By MIKE TONTIMONIA
Father’s Day in this house is usually minus Dad due to an annual Canadian fishing trip that always seems to happen over the Father’s Day weekend. But since most of the weeklong outing participants are fathers and sons, we continue to recognize our family roles in various ways, including a search of our duffels in hopes of finding a card or two from a child or spouse.
A special meal is also part of our Ontario celebration. Several of those special meals have featured roast turkey and all the fixings. If that seems out of place on a trip to the north woods, it is, but that’s what makes it special.
Our cabin is equipped with an apartment size gas stove and oven. We had the stove converted to propane when we purchased it some 30 years ago, so turkeys, meatloaf meals and other bonus bites like brownies and Father’s Day cakes can be baked.
The airborne scent of pine and cedar, the giggle-like calls of loons, and miles on miles of crystal clear water provide the perfect setting for an out-of-place turkey dinner.
Of course the turkey in question is frozen solid, so solid, in fact, it could be used as a poorly-shaped bowling ball. So the first order of business is thawing the bird.
On our arrival, the unlucky turkey is tied securely, then ceremoniously tossed into the lake. We drink the lake water after boiling, so there is little worry about ruining the bird.
Over the years we’ve learned a lot about turkey prep, things like pulling the bag of guts out of the birds butt. The rest is easy, especially since the invent of oven bags and volumes of advice and instructions.
On one occasion we invited Dick and Shirley Crum to share our turkey dinner. The Crums were staying at their island retreat, some five watery miles away, and we sent our invite over the marine band radio, which is powered by a 12-volt boat battery.
The invite followed much debate, since this annual outing is a certified guys-only trip. It’s been that way for 50-plus years and will continue to be so forevermore.
Unlike all other years, the gang was ordered to clean up the cabin and themselves. This dinner was to be an orderly, polite meal. No ball caps, no reaching, no three-day beards. After all, a proper lady was coming to dinner, a definite first for this group.
Our table was elbow to elbow and orderly, conversation was enjoyable and at a lower than usual decibel, and the event nothing short of special.
The smell of cheap after-shave lotion was somewhat overwhelming, the array of clean shirts impressive, and the display of manners ankle deep. And if I recall correctly, Shirley was given the command chair at the end of the crowded table.
Each year the guys gather in front of the stone fireplace every evening to compare our daily fishing successes, complain about our jobs and share a time of reflection, memories and fellowship.
To be sure, that particular wilderness turkey dinner lives on as one of our most treasured fireplace stories. Shirley Crum, a fine lady and treasured friend, passed this spring but you can be bet she will be with us this year in spirit as we remember our past and hope for our future.