Jun 3 2011 12:25 pm

for even Irish memory cannot abnegate the wind

There has never been a frigate on Beaver Island. Not one. Only schooners. And every single one of those fucking things ran aground up on them shoals. Entire crews lost to the lake. The whole place is littered with the bones of the dead, the half submerged skeletons of ship and man alike, of angled wood and calcium polished.

For even Irish memory cannot abnegate the wind.

Frank’s grandfather Franklin Boyle was a fisherman on the island when such a pursuit was still of commercial interest. On a humid summer day in 1925 Frank’s father Peter caught his first fish on Lake Geneserath with a worm. The blonde boy had barely developed the manual dexterity to cast but had practiced reeling for a couple weeks and lifted the small rod up into the air with one hand, fish dangling from the line, his free hand extended awkwardly up and out and bent back with fingers spread not quite reaching for it. He giggled and smiled and wouldn’t remember any of this.

By the time electricity and sea lampreys came to Beaver Island in 1939 Peter had already mended nets and cleaned decks on his father’s boat for six years. He knew the smell of diesel and the insanity of working all day in the wind. By the mid 1940s thousands upon thousands of cankerous lake trout were washing up on the gravel beaches of the archipelago. Franklin and Peter were fishing longer and harder for fewer fish.

Peter had privately given up the idea of taking over his father’s business and had thoughts of moving to the mainland, a place he had never been. He envied the life of the mainland, he wanted a normal schedule, weekends without work, none of the winds that raked the island, strangers. These private thoughts made him feel distant from his father and a wad of guilt was building in his chest. He tried to compensate by working harder, pushing his father to go out earlier and stay out later, to fish in high seas and set his nets in new places.

The day started out calm and Peter and Franklin steamed to the reefs north of Hog Island. The storm rolled in quickly and the seas grew big and the boat ran aground. As it listed sideways and the ten foot waves pushed and pushed and ground it into the rocks Franklin looked at his son as he turned to go below. Peter wondered what could be so important. The boat was swamped and lurched violently and threw Peter overboard and he struggled to shore. He yelled for his father. He screamed for his father.


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