Tag Archives: cabin

The Grape-Nuts Factor

Have you heard of a breakfast cereal called Grape-Nuts?  Ever eaten it?  Whether you have or not, there is a story about this cold cereal that will warm you right up!

As kids growing up, the majority of our breakfasts involved eating cold cereals (the unceremonious act of pouring cold milk over dried cereal).  Of these, we were rarely allowed the unspoken right that should be given to all children everywhere:  The right to consume “sugar cereals”. These consisted of cereals like Frosted Flakes, Honeycomb, Fruit Loops and Sugar Corn Pops. That, of course, meant that the “healthy cereals” like Cheerios, Mini-Wheats and Grape-Nuts were always in the cupboard.  Most people are familiar with Cheerios and Mini-Wheats but maybe not so much with Grape-Nuts.  Grape-Nuts is a wheat-and-barley cereal that is shaped into very small pieces that look like grape seeds and comes in a fairly small box.  A little goes a long way (something important to note for later).

If you’ve been with me any length of time, you’ve already become familiar with Rick.  If you haven’t, you really should.  It would be worth your time and laughter to do so.  He was my best friend in high school and we are still in contact after all these years.  Why am I suddenly telling you about him instead of cereal?  Well…..

As you may know from previous stories, our family cabin is on Carp Lake in northern Michigan.  (If you haven’t been able to visit northern Michigan, you really need to go!  It’s absolutely beautiful up there.)  We usually went up to the cabin twice during the summer months.  Now, it just so happens that it was these family trips to the cabin that provided a special privilege:  My brother and I were each allowed to pick out our very own box of whatever sugar cereal we wanted.  It was like Christmas in July!  We’d spend the whole time Mom was shopping in the grocery store picking out which two cereals we were going to pillage.  And never did we pick out the same one!  No sir, we knew better than that.  If we each got a different one, we both knew that we were guaranteed at least one bowl of each other’s cereal to be able to “taste test” and enjoy our spoils together.

Well, it was on one of these trips to the cabin that I was able to bring Rick with us.  We shared our treasured cereals with him, but Mom had also brought along the healthy choices.  On this trip, that meant Grape-Nuts and Cheerios.  My brother and I weren’t touching either one, but Rick had never had Grape-Nuts before.  On one particular morning, he decided to try them.

(You should know that the go-to bowls for cereal at the cabin were these old porcelain bowls that were deep enough to house a generous amount of whatever you poured into them.  You should also know that it was an unspoken rule in our household that whatever you serve yourself, you eat.)

My Dad was sitting in the cabin’s kitchen with us as Rick began to pour himself a big bowl of these cute little nuggets of goodness.  We all watched as Rick filled his bowl well over half-way with Grape-Nuts.  The more he poured, the bigger my eyes got.  Then Dad spoke up and told him that he wouldn’t need that much cereal and really ought to pour some back into the box.  There was a great camaraderie between Rick and my Dad.  But that didn’t stop Rick from insisting that he was fine and could easily polish off this bowl of Grape-Nuts.  My Dad then made sure that Rick was aware of our “You pour/You eat” policy and promptly bet him that he couldn’t finish the bowl.  And so it begins…..

My brother and I ate our sugared treasures as we watched Rick dig into his bowl of Grape-Nuts spoonful after spoonful.  As he did so, he would have to periodically pour more milk into the cereal.  He was discovering that those little nuggets of goodness had soaked up all the milk and were expanding into larger pebbles of sogginess.  It was like they were multiplying.  He wasn’t making any headway at all.  In the meantime, we had all finished our breakfasts and were now contentedly sitting back and enjoying the scene that was playing out before us.

Eventually, Rick looked at the soggy brown nastiness that still remained in his bowl.  He heaved a heavy sigh as he leaned back in his chair, his belly pooched out like a pregnant cow.  His eyes were glazed over as he slurred through his speech that he couldn’t handle anymore Grape-Nuts.  Dad had won the bet!  I don’t remember what he had bet Rick–whatever it was, though, it was quickly forgotten in the “aftermirth” of watching Rick suffer through the rest of the day with a bloated belly and enough gas to light up the Carp Lake community for the next two years.

