The insurance check didn’t arrive until after Christmas, but my good friend Chuck Larson figured that was perfect timing. None of his settlement would be siphoned off to give some distant nephew an extra-special holiday. Now Chuck had cash in hand before boat-show season.
“What do you think about a center console boat?” Chuck asked me one January evening as we huddled in the warm embrace of the Lake View Inn, our refuge from a subzero blast swooping down from Canada to test the cold-cranking amps of every truck battery in the Northwoods.
“Hard to beat the versatility, and I love standing at the helm,” I replied. “But a center console does not exactly fit our décor. People might think you just moved up from Florida.”
Chuck stared into his beer and melancholy tinged his voice.
“We caught a lot of fish from the old Yar-Craft …”
Oh geez, here we go. Get ready for an hour of mourning the lost boat and all the memories it carried. The demise of the Yar-Craft is a great story. And I am not making this up.
In our neck of the woods it is not unusual at all to store a boat for the offseason in an old dairy barn. For $120 Chuck and 10 other boat or camper owners secured space for six months on the upper floor of the aging but sturdy barn at Bob Nowak’s place. It’s been 30 years since a teat was pulled at the Nowak farm, but the red barn still had a solid, weatherproof roof. Chuck dropped off the shrink-wrapped Yar-Craft in October.
The annual burning of the brush pile is a festivity Bob Nowak saves for early November. Sticks and branches, lumber scraps and perhaps a pallet or two accumulate on the pile all year, and as the days grow short, the bonfire seems like an offering of thanks for a good harvest. Except that Bob works at the bank, but whatever. Burning stuff is always fun.
This year, his son Bob Jr. brought some old gas. They poured that on the pile and, with great ceremony, tossed on a match. With a whoosh an orange blaze filled the twilight sky, and it was just a moment later that Bob noticed the flaming raccoon sprinting toward the barn.
The place was still smoldering when Chuck arrived the next morning, supposing that he might somehow find his trusty red-and-white Dardevle spoon in the remains of the barn, but that hope was dashed right through the windshield. Chuck just turned around and drove home. In a week, a big yellow backhoe was hired to bury the mess, and that was the end of the Yar-Craft. Chuck got little closure, but perhaps renewal will come to him at the Green Bay boat show. I’m watching the antique mall for a vintage Dardevle.