Chester’s Dock

Columnist Charlynn Toews takes us back in time to Chester's Dock

If you like, you can picture the watercolour painting on the cover of a paperback novel of the same name. There is the wooden-planked dock, rose-coloured by the sunset and just beyond, an island you can walk to in the shallows, then receding into the misty washy distance, there are many more pine-covered islands on a sparkling blue lake. It would seem fake, but it is not. It is true.

Just to the west of Chester’s dock (not pictured) is a spit of land that juts into the shallows, where you can truly really wade knee-high to the island when the water is calm and not too high: not in windy spring or rainy fall but in midsummer, hot prairie days.

On that little spit is a tangle of gnarled wind-stunted trees and branches and leafy brush, and it is an excellent fort. If you are nine or 10 and your sister is five or six, you can pretend this area here is the kitchen, and brush the sand smooth and pretend to fall asleep then wake up to gather a pretend breakfast of grass and leaves.

To the right and below the dock (not pictured) is a tiny sandy beach, where you can build sand-dwellings all day long that will not be disturbed by waves unless some water-skiers go by in a motorboat. If you make rounded dwellings then poke holes in with your finger for doors and windows, it looks just like Planet of the Apes. If little sister does not like Planet of the Apes, you do not have to play that.

Maybe some little lake leeches like to live there, or invented small creatures who are also happy and friendly. Just bring a salt shaker with you and sprinkle them so they will let go. The baby leeches who play in shallow warm beach water like little girls do are very cute and nice.

In the winter at home in the garage, any complaints about the amount of sanding required of us children for our own wooden planks is quieted by reminders of splinters on bare feet. Next summer, we can still play on Chester’s dock whenever we want, and we also have our own right beside it. It is our little beach.

Two summers later, Chester invites his sister and brother-in-law, or maybe the other way around, and they bring an incredibly cute boy-cousin along for two whole weeks. Does he remind you more of Peter Pan or Tarzan as he whoops and leaps off Chester’s dock?

Magically, more kid-cousins appear at other nearby cottages and one warm bright night we all play the Best. Game. Ever. Scrambling over the bare Canadian Shield outcroppings of rock, running along well-beaten footways through the bush, it was a made-up-as-you-go combination of Tag, Hide ‘N’ Seek, and Prisoner’s Base. When the cute cousin caught me and brought me to his base, I thought I’d swoon.

That fall I met Dean from Chicago. Yes, from Chicago. You leave our dock in our motorboat, skim along for 20 minutes, portage 10 minutes, then there is a fishing lake that was written up in some big fancy magazine. That’s why Dean’s Dad and uncle came all the way from Chicago to fish, and I met him there.

So we threw rocks for a while, and then we just, you know, walked around a bit and talked. It was Totally Dreamy.

He was so polite. He said Walleye when he meant Pickerel, but that was okay. I had seen those magazines, my older brother bought them all, so I could translate no problem.

Then my family left, back to our cottage for supper, and afterwards I wandered lonely as a cloud and sat with my chin on my knees on Chester’s dock. At dusk, a boat whizzed by, and someone waved, and I think it was Dean, but it was getting dark.

If you like, add a wispy watercoloured boat in the middle distance, moving at speed to the west with a rooster tail of spray sparkling in the last light of that day and picture a tall skinny blonde boy from far away waving goodbye.