Every few years my Dad would take us to Duluth, Minnesota to visit his old Army buddy, Joe. He and his wife had 10 kids; there were two boys older than me, one my age and then two younger.
The oldest girl was about 5 years my junior, and then 4 more kids to round out the 10. The last two girls were twins were age 1 when we were there last. I spent all my time with the three oldest boys, because we were all around 13 years of age.
The family had a cabin on a lake for weekends and when they had a vacation. The cabin was very rustic and we had to sleep all over the floor, because it had just three bedrooms and a large great room with the kitchen and few easy chairs.
A very large wooden table, with benches instead of chairs took up most of the room. Meals around the rustic table that Joe had built was always a lot of fun, you didn’t have to worry about spilling or hurting anything.
The lake was only about 50 feet from the front door of the cabin. It looked like a lake from a movie; it was approximately 1-mile long, and about half mile wide. Out in the middle of the lake was this beautiful little island that stretched for almost a quarter of a mile, but only 10-20 yards wide and was covered with pine trees.
The kids in the family had grown up on the water and could ski almost before they could walk, except for the oldest girl; she had never made it up and stayed up. They could get her out of the water and up on the skis, but the minute she stood up straight she was back down again. It looked like someone ran the film backwards the way she would go back down into the water in slow motion.
My Dad loved to water ski and this was the only time he had the chance and he would make the most of it when we were at the cabin. He could put his skis on and stand on the dock, and they would just pull him into the water and he was on his way. Joe always took whoever was skiing out around the island and then to the end of the lake and back again.
When any of the family or my dad wanted to quit, they would just signal and Joe would swing in close to the shore and they would ski right up onto the shore and step out of their skis. One day my dad signaled and Joe swung in towards the shore and dad let go of the rope a little to soon, and when he came up on the shore he was skiing right into a grove of small trees. Some how he managed to miss all 50 of the trees.
Right after lunch one day, Joe and dad were in the boat waiting for someone to put on their skis and get in the water when the oldest boy told me I needed to try to ski. I told him I couldn’t swim, and didn’t want to and I was afraid of the water. He kept heckling me and I kept telling him the same thing. I was content just to watch. Finally he walked away and I was relieved that I didn’t have to ski.
A few seconds later the 3 boys came back, grabbed me and headed to the lake with me kicking and screaming as they drug me along. When we got to the water I began to panic, I had a feeling I was not going to like whatever they had in mind. dad was about 20 feet out on the lake and was not going to be any help, but he didn’t seem inclined to help me anyway.
The two oldest had managed to put a life vest on me by now, and they were holding me down in the water. I was sitting on the bottom kicking and yelling that I couldn’t swim, and they kept telling me that was what the vest was for. Then the youngest one appeared with a pair of skis and I really began to panic.
The next thing I knew I had the skis on my feet and the rope was in my hands. As the two oldest boys stood and yelled at their Dad to take it away, they finally let go of my arms. The next thing I knew I felt the jerk of the rope and I was up on the skis and heading out into the lake at a high rate of speed.
I do not know how I got up, but there I was behind the boat and my dad was clapping and laughing. Joe headed around behind the island and I remember thinking; it was either ski or drown.
As we rounded the island in a wide arc and started down the backside, Joe and dad changed places in the boat, so Joe could keep and eye on me in case of trouble I guess, since it was my first time up on skis.
Somewhere half way down the backside of the island, I looked at the boat and Joe was waving his arms madly and pointing down at my feet. I kept looking down, then back at him, but I couldn’t tell what he wanted.
Joe was screaming something, but it was lost on the wind and in the roar of the boat motor. I finally decided it must be the fact that I had one foot on the outside of the wake and one in the middle.
I couldn’t decide what he wanted me to do about this situation, and finally just made the decision to get the left ski back inside the wake where the right ski was. I just pulled the left ski back across the wake and back into the middle, and looked up at him.
Joe threw his hands in the air and shook his head and sat down with a thud and started to laugh. I could see nothing funny about my situation, if I fell I would drown and if I stayed on my feet, I didn’t’ know how I would get off the skis.
Finally my dad made a wide sweeping curve to head back toward the cabin, and I was really relieved. But….. now I had a new dilemma, how in the heck to get off that lake and the skis.
I knew that I could not ski onto the bank like the rest of them did, but wasn’t sure just how to get out of the predicament. So as Dad swung in toward the shore I decided to just let go and see what would happen. I looked up to see the dock, which stuck out into the lake 15 feet, looming in front of me.
The only thing I could think to do was to dive into the water. It was a real belly flop right between the skis, and they came off when I hit the water. I was flailing around and sputtering when the oldest boy walked into the water, and calmly told me to put my feet down and stand up. Although I was finally safe, I wanted to kill him, because it was his fault I was in that situation. And I had forgotten in my panic that most of the lake was only about10 feet deep and all the shoreline was 2 feet or less.
I found out that I could never trust the boys, because the next day they held me down and put the skis on me again, but I made it all the way around the lake again just to show them. That was the last time I have been on skis. The feeling of ski or drown is one I don’t care to repeat. To contact Sandy: [email protected]