That Christmas, Dad found Rick a very touching gift.  You know those huge family-sized boxes of Cheerios at the store?  Sam’s Club had boxes of Grape-Nuts for sale that were only slightly smaller than that.   Dad bought one just for Rick to call his own.  I don’t know that Rick saw the same thoughtfulness in the gift that Dad did.  I know he didn’t the following Christmas when I got him the same gift.

Some people just don’t appreciate meaningful things….

A Mountain of Inner-tubes

My Mom’s brother and his family have lived in Arizona for years.  When you live in a state like that, there’s not much use for inner-tubes.  (At least not like there is in Northern Michigan!)  For one particular summer, though, they found out just how important inner-tubes are for making things interesting at the beach.

One of my cousins–Heather was her name–was about eight months older than me.  So as cousins go, we were relatively close as a result.  She and one of her girlfriends came with my Aunt and Uncle to our family cabin with us one summer when I was around fifteen.  As you can imagine, that was exciting for me on multiple levels.  Being a testosterone-ravaged teenager, I was keenly aware of Heather’s girlfriend (her name was Marian).  Oh, yeah, and I got to be with my cousin, too.

(Left to Right): Dad, Marian, Heather, Uncle Dick, Mitch (my brother), Mom and myself (my Aunt Joyce was taking the picture)

Do you remember the stories involving the family cabin on Carp Lake in northern Michigan?  Well, in the boathouse down by the lake there were always a couple of smaller inner-tubes.  My brother and I used them as kids to float along the shoreline and look for interesting rocks.  As we got older and sometime prior to the Arizona family coming up, Dad decided to get us all our own inner-tubes.  Big ones for my brother and I and an absolutely huge one for he and Mom. Mine was slightly larger than my brother’s (being the older brother, I dictated that the larger one was mine).  We eventually discovered something intoxicatingly fun, though.  We could stack all five of these inner-tubes on top of each other and have it look something like this:

We’d create this inner-tube mountain, attempt to climb to the top of it and then balance long enough to stand.  Once there, the other brother would try to disrupt the inner-tubes enough to dethrone the occupant at the top of the mountain.  This, of course, would send the self-imposed dictator toppling down the mountain or sailing through the air.  Either way, it was a good five feet to the water below.  Sometimes, though, the trip down was through the middle of the inner-tubes.  This usually resulted in the inner-tube nozzles raking across the rib cage as the dethroned fell to his demise.  As entertaining as this was, however, it just wasn’t as adventurous as we had imagined it would be.  So we found the excitement we were really after with these inner-tubes was located on Lake Michigan (about ten miles from the cabin).

(Stage Left):  Enter the Arizona crew.

We loaded up all of the inner-tubes and all drove out to the Big Lake.  On this particular day, the wind had the waves at a perfect height of a foot or so.  Getting out into chest-high water, pulling a mountain of inner-tubes to climb, with waves a foot high tossing them about….now that’s adventure!

So we did that for a while, ate lunch, laid out on the beach and eventually found ourselves doing our own thing.  My Uncle and Marian were playing catch with a water-soaked Nerf football in water that wasn’t quite chest-high depth.  I was laying on the monster inner-tube relatively close to Marian as I lazily watched this game of catch unfold.

It might be important to note that in my observations of Marian, I had noticed that she was fairly competitive when we played games of any sort.  So as she and my Uncle tossed the football back and forth, things got more and more interesting.  My Uncle kept getting further away from Marian and throwing the ball a little harder as he did so.  Now, Lake Michigan water is typically on the cold side.  When there’s any kind of wind, the water feels warmer if you just stay in it.  So Marian was crouching down in the water whenever she didn’t have the football.  As a result, this made it appear that she was in water up to her shoulders.

It was during one of these many throws and catches between my Uncle and Marian that shock and awe ensued.  My Uncle lobbed a long throw with that heavy, water-soaked Nerf football.  In Marian’s crouching position, it was going to sail well over her head.  So without thinking much about it, she launched herself out of the water and into the air to get that ball.  Did I mention that Marian had a tube-top bikini on that day?  Actually, to be accurate, at this point she was suddenly wearing only half of it.  She went up and her tube-top went down.  And I got a Howard Cosell play-by-play close-up of the action since I was only five feet from her when this happened.

