My fishing trip was grand, as always. I missed two of my partners in crime, Jesse and Ed, but the rest of us soldiered on without them, however hard that was. I have been making this trip since 1990 when I and five others first wandered north the day after I graduated from seminary: three seminary chums, one of their brothers, whom I have now learned attends the parish of one of the guys who now goes with me, and my own brother Stephen. Since then it has been one of the most anticipated parts of my life, and I can never remember going and it not being great. The cast of characters has changed over the years. We have had some people go with us that we decided should not come back: they weren’t bad people, but they just weren’t very good fits. They couldn’t play cards, or couldn’t keep up their end of a good conversation, or were just poor company. There was one guy who actually was a pretty sorry excuse for a person, but that’s all I’ll say. It has now settled into the same six and seven guys every year. This year, without Jesse and Ed was different, but still grand. The bass were hitting hard virtually every time out (only once did I go out and not catch a really good bass). The pike were not as aggressive as in past years, for which we are grateful. I saw a video in Cabelas about how to catch pike: I wanted a video about how to keep them off my line. For as vicious as they are, they die really easily once out of the water, and tend to swallow the lures in such a way as to make it hard to get them out without hurting them. What was really disappointing was the lack of walleye, the lobster of the north.
We ate well, the cooking falling to my colleague Mike (an American historian) and me. Mike is a man of meat, but he also knows how to fry bass, and we ate like kings. It also didn’t hurt that my brother Jim came and his wife sent along about 6 dozen cookies plus a loaf of banana bread.
We also went out twice to hit some softballs around a local field. Then we played some hoops. Horse for me, as nothing is holding my legs together but my pants. Yet despite my having twenty years on my competition, I did manage to win a game of horse, the old stroke coming back and laying low the youngins.
We stayed in a great cabin. We had been staying in some cabins across the lake, but as the years went by they fell victim to neglect. And while the new ownership made some improvements, there’s only so much duct tape will do. We also were not happy with the mice, the black mold, small refrigerators, ovens that didn’t work, no water pressure in the showers, above ground water lines that gave us only hot water, and doing work for the owner and receiving diddly by way of benefit. The places we stay now are the Waldorf by comparison. The bedrooms could be bigger, but we have lots of room otherwise, great docks, grand kitchens (and all the necessities for grand cooking), and all for about $60 more a man than we were paying. The whole week costs less than $400 and that’s everything.
When I first began these expeditions we spent hours talking theology, the Bible, philosophy, our lives and expectations. Over the years this has changed somewhat. We speak more about politics of late, which I find disconcerting. Not that I don’t have my opinions and love to talk about economics, but the problems my country faces are not ultimately political. They are not going to change with a changing of the one party for another. In the end what our problems are, are spiritual and cultural, and admit of no political solution. We do hit theology still, but, we also hit questions about history and theologians (and thus theology: we had a long discussion about Barth as crisis theologian and Van Til as Neo-Kantian in the boat one night; we also hit on the historical veracity of the Old Testament and was pleased (I think) to find out that Princeton still largely adheres to what I can best call a W. F. Albright view of the OT. We also discussed Voltaire’s system of belief and his blind spots; and we invariably cover our work situations, what we hope for our families, and what we hope to accomplish in the next year. Also, we sharpen our wits over rather well-played, intense games of Rook (we don’t have a Rook deck, and so just use a regular poker deck with the Joker as the rook). The camaraderie of the trip is what makes it for me. It’s one of the reasons I never tire of being there, and always look forward to going. I thank God for the great gift of friendship.