West Otter Lake

Copyright© 2013 – Nicholas Hall


West Otter Lake – Chapter Twenty-Seven - "All musical people seem to be happy; it is to them the engrossing pursuit; almost the only innocent and unpunished passion." – (Sydney Smith)

There were two weeks after Thanksgiving for us to prepare for Mae's holiday recital. She tried to center the musical selections around the theme of the recital each year. This year she'd chosen the theme "A Classical Christmas by the Lake." Her students would be performing various arrangements and renditions of classical composers' works. The music for the younger, less experienced students consisted of arrangements of various pieces best suited to their level of expertise and years of study. Mae did the arranging for those selections and in the process, was instructing Ollie how to do the same. He was happy as a bug and took to it as a duck takes to water, quickly assimilating and utilizing the information and techniques his grandmother shared with him. Ollie had a natural talent for music, especially the piano, and loved the opportunity to learn more.

Cedric, Craig, and Leandro were kept busy around the Resort cleaning up the parking lot and the lane by removing the heavy snowfalls we seemed to get about every three days. Winter started out as a normal one, with sufficient snow during gun deer season to ease tracking, but after that, especially after Thanksgiving two weeks ago, the skies just seemed to open up and dump tons of snow on us. We'd purchased a new pickup truck with a detachable plow-blade the end of the previous winter (buy a sled in the spring- a wagon in the fall) so, along with the tractor, they were able to keep things pretty well cleaned up. The snow was stacked in piles to the sides of the parking lot and the lane was kept plowed back to the tree line so we'd continually have room for more snow, we hoped!

Edward Wilson, Cedric's son and an attorney, suggested converting the single proprietorship I had in the Resort and Campground, to a limited liability company now that I had a spouse and brothers, naming Leandro, Ollie, Terell, Treyvon, and me as owners with me acting as "owner-agent" for the LLC. I thought it was a great idea, but wanted to include everyone as "owners" also. He talked me out of it, but did allow me to add Craig since he was a blood relative. Right of survivorship was included in the articles and certainly changed my tax status and personal liability for all of us. The advantage of the LLC allowed the Resort and Campground to absorb all liability for any and all events or incidents which might occur and limited our personal liability. It also cut down on our income tax liabilities. The down side was I had to relinquish ownership of the Resort and Campground to the Company. That was fine with me since it also prevented my aunts and uncle, and definitely Wesley, from gaining control of it. Edward did include a clause in the LLC articles that allowed for the reversion of the property to me should the LLC dissolve by any circumstance beyond the owner's control. I suppose such things as an act of war or something, I really didn't know, Edward would handle that. Mr. Osgood, the attorney I'd had and Grandma and Grandpa Johnson had, continued to handle my other legal interests.

So, the equipment, including the new truck, and buildings and grounds were all under the LLC. The old pickup, rather than trade it in, was kept for Ollie and Luis to use and use it they did. No more driving them to ball games, concerts, movies, or whatever, they could do it themselves and did. It came in handy in other ways also because that spring, the Twins, looking to the future, knowing the dock and bait service would be under Luis and Ollie's jurisdiction until they graduated from college, figured their own income would be rather limited if they had to rely solely on tips from firewood delivery and tips in general, decided to form "Johnson Brothers Lawn Care" and while not mowing the grounds at the Resort and Campground or selling firewood, loaded the lawn tractor, weed-wacker, and power push mower into the trailer, and were taken by one of us to various cottages and cabins where they mowed the lawn, trimmed hedges, you name it, so the owners wouldn't have to. Since I was the one who generally drove them around, it gave me a chance to visit with other resort owners and cabin owners concerning business and community affairs. It really came in handy since it kept me abreast of what was happening in our own neighborhood, so to speak. Word of mouth advertising was so good they actually did very, very well. The Twins would have the lawns mowed and trimmed before the weekenders would arrive. For those folks who were summer residents, the boys had a two week schedule they followed to ensure all lawns were cared for regularly. Two cemeteries and three other resorts contracted for their services also. Cheeky little devils aren't they? I have to give them credit; they were ambitious, clever, and more than just a little smart. The fees they earned, along with the generous tips the customers sent their way, went into savings accounts for their college. Coupling that with the trust I'd established for them, would insure their college education. Ollie and Luis were in the same financial position, so they shouldn't have to work during the academic year, but would continue to work at the Resort.