As you can imagine, she immediately went for cover.  By that point, however, I had turned my head the other way for a few seconds to give her time to do just that.  I was laughing about it as I turned my head back around to where she was (thankfully, she was too).  She handled it very well, considering what had just happened.  She slowly came up out of the water with everything where it should be and asked, “So, did you like the free show?”

As a teen-age boy, I couldn’t deny that this had been a rather interesting situation.  But I was far more focused on something far more important:  My “flesh” definitely wanted to keep looking at what it suddenly had an opportunity to look at; but the work God had been doing in me even to that point of my life meant that I knew that the right thing to do was to look away.  And I did that!  It’s a good feeling when you see yourself do something that’s right without even thinking about it.

Marian and my Uncle continued to play catch, but she no longer crouched in the water.  Wise move on her part……

Of Bears And Other Stuff

We’re camping on this Labor Day weekend.  Which is what we were doing up in Michigan’s U.P. during our stay in the backwoods wilderness of that beautiful country.  Which leads me to the black bear story…..

As I said before, we all stayed in tents both times that we went up there.  The cabin sat on a corner lot of sorts, with the lake straight out in front of it and a thirty-foot wide tributary from the lake that passed the cabin on the left and became a smaller lake behind the cabin property.  So our tents were on one side of the cabin and the tributary was on the other.  An old bridge made of railroad ties, as I recall (as was the main dock into the lake), spanned the thirty feet of water and connected the cabin’s mainland with an island on the other side of the tributary.  This bridge was a good five or six feet above the water (as a sharp 25+ year-old memory reveals) with a very old wooden rowboat on the cabin side of the shoreline.

If you recall my mentioning Nate and Jesse (the same Nate who went fishing for some Kelly in a previous story), Jesse was about four or five years old at the time of our first venture up there.  Even though we were told to stay away from it, Jesse somehow miraculously found himself standing in the old rowboat.  Then it started to sink.  And he started to cry….loudly.  His Dad was clear across the other side of the cabin where the tents were when he heard his youngest son cry.  He was a blur of arms and legs as he came sprinting across the property to where his son was in the rowboat (don’t be too concerned–the water was only a couple feet deep where the boat was).  He leapt into the water as he lunged for his son and whisked him right out of the boat.  Once Jesse was deemed safe and unharmed…..well, then the crap hit the fan for why he was even anywhere near the boat to begin with.

That same bridge, it was said to us kids, could possibly hold a black bear or two, which meant that there were possibly black bear in and around the woods that surrounded the cabin.  We didn’t see any, but I’m pretty sure I heard one.  The bathroom was a two-hole latrine about fifty-feet into the woods behind the cabin.  Not much of an issue during the day, but at night that distance became a very significant obstacle.  I remember one night making that very long trek through the fifty feet of trail that was surrounded by trees on either side, armed with nothing but the flashlight in my hand.  The latrine was within sight at twenty feet away, but just as I came within sight of it, I heard significant rustling behind me just off the trail on the right.  I don’t think my feet touched the ground those last twenty feet, and I certainly didn’t have to use the bathroom anymore by the time I found myself safely inside the confines of the latrine.  I have no idea what I heard in those woods just off the trail, but I wasn’t about to go look.  I waited a few minutes and then ran like I was shot out of a cannon those fifty feet back to the camping area where my parents and safety awaited  me.

My fondest memories, though, are God’s nature that surrounded us up there.  We had blueberry bushes all over up there, so one day for lunch, all we had were fresh blueberries in pudgy-pies (with sugar, of course); Todd and I took a canoe ride clear to the other side of the lake where a little nook offered us such solitude that the hushed tones of our conversation sounded like we were shouting; no sounds of civilization in the morning, just loons out on the misty water as the sun came up; and more than anything else, for me the very presence of God Himself to meet me there every day in His beautiful creation that was all around.

Should you get the chance to vacation in Northern Michigan–anywhere from the top of the mitten or higher–you will create for yourself a very memorable experience!

Bloodsuckers And Other Such Memories

Remember that group of family friends my brother and I had growing up that I mentioned a while back?  (If not, go to “The Tire Bulge”, “Ring Around The Rosy” and “The Bus RV” to get brushed up on them.)  One set of Cindy’s grandparents had a cabin on a lake way up in the heart of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, about a half hour south of Lake Superior.  This cabin was so remote that it had no electricity, an outhouse for a bathroom and an old-fashioned water pump to get water into the kitchen sink.  My family went up there twice during my childhood, both of those times producing some very interesting memories.  Shall I recount a few for you?  Yes, let’s!

