It had been a rather perfect evening weather-wise. The heat of the day resignedly gave way to a light breeze and a cloud cover that lowered the thermometer just enough. We sat at long picnic tables, plates full of potluck food and the sizzle of frying fish in the background. It was the first all-camp fish fry of the summer season and it felt special, a touch magical. More than one guest mentioned they were hoping my dad would bring out his guitar later.
There was one child staying at the resort for the week, which meant that prior to dinner-time and immediately after seconds on dessert, my five-year old Iris was busy chasing the handsome seven-year old Calvin from Cabin 5.
The adults lingered, talking and laughing, going back for more walleye even on full bellies.
Near the end of the gathering, a man a decade or two older than me walked up and clasped the shoulder of the man sitting directly across from me. He leaned in a bit and I heard him say, “With all sincerity, I just want to say how grateful I am that you introduced me to this place.”
They exchanged a few more words, something to the effect of “the best place on earth,” and then they glanced around, likely wondering who might have taken note of the shinier than normal eyes and the firm yet loving handshake that only the best of men have mastered. I quietly entered their conversation. “When did you first start coming here?” I asked, expecting to hear that it was his first or second year.
“’07,” he said. “So, not long.”
And he was right. Eleven years of return visits is truly not long for the likes of Prothero’s Post. The woman sitting next to me had been vacationing here since before her daughter was born, who is about my age and was sitting right next to her mom.
They have been coming back for decades, as have many families. Some guests stay for weeks, some for months, some store belongings in spare closets all year long.
Grandma Grace, now approaching her 86th birthday and fresh from knee replacement surgery is still present and in charge every single day. She is the longest running resort-owner that I know of up here and she doesn’t forget one tiny detail. She can recite the small handful of odd dates the resort still has available. She can remember when each guest started coming, when their kids and grandkids first toddled the docks, who’s fallen in, who’s accidentally dumped out the day’s catch, which groups are messy or loud or need extra towels. If it’s funny, she’s got their stories cemented in the quick storage of her brain, along with the untold little details that pluck at her heart strings. Those within earshot of her that evening at the fish fry were treated to a couple rare tidbits pulled out from the ever-growing database.
The man across from me, the one who received the heartfelt Thank You, had his button-up shirt on inside out. I teased him. “Someone must be on vacation,” I chuckled, noting his visible tag in the back.
“Oh, this is a tribute,” he said and then he told me a story about my Grandpa Dale, one of the many thousands I’m sure I’ve never heard:
One morning, in a rush to get down to the docks, Grandpa – who passed away last May – had gotten dressed in the dark, or so he had claimed. He greeted the guests that morning, wiping out the dew-covered boats, gassing them up, filling up bait containers and whatever odds and ends the morning fishing chores required, all while wearing one of his wife’s blouses, inside-out to boot. He had blamed it on an infiltrator; one of Grandma’s shirts must have made its way to his side of the closet. We laughed and sighed to think of how he had managed to get it buttoned up in the dark without noticing the smaller, opposite-side buttons, or, once in the light of day, the feminine print and color or even the inside-outtedness. Where he was so good at giving a good teasing, he was then the focus of it and now lovingly remembered for it by decades-long friends who had started out as mere camp newcomers once upon a time.
So the story lives on. As so many of them do.
I listened as everyone at my picnic table recounted how they had first come to find the resort and The Angle. They remember Houston Lockwood, “the philosophical hermit,” and they lovingly appreciate and care for the mark he left on the resort in the handmade furniture and wood-carvings, many of which grace the lodge and the various cabins to this day. They recalled using the handpump in the kitchen, bathing their kids in the sink, and roads so soft they thought their cars might disappear into a sinkhole. They remember my grandparents in the early days. They delight in there being no televisions available at the resort and were surprised to see WiFi come in the last few years. They’ve turned fellow guests into life-long friends, just as my grandpa did and as my grandma still does (as she sneaks in a hug from any handsome fellow she sees).
The legacy that is Prothero’s Post Resort is certainly one to behold, on warm and sunny fish-fry days and gray and rainy ones when the fish are biting but the wood stove in the cabin calls just a little bit louder.
I feel incredibly blessed that my daughter and I get to be some small part of it, even if it’s just cleaning ovens, scrubbing toilets or chasing handsome seven-year old’s. Someone has to carry on the elbow grease and the flirting. The inside-out women’s blouses are already covered.