Belle Isle, Isle Royale National Park – August 5, 2012
It took me most of the day to figure out which one was Kenny and which was Keith, twins have a way of making that difficult, but I did better than a young woman in North Carolina who slapped Kenny across the face the day he arrived at Fort Bragg.
“You said you were shipping out last night,” she said.
Kenny had never seen her before in his life, but Keith had left that morning for Vietnam. Neither of them are the type to lie to a girl.
Gunnar, the captain of the Absolut-ly Knot, was a bit easier to recognize. He has a smile that rarely leaves his face and tells stories with his entire body–arms, legs, head, everything. It didn’t hurt his mood that he caught a huge steelhead on the first cast after waking up from an afternoon nap, much to the chagrin of Kenny and Keith who had tossed lines in for hours.
“We’re eatin’ good tonight!” he told me before he jumped in the lake.
He meant “we” when he said it too. They’d known each other since they were five and they’d known me since yesterday afternoon, but they treated me like I’d been with them from the beginning, like I was born in Two Harbors, skipped school to fish trout, and worked on the docks and trains for U.S. Steel.
Gunnar’s smile said everything I needed to know. The wind could blow or not, either way we were going to have a hell of a time.
We had sausages, pancakes with blueberry syrup, buttered potatoes, garden fresh green beans, cookies, chocolate bars, and, of course, the steelhead right out of the water, sliced into thick fillets, dipped in batter, and fried golden.
“I have some extra peanut butter I could get,” I said. “And maybe some instant mashed potatoes.”
Gunnar grinned at me.
“Save your energy,” he said. “We won’t let you leave hungry,”
The cooler of ice and beer grew lighter, Gunnar twisted open a bottle of the Absolut-ly Knot’s namesake vodka, and I heard enough gossip about Two Harbors to write a dozen soap operas.
We talked about railroads, unions, fishing shacks and the Edmund Fitzgerald, took bets on a canoe across the channel being pushed backwards in the wind, and came up with a dozen theories on what the wind would do. I listened to stories about days without water in the jungle of Vietnam, how a surgeon fixes a thumb joint, and the sound a moose makes when a train splatters it across the tracks. I learned a dozen ways to cook a trout, what fish house to avoid in Two Harbors, and a bit about the secret to happiness.
“Good friends,” Keith said as the day disappeared into the night. “The secret to happiness is good friends.”
I saw him steal a glance at Gunnar and Kenny, then smile.
And the wind howled.