Our first trip up there occurred at somewhere around the age of twelve for me.  We went up for close to two weeks and joined Cindy’s family, Jeff’s family and a couple other families that we all did things with from time to time: one of those families had a son named Todd and the other had two sons named Nate and Jesse.  I remember that we no sooner got up there and Nate and Kelly (Jeff’s younger sister) wanted to fish off the dock while the parents all set up the tents.  (Mind you, this is towards the evening hours after everyone has spent a good six to eight hours on the road to get there.)  It didn’t take long for someone to get hurt and that, in Kelly’s mind, is probably an understatement.  We all suddenly heard screaming from the dock and as we all came running, we saw that Nate, who had been casting his fishing line from the end of the dock, had successfully hooked and landed Kelly.  Or at least her cheek.  Gave it a good yank, too, because as it turns out, she got too close to him as he back-casted his fishing line and drove his fishing hook right into her cheek as he brought the line overhead.  So now the adults had to figure in an unplanned trip to the local emergency room, which for that part of the U.P., was not conveniently located just around the corner.  Needless to say, after that incident not more than one kid was allowed on the dock at any one time when any fishing was going on for the rest of the trip.  And I doubt very much that Kelly went anywhere near Nate and a fishing pole.

Stick around and I’ll share some more next time!

Heading North

My family and I are heading for the high country next weekend (also known as Northern Michigan).  We will be hauling our pop-up camper on this vacation trip to “God’s country”.  Of course, just mentioning our camper brings to mind some other camping stories that you really should catch up on (just type “camping” in the Search box and you’ll find them).

Those memories aside, this trip will be really unique.  We’ll be camping at a campground just outside of Mackinaw City–where the Mackinac Bridge is–on the Lake Huron side of the Straits with our campsite being in the midst of some trees right on the shoreline!  (To catch up on the importance of this, read my other entries about Mackinaw City–especially regarding fireworks!)

This kind of a trip also reminds me of the many trips my family would make to our family cabin up that way (again, great stories to read if you type “Paradise Lake”, “Carp Lake” or “cabin” in the Search box).  That’s really where it all started for me, and it helps to explain why Northern Michigan plays such an important role in my life.

So read up on some of these, my friend, and join me next time as I report “live” from the beautiful Straits area of Mackinac in Northern Michigan!

Almost Back

Well I’m almost back to the main trail, but since I’m not quite there, I thought I would share a recent story that took place not far from where I currently am right now:

You’ve heard about Major already. Quite a character. But so was an English Springer we had whose name was Max (not the English Springer from the camping story–this is well after that incident).

We got Max somewhere around my Freshman/Sophomore years of high school. My Dad and I drove down to South Carolina where a family friend had bred his English Springer and had a puppy for us to get. I held him in my lap all the way back up to Michigan. We grew quite attached on that drive back. So how does such a cute, submissive little puppy grow into….Max?

The older Max got, the more stubborn he became. We lived in the country (as you already know), so when he had to go outside, we just let him out the door and came back to let him in around 10 minutes later. And that’s where his stubbornness really showed. Especially in the winter! I’d be standing there in my pajamas, holding the door open for him to come in, my extremities turning white from frostbite, and he’d just stand there looking at me, suddenly unable to comprehend the English language. And if I started out the door after him, he’d just romp out into the yard a little further and turn around to see what I’m going to do about what he just did. Since I could no longer feel my fingers or toes anyway, I would sometimes try to coax him in with a treat….or a stern voice….or sobbing….fact is, he came in when he was good and ready to and as far as he was concerned, I wasn’t about to change that.

