We spent last week at Jim Hummel’s cabin (thanks, Jim). Where we had no internet and no TV (thanks, Jim!). Camper Jim had to leave the first day, but our good friend Stan (Da Man) Blood from Flint, Michigan, came up to share a day with us on the fabled Pere Marquette River.
Even more fabled is the Chinese Laundry Hole, though known as such only to those who attended Steelhead Camp about 18 years ago. This is where McTrout and I, chased hither by the infamous Blue Lady (indignant property owner), found Blood and Gary Kramer in various states of undress, clothes dangling from the branches of a tree on the bank. “What the…?”
“Strawman,” yells Kramer, taking that opportunity to pull the flask from his lips. “Shhhh. We fell in.”
“Both of you?”
They wouldn’t be alone. By the end of the day, every member of Camp took an unexpected dip. All eight of us. All, that is, except cameraman Rich Eckholm, known ever after as Richard The Dry, who watched me get baptised about an hour later. I was crossing the river, less than two miles from Blood and Kramer, who were still parading around in their long johns waiting for their other clothes to dry (and warding off questions about our whereabouts from armed members of the Blue Lady clan). “Lot of clay, here, Richard,” I said, somewhere near mid crossing. Standing stock still, both feet planted on bottom, the river was slowly pushing me downstream. “This is about where I fell in last yeaaaaaagggh!” Blub.
Lots of nicknames were born that day. Alpo Bob fell in trying to escape a dog. Submarine Pad Bitch actually dove in after a fumbled steelhead while I was taking his picture. There were others. Each with an embarrassing story attached. But the Chinese Laundry outlived them all. A few years later, rounding the bend at the top of the Laundry in Rick Hammer’s wooden drift boat (the famous Swamp Donkey), we spotted Blood and Tom Weston. “Hail and well met,” I waved, standing in the prow. Looking down I saw Blood’s Thill River Master bobbing along. As the Donkey approached within 5 feet of the float, it shot down and Blood was fast to a 10-pound buck fresh from the big lake. I turned to Hammer. “I guess we need to fish closer to the boat.” The following dance macabre performed by Tom trying to net the fish was…memorable, to say the least.
The Chinese Laundry Hole could be the subject of a short book. Last week, she was very nice to us. Almost as if she remembered the feel of our feet along her sandy rim. (I swear, in the wind, I heard her laugh in Stan’s general direction: “Weren’t you the naked guy?”) The weather? Not so much. In a driving, wet, heavy snowfall that should have precluded the use of cameras (especially those of the expensive variety), Mary and I managed to pop one each. And, because we love all of you so much, we decided to risk it.
See that tree over my right shoulder? Pretty sure it was adorned with socks, jackets, wader pants, and sundry other outdoor apparel on the Day of The Blue Lady.
The notorious Blue Lady. Has the statute of limitations expired on our little sojourn? We’ve invited a lawyer to Camp these past few years so I’d better clear it with him.
Better wait another year. Maybe save the full tale for a book. But I’ll share one more glimpse: A few bends up the river from the Laundry Hole, McTrout ran across her again. Last year. In Blood’s boat. She came out to complain that they were “compromising her view” of the river.
Apparently she didn’t remember McTrout. “You are one obnoxious person, lady,” he retorted indignantly. “We’re on a navigable river and perfectly within our rights so shut up and waddle back to your little domicile.”
As Blood recounted McTrout’s righteous diatribe I doubled over and nearly fell into the Laundry Hole. How fitting would that be? (Dear Mrs. Blue Lady: If you’re reading this, please don’t blow a gasket. We wandered far through fen and thicket without ever seeing your alleged signs and, out of fear for potential damage to our expensive neoprenes from your big, ugly Rottweiler we have never returned. Without a boat, that is. As that great American, Curly, would say, “We was victims of soycumstances.” Nyuk, nyuk.)
More coming on our recent trip…