Not yet sun-up. 10-speed with fishing pole across the handlebars. Tackle box in backpack. Maybe a snack. Maybe some paper route money.
Before Holiday Harbour bush-hogged lots for custom homes, paved cul-de-sacs & dredged weedbeds & structure from the channel, I’d follow a path on my 10-speed through twisted old cottonwood, hip-to-chest-tall broad-grass, cattails, willows & swampy peat moss & an occasional empty twelve pack of Milwaukee’s Best. Through the cottonwood & willows, I’d step onto the pebbled beach across from Squaw Island. Even after folks moved into the custom homes, I was there & gone before most were up to start their days.
At the pier I’d park my bicycle out front of Seager Marina, walk on the heavy & worn wood dock past the open bay of slung boats under repair above oil-soaked floors, engine parts hanging from hooks on the walls, the bait counter & minnow tanks where dad & I always got a couple dozen sawbellies for trout fishing at the south end of the lake. There is no fishing allowed from their docks today. Too many styrofoam cups empty of worms, candy bar wrappers, tangles of fishing line & plastic bags & soda cans & cigarette butts.
Roseland Bowl was straight down Lakeshore Drive then & Roseland was across from that until it closed & left the bowling alley to face a couple handfuls of blacktopped & chain-linked lake view. It didn’t take long for the park to be dismantled after it closed. The horses from the carousel were sold at auction & now run circles to airy organ music in a mall in Syracuse. The Skyliner was one of the oldest wooden roller coasters left in the country before it came down. The haunted house ride scared the hell out of me. My granddad worked on the midway. He died when my dad was young. I once caught a twenty-three inch lake trout with my bare hand in the cove that the gondola ride had spanned. The empty lot was too damn full of ghosts. I didn’t fish there but a couple times.
There was another world behind the bowling alley. The water was guarded by cattails & tall grass, mosquitoes & mucky shores. It twisted around to circle within itself, like the ox-bows of the Mississippi or the meandering Oswegatchie. Bass were hard caught & fewer here, but giants. Thirty & forty pound carp would roll themselves up in the weeds & suck bugs off the surface.
The old wood bridge that linked the back parking lot of the alley to the old water-park site was still in good enough shape to cross or spot fish from. The small beach below the near side of it, where the ticket shack for the old paddle boat rentals stood, was always good for a couple deep-bellied bass & always with a red devil spoon.
I’d fish through the hottest part of the day, when cicadas rattle in the trees & hoppers leap twenty or thirty feet from your steps. I’d cast & wander & cast & cast & would hear nothing from the civilized world. Nothing from the bowling alley, nothing from the Burger King, nothing from Lakeshore Drive or 5 & 20, nothing from swimming kids at Kershaw park.
Eventually, Roseland Bowl moved behind Wal-Mart. Eventually, Lakeshore Drive was moved five hundred yards to the north. Eventually, expensive summer homes were built.
I was the entire civilized world in a pair of Converse All-Stars, cut-offs & tank top.
I was the entire world before civilization.
I was a fishing pole & ten-speed bicycle.
I was old cottonwood & custom homes.
I was early morning & the smell of oil & boat fuel.
I was carp & hard fought bass & I was horses up for auction.
I was the hottest part of the day & I was Burger King.
I was all seasons & all places.
I was all people & all animals.
I was the I of the world.