I must say, though, that I thoroughly enjoyed a game he liked to play in the house with my younger brother. We’d be wrestling (this got Max riled up sufficiently) which would inevitably end up with my brother pinned to the living room floor, arms defenseless at his sides, while I poked my finger through the gap between his neck and the carpet. This got Max’s attention fast, which always resulted in a slobbery effort on Max’s part to get that wiggling finger, no matter how much tickling and barking he had to do at my brother’s neck, regardless of which direction my brother would turn his head. It was a fun time! Until my brother got to be big enough and tall enough that I couldn’t pin him to the living room floor anymore. Ruined everything at that point…

But my fondest memory of Max is at the family cabin at Paradise Lake. We were up with my Aunt & Uncle’s family, all of us (but Max) down by the beach. The cabins on that stretch of the lake are up on a bluff that overlooks that beautiful place. It requires a pretty long staircase for most of those cabins for a way to get down to the shoreline. But what dog likes to take steps when he can launch himself down the hill with no barrier between him and the water?

So my brother goes up to the cabin for something and calls down to my Dad, asking if Max can come down. We all turn around to watch as my Dad gives the ok, because we all know Max’s aversion to the staircase. (Watching a dog barreling down a hillside, barely able to control his speed as he jets toward the water, is always worth watching.) Well this time, there were more of us sprawled out along the beachfront than he was used to. His normal line of trajectory was suddenly compromised, but it was too late to change it. The point of impact of least resistance was going to be a 10-inch gap between my lawn chair and the one next to me that my Uncle was in. The realization of all of this is flashing acrossed Max’s face as he nears the bottom of the hill at full speed. As he realizes his predicament, his eyes get real big, and then they become mere slits as he readies and commits himself to that gap between our chairs (all this happening in a matter of seconds). He was a white and brown streak as he flew right between our lawn chairs, the lake suddenly becoming his parachute as he hits the water in an explosion of spray. He’s frolicking around in the water, grateful to still be alive, a huge smile on his face as he laps at the water. Quite a few moments passed before anyone could say anything because it took that long to catch a breath from all of us laughing so hard.

Many years have come and gone since then, but we all still remember the day that Max went through the “eye of the needle” and lived to tell about it.

Max

You’ve heard about Major already.  Quite a character.  But so was an English Springer we had whose name was Max (not the English Springer from the camping story–this is well after that incident).

We got Max somewhere around my Freshman/Sophomore years of high school.  My Dad and I drove down to South Carolina where a family friend had bred his English Springer and had a puppy for us to get.  I held him in my lap all the way back up to Michigan.  We grew quite attached on that drive back.  So how does such a cute, submissive little puppy grow into….Max?

The older Max got, the more stubborn he became.  We lived in the country (as you already know), so when he had to go outside, we just let him out the door and came back to let him in around 10 minutes later.  And that’s where his stubbornness really showed.  Especially in the winter!  I’d be standing there in my pajamas, holding the door open for him to come in, my extremities turning white from frostbite, and he’d just stand there looking at me, suddenly unable to comprehend the English language.  And if I started out the door after him, he’d just romp out into the yard a little further and turn around to see what I’m going to do about what he just did.  Since I could no longer feel my fingers or toes anyway, I would sometimes try to coax him in with a treat….or a stern voice….or sobbing….fact is, he came in when he was good and ready to and as far as he was concerned, I wasn’t about to change that.

I must say, though, that I thoroughly enjoyed a game he liked to play in the house with my younger brother.  We’d be wrestling (this got Max riled up sufficiently) which would inevitably end up with my brother pinned to the living room floor, arms defenseless at his sides, while I poked my finger through the gap between his neck and the carpet.  This got Max’s attention fast, which always resulted in a slobbery effort on Max’s part to get that wiggling finger, no matter how much tickling and barking he had to do at my brother’s neck, regardless of which direction my brother would turn his head.  It was a fun time!  Until my brother got to be big enough and tall enough that I couldn’t pin him to the living room floor anymore.  Ruined everything at that point…

But my fondest memory of Max is at the family cabin at Paradise Lake.  We were up with my Aunt & Uncle’s family, all of us (but Max) down by the beach.  The cabins on that stretch of the lake are up on a bluff that overlooks that beautiful place.  It requires a pretty long staircase for most of those cabins for a way to get down to the shoreline.  But what dog likes to take steps when he can launch himself down the hill with no barrier between him and the water?

