It is almost impossible to grow up in Minnesota without spending time at “the lake.” When I was a kid growing up in Fargo, there were two things that I looked forward to each summer: going to the farm and going to the lake.
My first memories of going to the lake were the weeks spent at Leech Lake. Packing up the company station wagon with lake stuff, Mom, Dad, Dave, Dick, Dan and me was not an easy task. Today, the cars are not even big enough to transport six people and lake ‘stuff’ unless the vehicle is an SUV or van.
We’d head east on Highway 10 to Detroit Lakes, turn north on Highway 34, leave civilization behind at Park Rapids and ramble up to Leech Lake.
The cottage that my parents rented was not the most elaborate; in fact it looked like a holdover from the early 1900s. Of course, that wasn’t so old in the 1950s. The cabin was set back from the lake. Right in front of the cabin was a wooden dock that stretched into infinity. (Remember, I was a pre-schooler and everything was big to me.) On one side of the dock was a swimming beach and the other side of the dock there was a row boat. It was turned upside down on the shore. There were no weeds near the shore on the swimming beach side, a daring adventurer had to walk out almost to the end of the dock before the weeds would spring up and cause a speedy retreat to shallower water.
On the first day, the shallow swimming area got to be a little boring, so an excursion to the other side of the dock to the overturned rowboat was in order. No mom and dad in site, they were inside the cabin. I scurried over the dock to the other side of the beach. The rowboat was too heavy to lift. I gingerly stepped into the water and waded around the back of the boat to the other side to see if I could get a look under the boat. It took all my mettle to wade through that water because it was teeming with weeds. I forced myself through the weeds, because they were only about ankle high. The water was about waist high. The rowboat was still too heavy to lift. I retreated through the weedy water to the swimming beach; found my sand bucket and sat down to build an elaborate castle.
“Mommy, Mommy!” The blood curdling scream brought both my mom and dad running from the cabin.
As my mom approached the beach, I stopped screaming and she said calmly, “Don’t move.” With that she turned to my dad who made a beeline back into the cabin and came back with the familiar blue box of Morton Salt…the when it rains it pours…kind. A quick application of salt and I was safe.
Page 2 of 2 - “You were suppose to stay on this side of the dock,” my mom scolded.
I thought, How did she know?
That was the day I learned why the lake was named Leech Lake.