The Big Two-Hearted River

Some winter handiwork
We've been clobbered by some pretty bad weather of late so it hasn't been possible to get out and wander around some.  The time will come in a while when it is no longer a unfit night for man nor beast and, this day approaching the equinox (happy spring to us all).....count our lucky stars for 50 degree weather.

My father worked for a big oil company as a district manager and we moved around a lot until he went as far in the company as he wanted to go so Gulf Oil gave him Michigan to run and also had him train the other district managers for the company. It was a swell job and he was good at it.  His secretary, Maggie, was his alter ego and was the consummate "I'm sorry, he is out of the office and traveling today, can I take a message?" cohort when she knew darn well he was playing golf with me or in the spring, out scouting the territory from a trout stream.

Just about now every year,  when cabin fever was just setting in, my dad used to retire to the basement and haul out his trout fly setup and make flies for the upcoming season.  I got my first fly tying vice for Christmas when I was 8 years old and my first fly rod, a nifty 7 footer, at the same time.  By the end of March we were ready for trout season, lines waxed, flies in tight order, equipment in the back of his company car. 

The Two Hearted River where it empties into Lake Superior
As close to the opening day of fishing as possible, usually when the ice was off the rivers, I would be summoned to the office at school where my father would be waiting with some hair-brained excuse  that he needed to pull me out of school  -  this was generally a family illness somewhere - his older sister (no such person) having taken ill or dying or died - and off we would go.  His older sister died I think 5 times in all.

In seventh grade we were in our reading class at school and Hemmingway's story, The Two Hearted River, was assigned. You can read the Wiki synopsis here and in it you will note that Nick, the central character, gets off the train in Seney, Michigan and fishes the Fox River not the Two Hearted.  I knew that because we vacationed summers for a week near Seney and my dad was careful to point it out.

The Two Hearted river was a wild one to fish. Full of rapids and slick rocks, sudden holes and what passed for quicksand - just soft silt sand caused by backwash off Lake Superior.  We fished near the mouth of the river, where it emptied in the Lake and it was near the ruins of a Life Saving station, then coast guard station, as shipping passed near there on its way to Sault Ste. Marie and down to the lower lakes and it was a scene of some pretty bad wrecks.

Hemmingway's "Nick" was a WWI vet with some shell shock issues and he used the River in an attempt to find some stability and help him back to normalcy.  My father never admitted to any such issues but then again never talked much about WWII although his tour in the South Pacific led him to some pretty awful places and events. 

He had first come up to this area when he was just a kid; with his brother Jim and a fellow name Jimmy Mott (of the Mott family - famous and rich Motts).  He told me he knew the coast guard station when it was a life saving station so it had to be in the mid-late 20s and we spent some times looking for the old campsite from then 40 years back - something long swept clean by storms from the Lake.

In hindsight I suspect that my dad was looking for something other than his campsite.  I was along for the ride. I think I understand that now.  Took a while. Realizations come slowly first to Nick, then my dad and finally to me - just now in fact.

The historical marker is aptly named.