This weekend the Minnesota crockpot came out in the middle of a cold, drizzly Saturday to slow-cook a roast. Long weekends means added never ending soups and slow cookers in my family. I remember weekends on the lake and letting one large pot of soup boil every day. Every day we added to the flavor with new vegetables, meats, and one of my favorites – handmade dumplings. It was my job to see that enough dumplings sat on the top of the soup until the last day of the weekend.
Memorial Day and the 4th of July meant that boxes of sparklers came out around the fire. Boats and pontoons were fitted with American flags and sometimes there was a parade of pontoons around the lake with beer cozies in hand for everyone but the driver. Before meals we prayed together and remembered those we lost. Mom made red, white, and blue jello topped with cool whip. I’m still mystified but this jiggly substance but I won’t eat it unless it’s made with sparkling water and fruit – yes, I’m a little odd.
When night fell around the lakes, the lake started to go quiet. Boats and pontoons were pulled into their lifts for the night. The die hard fishermen or woman took to casting from the dock before they returned to their lawn chair around the fire. Everyone competed for the fire stick to see who could create the biggest flames. A tray of marshmallows, graham crackers, and Hershey chocolate bars appeared with sets of metal prongs to put everything together into a s’more.
I waded the lake waters with my flashlight after the sun went down and hovered. It was the one time I was giant as I searched the shallows to net crawfish. My cousins and I filled the bucket every night for the tiny black creatures of the fresh water. They did their best to pinch their tiny claws and scoop backwards with their miniature lobster tails. But I was a giant that night.
Their end meant being put into a plastic bag to spend the night going to sleep in the freezer. The next day I waited for a new kettle because some of us catch but don’t eat them. They became a side dish next to the large pot of soup. I was always amazed when their black color turned bright red and a new tasty treat emerged from the pot. The trick was to try them without burning your fingers but not letting them get cold. Sometimes, it was a dip in the soup.
There were times when I woke up early enough to go trolling with the guys but after hours of a few nibbles, I always decided that I liked bobber fishing or casting near the shore. I can’t remember a time when any of us caught a size worthy fish moving across the water in our pontoon a turtle speed, unless I count the times someone accidentally snagged one by the tail. I counted those as fish trying to swim away at the last minute.
In fact, we always caught the most fish by anchoring near shallow water. I opted for my red and white bobber while the older men cast from the boat. In between dodging hooks around me, I happily pulled up my tasty sunfish like one of the guys. The difference was that I actually contributed to dinner, unlike those that went trolling that day. The net full of fish meant supervising filleting techniques because I wasn’t allowed to use a large sharp knife.
There’s nothing like the sound of the sizzle as the beer battered fish hits the electric black pan on the picnic table as the sun sets on the other side of the lake. And Minnesotans love their fish frys. Mouths full of flaky white fish that’s hot enough to blow on just sits right around the fire.
My night usually ended with returning to the RV to watch some tv or lay in the cool air conditioning before I fell asleep on my pull out sofa. Yes, I wasn’t the typical outdoor camper. I never missed the stories of soggy tents, hot restless sleeps, or bug filled tents. I also never felt guilty for turning on my satellite tv to catch the evening shows or my morning cartoons.
The last day of the weekend was always the sunniest and warmest. It’s like Mother Nature knew we were going back to our city home. Our big soup kettle was finally emptied and cleaned. There was one last trip out on the pontoon and then our goodbyes. Leaving early always made me feel a little sad. Returning to a week of homework never excited me. A few naps later and we were home. The only good thing about returning home was getting fast food because no one wanted to cook after a weekend away.
The countdown began again for the next camping trip. Those are my weekends to remember from my childhood in Minnesota. What do you remember doing during your holiday weekends?
My posts are Monday through Friday. You can find a copy of my new Writer’s Journal at https://www.amazon.com/Writers-Journal-Writing-Prompts-Notes/dp/B0931QRL7C.
Subscribe at WritersBlock.com & Follow me on Facebook @AuthorYJL for more!
Get Audible and Listen with me on the go here!