Sneaking quietly into the backdoor of my life, my friend throws words at me, sending my thoughts careening off in other directions. But I listen. They come from a life of pain, and joy, and hardship, laughter and tears that we can understand. The wisdom comes from hard won victories, and sad losses. Grounded in a faith and power that few know. I know my friend, but yet I don’t. When I think about a person sometimes in my idle time, I try to focus in one word descriptions:
I grew up in the “Lake Country” of central Waukesha County, WI. The area is known for a couple of things: Lakes and houses around the lakes and in the general area that reflect the effect of money. As in cash, and lots of it. Armour, Pabst, Valentine, Bush, Eschweiler, and many more – are part of the history of the area. Country clubs, yacht clubs, there was a lot of recreation that generated a flow of cash. Sailing regattas that attracted folks from other states. As kids who lived in the old Merchants Plat addition of Oconomowoc, a neighborhood of 40′ lots with railroad track frontage, our entertainment from this was to go down the street and figure out how many different states we could count license plates from. To us, they were just the people who made our narrow streets narrower and blocked our driveways on Sunday mornings with their station wagons and trailers.
For me, living a block from Lac La Belle, a 2700 acre gem of a lake that encroaches right into the city of Oconomowoc, it could have been a mile away, except for a couple of things. I love to fish, and I love boats of all kinds. Our old steel rowboat, part of my dad’s inheritance from his father was our entre’ to the world of Lac La Belle. We didn’t use it much, and I think Dad eventually sold it for scrap one time when things were tight.
As a subset of the boats, I was particularly fascinated by sailboats, and the almost obsessive passion that their owners exhibited in getting to the lake, getting the boat in the water and getting after it. Their basic principle was foreign to me, being a kid with a passion for the internal combustion engine, on the one hand, it seemed to be much ado about nothing, but there was one thing about it that even my trusty Encyclopedia Britannica could get me to understand: sailing against the wind. In the winter, the crazies came out – the iceboaters. This complicated things further. With a 20 mile an hour wind, they could go from one end of the lake to the other in what seemed like less than a minute, hitting speeds of 85 -100 miles an hour. But they could come back pretty fast too, again, against the wind.
The situation at home dictated that I would never really be accepted in the “inner circle” of Oconomowoc’s sail boaters, water skiers and lake people, so I became something of a contrarian. Never let it be said that I was not willing to pick up an idea and turn it over and look at the soft underbelly. I’ve always been willing to look at another opinion, or an idea that someone else may have or even take the side of the obvious underdog – just because.