Removing snow was just a minor inconvenience, so it might seem, to all we had to do to prepare for the recital along with Christmas. It was important, so I was informed by Ollie, that we procure from the surrounding forests, just the "right" tree for use for both events. Mae preferred a blue spruce, if one could be found, twenty feet or so tall. Once we found it, which we did not far from home, we hauled it back to the Lodge, maneuvered it in the front door, and secured in a stout tree stand which Leandro and Cedric constructed, so it stood in all its grandeur near the front windows in the Great Room. Two big step ladders were used by us to decorate it with lights and baubles; not too many, Mae reminded us since they would detract from the natural beauty of the tree. Ollie and Luis were the ladder climbers and did an excellent job decorating the tree.

When Christmas was over, we'd dismantle the tree, pack away the lights and baubles, and I'd drag the tree out over the ice and lay it to rest, once weighted with several large rocks, above one of the many reefs in the lake, where, in the spring once the ice melted, the tree would sink to the bottom and provide shelter and habitat for the various pan fish and predator fish the lake was populated with. Craig, with his biological sciences degree, was pleased and supportive of my efforts to improve the aquatic habitat in the lake. As he often stated, "The natural state of our environment is continually being degraded and, if we don't do something, even the smallest of gestures, what we have will be no more." I tended to agree with him.

Terell and Treyvon hustled about hanging ropes of pine and balsam garland from the balcony and wreaths of balsam or pine on doors and in windows. Chairs were set up in the Great Room for our guests with the first chair in each row garnished with a big, red, festive bow to add to the festive ambiance Mae wished to create. The actual reception after the recital would be in the group meeting room off of the Great Room where we had Cedric and Mae's wedding reception. Each table was decorated with small wreaths and candles for center pieces should guests chose to sit while they enjoyed the refreshments and each other's company. Leandro, when not plowing snow or any of the other myriad tasks he and I seemed to be involved in, helped Mae prepare trays of Christmas cookies, several sheet cakes, and candies (fudge and divinity to name a few). Coffee, punch, soda, and water would be the drinks of choice served.

All was going well until three days before the recital. The logger I purchase my firewood from called and said he had thirty-plus cords of good maple and oak hard wood and wanted to deliver it the next day. I really hadn't expected it until after the first of the year, but he was concerned with the way winter was starting and, "if it buries us ass deep in this white shit, Conner, I might not be able to get it out of the woods." I really couldn't say no, he was a good logger and always delivered prime hardwood to me. Thirty-plus pulp cord of eight foot length wood requires a pretty large space to stack it in. I usually purchased my wood every two years; cut it, split it, and let it dry two summers before using it. We had two winters, counting this one, dry and ready to burn, so this would be for two years beyond.

Cedric and Craig grumbled a little, but gassed up the tractor and truck and plowed out the wood lot behind the machine/storage shed. As luck would have it, the next day dawned bright and sunny so the logger was able to deliver the wood in three big logging truck loads. It made two stacks, each about sixty feet long and seven feet high at the peak and tapered at the ends. It would take us the rest of winter to cut, split, and stack the wood if we worked at it as we could. The twenty-two ton gasoline-engine powered hydraulic wood splitter and two chain saws working on a weekend when the boys were home from school to haul and stack it, would make the chore seem to go quickly.

We'd miss Ollie and Luis's help after they left for college in the next year, but the Twins could hold their own. The first year after Ollie, Treyvon, and Terell came to live at the Resort and wood was delivered, Ollie looked at the two stacks and commented, "That's one honkin' big pile of wood, Conner!" He said the same this year. It always seemed to amaze him.

I had to admit it was, but not only supplying us with heat all winter, it also produced the firewood we sold at the campground each summer. Once cut and split, we separated the wood we'd sell at the campground from the wood we'd use for heat. The lesser quality chunks would be sold and the majority of the wood, the better quality, was used by us for heat. Hey, business is business, folks! Grandma and Grandpa Johnson used to hire a couple of high school boys to help me, when I was home, to "make wood." I didn't need to; I had a house full of willing and able men and boys.

Wood unloaded, we returned our attention to the recital. Mae pronounced the Lodge was sufficiently readied; Leandro claimed the same for refreshments and; my brothers proclaimed chairs and tables were in place and decorated. All we had to do now was to wait patiently until the recital day and hope for no more snow.

