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Work fills fall's final idyll at lake

It was one of those September Saturday afternoons you wish would last until April. You know, the type of day off not to be spoiled by any regularly scheduled activity like shopping, yard work or football games. A day unplanned and open to whateve...

It was one of those September Saturday afternoons you wish would last until April. You know, the type of day off not to be spoiled by any regularly scheduled activity like shopping, yard work or football games. A day unplanned and open to whatever whim or flight of fancy your mind could conjure up.

Stop daydreaming. We were on the way to the lake to take out the rest of the waterfront. All that hardware that you drag out in the spring, assemble from memory, and hope someone uses and enjoys at least some summer weekends. We always say we should leave everything in until sometime in October. We will come out several times in September and enjoy the cabin just like it was still summer. Sure, we will.

The cabin is 50 miles from the house in town. We are very lucky that we have no gruesome commute Friday nights and Sunday nights during the summer. Granted, we are not among the pine and birch trees of north-central Minnesota. No, we are on a prairie lake, surrounded by fifth and sixth generation oaks and cottonwoods, with a few imported pine and spruce trees, bringing comfort to our Scandinavian side.

My son, Tom, and I differentiate the tasks at hand. I handle all the chores involving getting wet (chest waders, cold wet fingers, occasional numbness, calf cramps). He handles the on-shore logistics (where the boat lifts go, what is stored on the lifts, how straight the stacks of dock frame and top sections are in their winter pose).

We have removed the boats two earlier weekends. Three different boats, three different methods of transportation, three different locations for winter storage.

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Wader time. The big boatlift comes out of the water first. Four large truck inner tubes float the lift to the shore. I have devised this system of large plywood disks that fit on top of the inner tubes. Each disk/tube combo is placed under a corner of the boatlift platform. Stub axle wheel assemblies are inserted into holes drilled in side channels as the lift floats to shore. Tubes are removed, the truck is placed in "four-wheel low," and creeps up the bank with the "big boy" in tow. The canopy is peeled off, power washed, and left to dry in the afternoon sun before being folded and stored.

One hundred thirty feet of wood dock in 10- foot sections awaits removal. Armed with a socket wrench, combination wrench and galvanized bucket, I hit the water. Tom is wrestling the removable top sections off the frames and stacking them neatly on the deck in front of the cabin. I'm busy removing an army of bolts, nuts and washers, and floating each dock frame to shore. Dock posts are removed and set aside for later storage. Tom assists me in carrying the frames up the bank, stacking them neatly on the big boatlift. Repeat, repeat, repeat ...

The pontoon lift is next. Jack it up, put on the wheels, roll it to shore, and pull it out with the truck. Roll the lift all the way to the back of the lot for winter storage. Stack all dock posts on the pontoon lift. Roll up irrigation intake pipe and store on dock posts.

Finally, float in the fishing boat lift, put on the wheels, you know the drill. Nothing remains in the lake except for some leaves now fallen from their summer perch and scattered by prevailing fall winds.

We are tired. We are sore. Our fingers have rust stains on them that will take days to wear off. I have managed to not stab myself with a frayed section of winch cable. I'm learning to use those cute little mechanics gloves when my hands are not submerged in water. Our faces and the back of our necks are sunburned. My wife, Paulette, will be jealous that, after only part of one day in the sun, we look "tan" again.

Paulette has spent most of the day preparing the inside of the cabin for winter. Beds are stripped of all bed clothes. Plates, utensils and cookware are cleaned, bagged and put in their respective cupboards. Bath and kitchen surfaces are cleaned, floors are scrubbed and carpets are vacuumed. Knickknacks are put away. All perishable food is packed to take home. At least leave some beverages in the fridge.

It's 5:30 in the afternoon, and everyone agrees we should head home. It's a small reality check that we are about to lay over another off-season until we are allowed by Mother Nature to reverse the process. Yes, we are not quite done, thank goodness. We still have fall yard clean-up, maybe twice. And the final act, draining the pumps and water heater, blowing out the water supply lines, winterizing the toilet and drain traps, and turning off the main power supply. That's when it really sinks in. We'll sneak out a couple of times over the winter to "check the place." Really, just another excuse to go.

Schneider lives in Fargo.

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Work fills fall's final idyll at lake By John Schneider 20071104

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