Ghosts of the Menominee River
Channels lost, memories regained
"Daylight in the swamp!" my dad announced as he shook me and my brother Rod awake. It was the summer of 1953 and day was just working its way over the bluffs of Door County. I was 11 years old and Rod was eight. We were going fishing for perch on the Government Pier in Menekaunee. Catching perch was magical in those days. Sure we were tired, but visions of jumbo perch danced in our heads.
We were still pulling up our pants as we hustled downstairs for our milk and homemade peanut butter toast. We grabbed our poles and the worms we dug the day before. We each threw a wooden oar over our shoulder and followed our dad across Water Street at the 7th Street corner. We were heading for the wooden boat our dad made in our upstairs bedroom the previous winter. To get it out of the house, he had to unhinge the door and take the banister off the staircase.
We followed a cow path that took us through the old Cedar Yard and then to the river. Piles of cedar logs engulfed us. This was where my older brother Barney and Grandpa Fred peeled cedar posts with a hand spud during the week. My job was to pile up the logs that they were peeling. I think they gave me 5 cents a day and I was happy. A nickel could get five penny grab bags at Nelson's corner grocery store 58 years ago.
A layer of morning fog still hovered over low areas as we passed the last pile of logs and reached the rickety boat dock. The fog was dancing on the water. We hopped in the boat, placed the oars in the locks and started to row.
The entirety of Jerry Harpt's story appears in the June 2012 print edition of Silent Sports.