BATTLE LAKE, MN
By: Nick Richter • nicksrichter.com
One of the most profound memories of my childhood is this dirt road. Every late summer, we’d pick out a week to take a trip to my grandparent’s lake cabin. At the time, my family lived in the northwest suburbs of Chicago, so the trip to Battle Lake was a 12 hour drive. We didn’t care. Once we hit the dirt road, the sleepy legs, fast food smell, and cramped seats were worth it...
We’d turn off of HWY 16 onto the gravel and let the trees swallow us. My dad used to roll down the windows just to hear the silence and smell the air. The forest would open up to our grandparent’s A-frame tucked at the end of the road. Grandpa Rich and Grandma Sandy would be out as soon as they saw headlights to give us hugs. Even though we’d only visit once a year, it always felt like home.
I’d been going to the cabin ever since I was born. In the past 23 years of my life, things have changed. The once cozy A-frame that barely fit our family - sometimes 16 people at a time - was renovated for comfort. Downtown Battle has added plenty of business, but my favorite ice cream shop in the entire world, Granny’s, is still there. One of the most memorable activities growing up was attending the turtle races. We never won, but it was fun watching our turtles run. Those races have moved and that same circle has slowly washed away on the asphalt.
Most time is spent in or on the water -- fishing in the pontoon, jumping off the dock, and beach fires at night. My favorite activity has always been canoeing at dusk. The water becomes glass and every movement is purposeful. Each paddle stroke creates little tornadoes. We just sit in our bay watching the sun fall away. And a loon calls out to be heard.
Life is much more true out there. Time moves fast.
This particular time we were dealt interesting weather (in Minnesota? weird). We’d wake up to the sun and wind, but a storm or two would sneak in each day. This made it tough to plan as we were anxious to get out on the water. For a moment one afternoon, the sun came out and it looked like the rain would hold off for awhile.
We set out for the other side of the lake to our fishing spot. Just as we threw out our lines, a thick, black wall of cloud appeared. Five minutes later, we were in the middle of a hail and lightning storm.
I had never seen my grandpa laugh so hard. He had dumped all the life jackets out of a trash bag, and used the bag as a poncho. I watched him as he stood in the middle of the pontoon, rain pouring down, digging his fingers through the bag to create eyeholes to see. He sat in the driver seat chuckling as he attempted to drive into the freezing rain.
Back at the cabin, the storm had passed and my brother and I were drenched. However, the lake was as calm as it’d been all weekend. We raced to the canoe. He grabbed his fly rod as we jumped in.
Battle Lake isn’t as much as a place as it is a feeling for my family. It is a spot on earth that makes us feel right. The sunburn doesn't hurt as bad. Everyone’s your neighbor. And the rainy days don’t get you down.
I hope everyone finds their “battle lake” in their lifetime.