When I was young, about six, I spent a week with my grandmother Emily and her second husband Virgil Rollins at their lake cottage. She met Virgil at the General Electric plant in Ft Wayne. He was a truck driver, she worked in the factory, and they dated for a long time. Finally, in 1952, she agreed to marry him and he moved in with her. I believe he owned the cottage at Snow Lake. Virgil never had children of his own and loved being part of this growing family. Each of the girls, my aunts Mary Alice and Marcella and my mom had two children and the boys, Uncles Tom and Joe produced an additional 11 grand children between them.
It was always fun to be go to the lake, Virgil loved all the grand kids and was a kind patient man. He supplied the love that Emily couldn't but she loved him more than she loved anyone else. Adversity was to visit Emily once more; in the late 50s Virgil was diagnosed with throat Cancer. She would take care of him for less than a year before he passed away. After he died she sold the lake house because she'd spent her happiest days there and it was torture without him by her side.
On the way to the lake we stopped at a farm and bought three chickens and the next morning Virgil took them down to the lake and axed their heads off. They ran around headless flapping their wings and when they'd stopped their running he took them into grandma to clean. As I think about it now I'm horrified at the thought of that sight but then it didn't bother me in the least.
Sitting on a chair in the corner of the kitchen I watched Emily pull most of the feathers then she proceeded to clean out the "inards" and remove the final small feathers. She taped a few of the big feathers together on a piece of folded newspaper, attached a string, and tied that around my head telling me it was my war bonnet. That might have been the only time she did anything fun with me so I cherish that memory. The big reward was the perfectly fried chicken for dinner that night.
Emily cooked many meals at the lake and one of my favorites was a fish caught in the lake; Sun Perch. Grandpa Virgil and my uncles would fish all Saturday and bring home buckets of them. She'd always clean them herself but not remove the bones. There would be big heaping platters of the fried fish along with corn on the cob and always bread with butter just in case you swallowed a bone. From an early age us kids knew how to remove the spine and all the little bones from our fish. The bread was always there but I never remember anyone choking.
When Virgil took us kids fishing it was only about twenty feet from shore. I realized later we really weren't fishing. He'd bait a line for us and put it in the water until we got board and wanted to go swimming. I'm sure that's why he kept close to shore, he knew it wouldn't take long for us to lose interest. The only time Virgil raised his voice was when my cousin let all the minnows used as bait go.
In the boat or on the dock we had to wear a life vest whether we could swim or not. I know I didn't swim but could paddle around with the life vest on all day. Best memory was of the mud and if you have not stepped into a lake and felt the soft squishy mud between your toes you've never lived.
Interested in starting at the beginning of these stories? Read Kitchen stories: an ear full