Monday, June 23, 2014

Cabin Stories, part 2

If Reveille and all the hubbub downstairs still wasn’t enough to get us kids out of bed, my Dad would resort to plan B; letting loose with the old Brunswick Victrola. It had two volume levels; loud and soft, the latter of which was never used. First he’d try “Stars and Stripes Forever” as performed by the NHU Military Band. If that didn’t work, he’d try the B side, which was “The Caisson Song.”

If those didn’t work, the next selection would be the DeCastro Sisters. They were the dark haired, Brazilian version of the Andrews Sisters and their harmonies were just as lush and the toe-tappers, just as peppy. I would be awake and downstairs by the time they came on, sitting on one of the long pine benches bellied up to the kitchen table for flapjacks and bacon doused in Mapeline syrup.

I kept the fact I enjoyed the DeCastro Sisters a secret for years and I still love them to this day. I know every crackle and pop in Rockin’ and Rollin’ in Hawaii and Crybaby Blues. My Dad may have gotten wise to that, because there was a shift in repertoire one year and after “Stars and Stripes” and it went to all polkas all the time. I believe teenagers would sooner light their hair on fire and put it out with a sledge hammer than listen to polkas, so it always worked as a motivator for me.

One morning-mid seventies-in June my Dad and I went fishing after breakfast. The sky was overcast and soon the thickest fog I’ve ever seen invaded the woods and covered the lake like cotton. Back at the cabin the others began to wonder about us when we had not returned at our expected time, but the fish kept biting so we kept fishing. We carefully navigated through the fog until we heard a strange noise in the distance.

It was unmistakably one, J.P. Sousa.

My siblings, mother and other mother had carried the Victrola down to the lake and placed it at the end of the dock as a sound beacon to guide us home. It worked and I don’t think anyone who was there has ever forgotten it.

I’ve never been to the top of the Empire State Building. I’ve forgotten what rides I waited hours in line to ride at Cedar Point and I can’t remember much about the Magic Kingdom. But I know what quiet sounds like. I know how to catch and fillet a Northern Pike, pick wild blueberries at the right time, safely build a fire outside, make the perfect smore, cook for a family of twelve, shoot bottles in the dump, build a fort in the forest, catch minnows, pollywogs and garter snakes. And I still know how to scare my sister while walking through the woods; something that never grows old.

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