Saturday afternoon was a gorgeous, winter wonderland day with the sun glinting off of the snow covered trees in the surround forests, and hanging like clouds of white cotton candy from the eves of the cabins and the Lodge. A perfect day, I thought, for the event. The recital was about two and a half hours in length, including an intermission so everyone could stand, stretch, and go potty, before ending. The intermission also served as a separation point between the beginning students' performances and the more experienced students. The music consisted of a mixture of Chopin, Mozart, Beethoven, Rachmaninoff, Shostakovich, and Debussy to name just a few. Ollie brought the recital to a close with a composition by Debussy, a composer he dearly loved and enjoyed playing.

The audience, receptive as always, enjoyed themselves and the reception afterward. These were all local people, friends, neighbors, and towns' people who wanted their children to experience more than just "huntin' and fishin'." Mae brought a cultural, intellectual, and fine arts opportunity to our little community and the community embraced it. The recital was fun, a chance for us to relax and socialize before we were snowed in for the winter and then busy all summer trying to make a living serving our guests and summer people. Each youngster who performed brought with him or her, a ready audience of family and friends so the Great Room and reception were both crowded. It had become an event the community looked forward to each year and seemed to grow as a result. My family thought it was great!

The Christmas tree and all the decorations stayed up through New Year's Day. It was that way when I was growing up and I wanted it to be that way for our family as well. Christmas was fun, the boys received new clothes and this year, cross country skis, along with gift cards for music downloads and other items. Leandro and I hung big, red stockings, one for each of the boys, on the fireplace mantel and filled them with goodies such as candy, and mundane items like toothpaste, deodorant; the sort of things everybody uses but runs out of before you remember to buy some more. The boys always seemed to head for the stockings first; perhaps because they knew there just might be something special in there, such as a new watch for each of them this year.

Christmas dinner was not turkey as many people had, but "roast beast" as Ollie put it. Leandro fixed a prime rib roast, cooked to medium, medium-rare status, depending on where each cut was made, and absolutely mouth-watering delicious! Accompanying it was all of the side dishes of mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, scalloped corn, assorted raw and cooked vegetables, pickles, hot rolls, salads, and pies. Leandro was one hell of a cook! He insisted on doing it, claiming "Mae worked hard enough getting the recital together, so this was his treat." Mae really loved his cooking and made no bones about it.

The day after Christmas, after lunch, Cedric and Mae walked over to the Lodge from their cottage for coffee. Leandro and I, after pouring them and ourselves each a cup, settled down with them at the kitchen table.

"Have you been watching the weather forecasts?" Cedric inquired thoughtfully.

Honestly, I hadn't been paying much attention to the forecasts at all. The boys were home from school on break until January 4, still over a week away, so there was no need to be glued to the tube or the radio. Besides, the pantry was well stocked and the freezers as well, the LP tanks filled, and the wood shed stacked to the brim, so I had no concern, at the moment.

"Is there something I should be concerned with, Cedric?" I responded.

"Possibly not, but Mae and I are. If the weather people are correct in their prognostications or prevarications, which ever you prefer to define what they do, there's a strong possibility of a series of pretty hefty lake enhanced snow storms lining up that could really impact us."

Cedric paused and looked at Mae to continue. "Cedric and I have talked it over and we'd like to get a head start on those storms. I've just about finished packing the camper and if we start in the morning, we can drive as far as Deshone's in Des Moines by tomorrow evening."

This came as a surprise to Leandro and me since Cedric and Mae usually rang in the New Year at the Resort each year and then headed out on their winter trip. However, it made sense to me if they felt a storm was brewing and didn't want to get caught up in it.

"Why don't you come over for dinner this evening and say goodbye to the boys."

Leandro just grinned at my invitation. "It's just leftovers!"

The boys were sorry to see their grandmother leave early, but they understood. She and Cedric were happy together; the trip south gave them a nice break from the colds of winter plus the opportunity to visit Cedric's family and mutual friends. The next morning, with all of us waving goodbye from the front steps of the Lodge, the camper rolled down the lane and off to Iowa.

Craig and Loren took the four boys cross country skiing on some of the logging roads leading into the National forests, leaving Leandro and me alone. Out of curiosity, we flipped on the weather radio and the National Weather Service was indeed predicting a storm of major proportions to hit us within the next twenty-four to forty-eight hours. Leandro and I made a quick trip, after leaving a note for the boys, to Otter Lake to stock up on milk and any staples he thought we needed- ruining what I thought would have been a great opportunity for some serious, erotic, deep, slow massaging of one particular part of my body.

To be continued


Thank you for reading "West Otter Lake – Chapter Twenty-Seven - "All musical people seem to be happy; it is to them the engrossing pursuit; almost the only innocent and unpunished passion." – (Sydney Smith)

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Nick Hall


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