditioning wasn't yet a standard in homes but oscillating fans twirled overhead and in windows. There was a television set in almost every home even if it was only one, and even if it was still black and white and not technicolor, and America unwound in front of it every night. After Walter Cronkite advised us "That's the way it is...", we watched sitcoms with far more innocent humor than the sitcoms of today, cheered on heroes in white hats (or law enforcement hats or military helmets), and booed the villains, for whom no one had any sympathy at all, 'cause they were clearly villains and not victims of anybody's society. 

I grew up in the heart of Georgia, raised a country girl in the very center of the state. In Middle Georgia, when you say "the Lake", you mean Lake Sinclair, a man-made lake engineered by Georgia Power Company. It's a major, major source of hydroelectric power for the Middle Georgia region, has  roughly 400 miles of shoreline and spreads over 15,000 acres. Nothing compared to the Great Lakes, of course, but we'll take it. Its shores are lined with lake houses and boat houses and in my childhood, those houses were mostly little cottages, cabins or trailers used as summer or weekend houses, most of which were accessible only over a series of turns onto dirt road after dirt road. Nowadays, a high proportion of Sinclair Lake houses are extremely nice year round residences and I'm not sure if a dirt road even exists anymore in the general vicinity of the Lake.  

I don't remember how old I was when Daddy built his own old plywood boat (not that it was old at the time of construction, of course), around ten or eleven, I'd guess. Daddy was a master carpenter, so there wasn't anything half-done or half-finished about that boat. It was absolutely water-worthy, complete with steering wheel and windshield. I remember early morning fishing trips with Daddy and Mr. Emory, our next-door neighbor without whom no father-daughter excursion was complete. We didn't have a lake cabin ourselves, but the owner of the construction company Daddy worked for did, and as he was getting on up there in age and seldom, if ever, went to the Lake at all, we had full permission to use it at any time. We didn't, in fact, ever use the cabin proper, mostly because boarded up cabins have a very distinctive smell that's not all that pleasant, but we made frequent use of the property itself for family cookouts. That was pretty much standard Sunday afternoons, boat rides and cookouts at the Lake. Nothing fancy. Just good food, good company, good fun. Like I said, a simpler time and place.

Then "life"--whatever that means--got in the way, and before I knew it, it'd been a minimum of forty plus years since I'd been on any boat at all, let alone on Lake Sinclair, and just as many for my husband, who'd also spent the weekends of his teen years at the Lake, though he was more athletic (it doesn't take much to be more athletic than me) and had been a heck of a slalom skier.

I'm happy to say that situation's been rectified for us now. A few years back, my husband bought an older, used boat. He didn't get a lot of use out of it the first couple of years after its purchase, mostly because until this spring when I retired, I was too tired to even think spending a whole day of my two day weekend manhandling a boat in and out of the water even sounded good. This year, though? Ah, this year, we rented a boat slip at a lake marina right off the main road to the Lake, and put the boat in the water for the summer. It just sits right there and waits on us, and we're there at least once a week. It's great when we're with the kids and grandkids. Sinclair's a lake where you just jump right off the boat into the water (with life vest, of course).  You don't see too many folks skiing these days, the big thing's "tubing" and I admit, even I might be able to tube, though I haven't gotten up quite the nerve yet. So far I've left the jumping into the water and the tubing to the young folks. 

It's just as great when it's just us. We love riding up and down and exploring the lake but I confess I think my favorite's when hubby turns off the engine, sets up the trolling motor, and we just putt up and down the shoreline while he throws out his fishing line. Oh, he hasn't caught a thing yet, and we don't even go when it's actually a "good fishing time" so there's pretty much not even a chance he'll catch a fish, but that's not the point. I come from a long line of fishermen who don't fish to catch fish; i.e., my Daddy and Mr. Emory. They fished to enjoy the outdoors and the company they were in, and that sure works for me. I slather on the sunblock and sometimes I read (that Kindle App on the smartphone, don't you know?) and sometimes reading's just too much trouble. I just look at the shoreline, listen to the whooooossshhh of hubby's line as it swishes out into the water and the slow criiiiikcriiiiik of the reel as it comes back to the boat. I drink in the peace, the smell of the water, the sound of contentment. And I go back. Back to a simpler time and place.

I must have subconsciously missed the Lake more than I realized in the forty plus years I spent away from it, because it certainly plays a part in the one of the books written in my years away from it.  In fact, it's the scene where the heroes of said book take down their villain.  Okay, yes. I love, love, love the lake, it's idyllic and quiet and peaceful but some parts of it are pretty dang remote. Back in the day, they were even isolated, especially in the winter, and I ask you. What kind of writer would I be if I passed that up as a setting in a Southern Gothic horror story?

Because evil never dies. It just--waits.

Gail Roughton on Amazon

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