White wine is not frequently served at the Lake View Inn. We are more of a beer and brandy Old-Fashioned crowd. But last week bartender Wally found us a bottle of blanc and some fancy glasses to toast our old friend, Harold Buchholz, who got unlucky with cancer.
Harold was a wine drinker, my neighbor for more than 20 years, an avid angler and a boat owner. He moved to Wisconsin specifically to buy the house next door, a genuine Frank Lloyd Wright. Harold was an FLW expert who gave tours of the much grander Wright homes in the Chicago area. The two-bedroom house in Oshkosh was his chance to actually live in a Wright, so he quit his job, cashed in his chips, and moved to Packerland, a quiet 47-year-old bachelor willing to start from scratch. That’s some passion.
Harold tried real estate and sold paint at Lowe’s during the Great Recession, before landing at an industrial safety outfit. He kept his rod and tackle box in his car and knew all the best spots to fish the Winnebago Basin from a public dock. Then one day Harold hollered over the hedge, “Charles, come over here a minute.” Which is how many of our conversations started. I found Harold pulling the canvas cover off a boat.
“Look,” Harold said. “No more fishing from the dock.”
Under the canvas was a faded Sunbird bowrider with a Johnson 88 outboard on the transom. Not exactly a walleye battlewagon, but Harold was excited nonetheless. The boat had a balky control, and we got Dan the Outboard Man to come over and install new cables.
Harold’s dream was to catch a muskie, and every summer he would decamp for a week in a rented cottage near Spread Eagle with the Sunbird in tow and a new lure to try. We call the muskellunge “the fish of 10,000 casts” for a reason. The muskies make you work for it, but Harold never gave up. Once, he came home with the great story of a muskie that followed his lure to the side of the boat and then swirled in the tannic water “like he was mocking me.”
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Harold was just back from Spread Eagle when he called over the hedge another time. I found him standing by the Sunbird.
“Look at the trailer tire,” he said, and I saw a carcass with no tread. Just cords.
“How long did you drive like this?” I asked. Harold shrugged. My gauge revealed 10 psi in the tire. There was 11 psi on the other side. I gave Harold the tire-pressure lecture and took a photo of the delaminated doughnut, which I’ve published many times.
Harold never caught his muskie, but he had a lot of fun trying, as much fun as the guy in the fancy metalflake rig. If Harold didn’t come home with a big fish, he came home with a story, which is maybe the whole point of owning a boat anyway. A great story lasts longer than the storyteller.