So my brother goes up to the cabin for something and calls down to my Dad, asking if Max can come down.  We all turn around to watch as my Dad gives the ok, because we all know Max’s aversion to the staircase.  (Watching a dog barreling down a hillside, barely able to control his speed as he jets toward the water, is always worth watching.)  Well this time, there were more of us sprawled out along the beachfront than he was used to.  His normal line of trajectory was suddenly compromised, but it was too late to change it.  The point of impact of least resistance was going to be a 10-inch gap between my lawn chair and the one next to me that my Uncle was in.  The realization of all of this is flashing acrossed Max’s face as he nears the bottom of the hill at full speed.  As he realizes his predicament, his eyes get real big, and then they become mere slits as he readies and commits himself to that gap between our chairs (all this happening in a matter of seconds).  He was a white and brown streak as he flew right between our lawn chairs, the lake suddenly becoming his parachute as he hits the water in an explosion of spray.  He’s frolicking around in the water, grateful to still be alive, a huge smile on his face as he laps at the water.  Quite a few moments passed before anyone could say anything because it took that long to catch a breath from all of us laughing so hard.

Many years have come and gone since then, but we all still remember the day that Max went through the “eye of the needle” and lived to tell about it.

The Ride Home

I believe you could say that this is where it all started….

If you haven’t been to northern Michigan, you really must make the effort to get up there!  Not only do you have the Big Lakes to enjoy (Lake Superior, Lake Michigan and Lake Huron are the Big Three that surround the State as a whole), but you also have countless smaller lakes that just beg for a relaxing swim.  Add to that the beauty of the Pine,  Maple and Birch trees that are so plentiful up there, and you are simply surrounded by Nature’s expression of God’s smile.

The Mackinac Bridge (the spelling is French–it’s pronounced “Mackinaw”) connects the upper and lower peninsulas of the State.  It is the longest suspension bridge between anchorages in the western hemisphere, connecting St. Ignace on the north side of the bridge and Mackinaw City on the south side.

About seven miles south of Mackinaw City is a lake with two names.  Its original name is Carp Lake.  I have heard that the lake got this name from the man who first settled on it.  He thought it was so beautiful there that he figured a name like “Carp Lake” would help keep tourists away (there aren’t even any carp in this lake–but you can find bass, walleye, perch, sunfish and even northern pike).  With that said, if you look on a Michigan map you’ll see that the lake is also referred to as Paradise Lake.  This is due to the efforts of a construction company from Cadillac, MI, who got the name legally changed back in the early- to mid-1900s to bring up more people from down-state.  Nice idea until they tried to change the township name from “Carp Lake” proper to “Paradise” proper only to find that there was already a Paradise, MI in the upper peninsula.  Oops…..

My great-grandfather on my Dad’s side discovered this beautiful place and had a cabin built on it in 1928.  Our family has been coming up to this cabin ever since!  So I grew up with family trips in the summer (at least once, sometimes twice) where we would leave around 3:00 in the morning to get up to the cabin about 4 hours later.  I’ve got memories of my Dad carrying me from bed out to our big Chevy van where he would lay me and my brother down in the back.  The lull of the street lights passing overhead and the hum of the tires on the road put the two of us back to sleep in no time.  Then we’d wake up a few hours later and my Mom would have donuts and milk for us to have in the van.  Then, the inevitable would happen:  Kids need rest areas like fleas need dogs–something my Dad hated to stop for (you know why:  all the cars that have been passed will all get in front again).  But that all counts towards fond memories….

One memory in particular stands out.  There is a place on I-75 (somewhere between mile marker 333 and 334) where you come around a bend in the highway and you can see the top of the Mackinac Bridge over the treetops.  For a kid that loves to be “up north”, that thrills a kid’s heart to no end!  It is also the worst place to be for the trip home.  At that same point heading south, you see the top of the bridge disappear behind the pine trees–it’s like saying goodbye to an old friend that you don’t know when you’ll see again.

It was on one of these trips home that I was watching the bridge out of the back of the van.  I was somewhere between the ages of 10-12 at the time.  I distinctly remember that as I watched the bridge disappear over the treetops, I began to cry.  It wasn’t the usual “I don’t want to leave” tears that happen at the end of a vacation.  It felt deeper than that…more than just some reaction.  I remember thinking, Some day I’m going to live up here so I never have to leave.  And you know something?  I remember hearing these words in my spirit, “Say it out loud”.  (I know now that this was the Holy Spirit prompting me.)   So I did…I said it as I watched the bridge disappear from view.  And I remember feeling like something significant had just happened.

Interesting….