Dawn Reader

Dawn Reader
from Open Door Coffee Co.; Hudson, OH; Oct. 26, 2016

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Lake Bimidji, 1960

Edward Dyer, Lake Bimidji, August 1960

I just found this picture the other day ...

In the summer of 1960, my dad was attending some sort of educators' conference at Bimidji State University in Bimidji, Minnesota.  Here you see him, standing on the shore of Lake Bimidji, looking well.  He, like me, had a life-long battle with his waistline.  We Dyers have well-banked metabolic fires.  I've said that I have the metabolism of a rock.  But Dad, that summer, was winning one of his perpetual skirmishes.

Dad smoked pipes in those days--lots of professors up on the Hiram campus did.  He had a pipe rack someone had given him, his dozens of pipes lined up in a row (most were gifts; most were unused).  Mom would tolerate pipe smoke in the house, but he had to take his cigars outside.  And cigarettes were Evil.  Satan's Smoking Sticks.  (Which is why, I suppose, all three sons were smokers, for a time.  I quit shortly after I was married--after huffing-and-puffing on the basketball court with some Aurora colleagues.  I was only 25 and was breathing like some consumptive character in a Poe story.)

I recall that week in Bimidji as a very placid time in my life. I was about to commence my junior year in high school and had not yet fully descended into the Slough of Sloth.  Every morning--while Dad was at meetings--I would go to the university tennis court, where I met the son of another conference attendee, and we took turns beating each other.  It was odd, meeting someone whose skills were about at the same abysmal level as mine.

In the evenings, we would drive around and look at the local sites, most notable, of course, the huge statues of Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox, statues built in 1937.  Paul used to have a shotgun leaning beside him, but Father Time rotted it (just as he does the rest of us).  (Here's some more information about it: Bimidji and Paul Bunyan.)  We also went to the nearby headwaters of the Mississippi River; somewhere is a photo of me out in the middle of that tiny stream, perched on a rock like a dim bird with nothing to eat.

"Bimidji," by the way, comes from an Ojibwe word meaning "lake that traverses another body of water"--or so, at least, says Wikipedia, whom I trust as I will adders fanged.

I look at that photo of my dad now ... and I think of what a time that was for all of us, 1960.  My mother was working on her Ph.D. at Pittsburgh while teaching full-time in Garrettsville; brother Richard had just completed his freshman year at Hiram College; brother Dave would enter seventh grade in the Hiram Local School.  We were all healthy.  We were hopeful.  The future still glistened out on the lake.  And everything was still possible, even a kindly giant of a man with a blue ox name Babe.  And a gentle father smoking a pipe at the edge of all.

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