Life at the Lake

a diary of living at a small lowland lake


Early moonrise over Lake Ketchum

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Biff and Cate, more cold than affectionate, in this picture


For more than twenty years now I have been raised and trained by Labrador Retrievers.

The first was Sam, who I found as a frightened pup in the wild reaches of the Sauk River, in the early 1980s. Apparently his owner took him on field trails at a too early age, and someone shot over him and he spooked, panicked, and took off. I found him a couple of days later and spent a full hour trying to gain his confidence.

I failed, but succeeded in managing to catch him and toss him into my car. I have written about this in my first book, Steelhead Water, which my publisher tells me is still in print and selling steadily, ten years later. Frank is different from other publishers in that he doesn't clear off his warehouse shelves after a year or two and remainder his books; he hangs in there and is satisfied to sell a small number each year. And as I writer I am grateful to him for this, even though he pays a smaller royalty than other publishers. He explains that this is why.

Another reason is because, like all publishers, he is stingy. But I digress.

The two wild animals pictured above are Biff and Cate, brother and sister, who have been in charge of my training for the past six years. B(orn in November, Sagittarians all, we celebrate the same birthdate.) They have taught me to hit tennis balls for them (they disdain sticks and ask, plaintively, "What's this thing?) daily. They have precise built-in time tables and demand to do the same things each day at the exact same time. I oblige. After all, I am a well-trained human. Before them came a pair of widely spaced out German Shepherds who led me to vow, "Never again."

A two-mile walk at noon, tennis ball at 2:30, dinner at four (these are short, winter days), a brief constitutional around nine-thirty at night, and bed in their kennel an hour or so later. That comprises their day, and mine. Given this, they will be sleeping bystanders while I read, work at my computer, post, paint, and watch a little evening TV.

There are worse fates, I am well aware.

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Sunset over my winter lake


Ever notice how all the Kleenex tissue boxes in the house go empty at once?

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Double-crested cormorant sitting, minding his own business, thinking about fish.



The cormorants are eating all my trout!


Sure. These were the fish I was intently catching and releasing last summer, taking pride in how they were growing—about an inch a month, until the cold weather shut down their feeding mechanisms for the winter and they became nearly dormant.

Now these double-crested birds are arriving daily in increasing numbers. And what efficient fishers they are! They are gobbling down trout and perch and small bass by the hundreds, I'd "guestimate."


Of course they're mine. No, I didn't need or want them to eat (unlike the cormorants) and they provided me with sport only. (Once an Indian at a meeting told me, in regard to catch-and-release fishing, "We don't play with our food." The dig stuck like a knife and I was forced, on the spot, to reevaluate what I was doing, but kept on doing it, all the same, only now, with guilt.)

The lake is carrying a sizable population of common mergansers, as well. Often the mergansers and the cormorants seemingly fish together, or so it appears because they are in each other's company and dive synchronously. They fish together, forming as it were a living net. And so often they as individuals do not get a fish and so must dive and dive again. Or else they will starve.

But back to my case. If the fish-eating ducks eat my fish, what am I to do? For sport? I mean, this too is my way of life.

Why is it, then, my arguments fail to convince even me, their originator? Could it be that I am . . . wrong?

Never, never.

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So they got the scruffy bastid? Looks like him


First, we sent troops into Afghanistan to find Osama Bin Laden, whom we believed to be behind the 9/11 terrorist attacks. We haven't found him, years later. Then we invaded Iraq, looking for weapons of mass destruction (of which none were found), but more likely to capture and depose Hussein Saddam. And a couple of days ago we did both.

But the war has continued since officially declared over, we the purported victor. American and collation troops die nearly every day. With the capture and subsequent trial and execution (we presume) of Saddam pending, the fighting ought to stop. Right? And if it doesn't, if our presence is commonly resisted by any normal Iraqi, and we still don't get out by the targeted June date, or much earlier, with a rocky representative government tentatively in place, what then?

Then we'll know it was all about oil.

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