Sunday, May 2, 2021

Life between the lakes, Part 45, special edition


The last couple of weeks have been tough. First there was my bout of bronchitis that slowed me down considerably. After a week of treatment, I felt better but not cured. Then I found myself making the trip to the clinic again and returning with a new diagnosis; Pneumonia, which knocked me out of the writing game for the better part of the week . This time I came home armed with new steroids, antibiotics and inhalers to combat it.

I'm not gonna croak, so there is no need to make a fuss.

Taking care of Jack and Needa is my immediate priority each day. While some days I would prefer to sleep past 5AM and skip our daily 2 miles, it has not been possible. They have adjusted well since moving into the wilderness and we have not missed our daily walks in five months.

Deer Park provides a beautiful backdrop for our walks and plenty of fresh air for my dogs. But they do not get the same socialization as they had in Royal Oak.

Needa especially craves attention. She will stop and turn around when she hears a car a half mile down the road, hoping someone is coming to see her. She did the same with snowmobiles this winter.

When I lived in Royal Oak, people always stopped me in the street to ask me about my greys.

“Got a minute?” they’d ask.

“I’ve got all day,” I’d reply and invite them out of their car to come and meet my lovelies.

Even in Deer Park, strangers continue to marvel at their beauty and temperament. If they get out to pet them nearly every person has commented on how Needa is the softest dog they’ve ever touched.

People usually ask about their racing careers and speed. In their prime, they’d race 550 yards (five and a half football fields) in about 31 seconds.

Let that sink in.

Jack and Needa are always anxious to see Aunt Carla when she’s outside and we are returning from a walk or when we meet in the breezeway that connects the living quarters.

I can count on one hand the number of visitors I’ve had since the move and it’s hard for me not to feel guilty. While this change of lifestyle has brought so much to me, it has also taken something away from my dogs.

Needa turns 12 today and Jack is 18 months ahead of her, going on 14 this fall. I’ve taken them on some journeys during our life together, sometimes out of my comfort zone. But they have adapted well as long as we were together.

There are few things I love more than the sight and feel of tired dogs in a room after a walk and a satisfying meal. Tonight I sat down to read and Needa assumed the greyhound “roach pose;” lying on her back, four legs fully extended in different directions with her soft white belly exposed. I rubbed it for about five minutes and could hear her low grumble of bliss, signifying happiness and comfort.

She doesn’t know it is her birthday or why I make so much fuss over her. If you are a dog owner and a friend of mine, you already know that treating everyday like a special day is something that comes easily.

These days she eats less and walks a little slower. But I’ve never felt such adoration from any of my dogs as I have with Needa. She remains the silly yet elegant lady of the house while a less refined Tiger Jack Burke rides on her coat tails of sweetness and beauty.

"What I would do for wisdom!" I cried out as a young man.

Evidently not much. Or so it seems.

Even on walks I follow the dog.”

-Jim Harrison  

Life between the lakes, part 44

The water parts to form a small circle, revealing the Royal Coachman’s tacit arrival into the Two Hearted River. The fly bobs once and then rests silently on the clear, smooth surface. The fisherman stands in the mucky sand watching the circle of waves widen and run toward him on shore.

A small hidden line runs straight toward him while the current gently pulls the Coachman downstream as he slowly creates slack by pulling the line from his reel and then releasing it.

A brook trout circles the coachman leaving and returning again so fast that all that is seen is a reflection of him in a beam of sunlight. He looked long and girthy, and the man’s heart rate quickened.

The fist circles again with renewed intentions, this time swimming straight up without hesitation and taking the red and white hook into his mouth, creating a flurry of splashing water.

The game is on.

The thin line becomes instantly rigid. The man bites down on the lip of his pipe and exhales the last puff of sweet grey smoke he has been nursing for the last twenty minutes. The trout and Coachman swirl to the surface of the water and then dive. The man pulls back on his rod, telling the fish, “not so fast” as he draws him to the surface.

The fish has other plans and replies with a lunge downstream as the reel whines with the fisherman giving him some slack.

The brook trout dives again and darts toward the butt end of a log sticking up out of the river. Behind the log the trout creates a temporary flurry of white water, signaling to the man that the fight is about to ramp up. The man tightens his line and pulls it gently, keeping it taut.

The fish returns the favor by darting toward a cluster of brush jutting from the shoreline, causing the man to give away some line. The man tries to gain leverage by carefully repositioning himself and pointing the tip of his rod away from the log.

The fish reveals himself, larger and with more girth than the man witnessed only moments before. His heart pounds as the fish breaks the surface in a flash before diving deep into an unseen pool behind a fallen cedar tree.

This exchange of wits, smarts and stamina goes on for a few minutes as the man reels fervently and plays the fish while the fish cleverly plays the man until the line goes limp.

The man removes the pipe from his clenched teeth. The tobacco has been reduced to ash and he puts the warm pipe in one of his many vest pockets while he retrieves his line, which now comes easily. To his amazement, the hook appears bent.

He shakes his head in disbelief and removes the pipe from his pocket, turning it over and tapping it on his palm to remove the spent tobacco, which quickly washes away in the current. He reaches into his pocket and retrieves another pipe. He packs it with fresh tobacco, cracking a smile in his defeat while noticing a vacant swirl downstream.

Just being there is a privilege and the fisherman knows this, but this day, the Two Hearted River owns the trout.

The man removes the needle nose pliers from another pocket and bends the hook back into shape. He knows the Royal Coachman will fight another day.

Life between the Lakes, part 43


My good friend Kevin Collard passed away last night. And though I am here, still full of life, I feel a profound emptiness inside.
His illness came on rapidly and he quickly found himself accepting the inevitable. He had guts and courage, knowing his time was short and he approached death the only way he knew how; through his faith.
Kevin was the guy behind the scenes talk radio on WJR and Christian radio, going back to his high school days. He was a brilliant guy, full of great ideas and an incredible sense of humor.
In a world of friendship through social media, he was a true go-to friend to me, because our friendship was genuine. 
While I mourn his loss I take joy in his deliverance. Please keep Kevin's family in your prayers.
Kevin was a graduate of Waterford Kettering High School (1985) and the Specs Howard School of Broadcast Arts (1986). He was a well-known radio producer in the Detroit metro area getting his start as the executive producer for Foster Braun’s “Love Talks” program at WWCM-Ypsilanti (1986-1993). He worked at WJR-Detroit from 1993 to 2009. He produced programs for Jimmy Barrett, Fat Bob Taylor, Larry Patton, Mike Whorf and Mitch Albom’s Sunday Sports Album. He was the executive producer for Ken Calvert, Paul W. Smith, David Newman, and Frank Beckman.
He later was the executive producer for Paul Edwards at WLQV-Detroit, Music Director and Morning Host at Proclaim FM in Toledo, Ohio, and Executive Producer for Stephen Clark & Joanne Purtan at WOMC-Detroit. He wrote the “Sounds of Faith” weekend column for the Oakland Press (1994-1996). In recent years he hosted a podcast, “A Soul Encountered,” interviewing guests about their Christian faith.