Clear Morning at Big Bass Lake


Often mornings at Big Bass Lake had a low fog hanging over the lake for a few hours. One aspect I haven’t mentioned much about our early morning routine was on getting the water for the days meals. In the 1970’s all our camping trip drinking water came directly from Big Bass Lake. However, water purification tablets were added to each jug of water that was pulled from the lake prior to drinking it.

The jug was used to fill canteens for hikes and when the boys drew the water from the lake they were to stand perfectly still for several minutes allowing the sand they had stirred up to settle back on the bottom. Then the jugs were filled and Helazone Tablets added and then the jugs were set aside for several hours.

On a trip with the Marion Boys Club the same boys were used each day to fulfill this purpose so they would get it right each time. Water for any given meal was fully boiled to take out the impurities. Never once on any trip did any boy get sick from water that was not treated prior to drinking it.

Water could be drank from area rivers such as the Little Manistee and the Pere Marquette as in those days the water from there was pure. I’m not sure if the same could be said for that today.

Pier Pressure


Alex Reynolds was bound and determined not to go into the water this day as he wanted to sun himself on the pier. The other boys of the Marion Boys Club were also determined to splash him to get him wet. But Alex stayed his ground as long as he could. the others were just as persistent and since they outnumbered Alex, he reluctantly jumped in to join them. After about an hour of swimming the other boys left the water to prepare for dinner. Alex had a Cheshire Cat smile, climbed back on the pier, and took that opportunity to get some sun with no interference this time. In the end, Alex won the day!

Driving Through the Manistee National Forest


It was to be the first off-site trip for the Marion Boys Club and our destination was to the Lake Michigan Recreation Area.  From Noreika Road we hung a right at Big Bas Lake Road and skirted the north portion of our property before making a long turn from it. About a mile later we turned westward onto the Free Soil Road.

On both sides of the road for almost two miles was Bear Swamp (now known to locals as Duck Marsh).  Here the forest was very thick and dark.  The road was also very narrowWe passed alongside the Big Sauble River twice and son thereafter went by Camp Sauble on the right I told the boys that Camp Sauble was not for kids but was part of the State of Michigan Correctional Center.

As we went down a hill the forest gave way to meadows and fields for a time as we approached Free Soil.  There were no stop lights in that community although we did slow down to cross over some very bumpy railroad tracks.  We then went around a long curve before finding ourselves in orchard country and this lasted until we met US 31. 

At that point we tuned left onto that highway and proceeded another mile going north until we met the Recreation Area Road on the left.  At that point, and for the remainder of our trip, the Manistee National Forest was again our companion on both sides of that seven mile stretch.  The road ended at the parking lot right next to a dune that once crossed led us to Lake Michigan. 

The boys always liked this off-site trip as at times we stopped at the Orchard Market on the way home on US 31 for snacks.  They had great doughnuts there and jars of honey with the honeycomb found within the jar.  This was but one, of several, off-site excursions that I took with the various boys clubs that came to our property at Big Bass Lake and nearly all of them were through the Manistee National Forest.

The Quagmire Creature Encounters Mark O’Brien


Once on a trip with the Marion Boys Club one of our boys was using the commode late at night and said he heard bushes moving about behind him near the quagmire swamp and thought he had encountered The Quagmire Creature.

This monster is said to have inhabited the quagmire swamp behind our wooded beachfront.  This is one thing that I have never mentioned before about our property because only two boys from separate clubs ever related to experiencing it. 

We could never find any evidence of any sort of tracks the next morning following that incident.  Jay reported hearing low growling sounds behind him.  He finished his business quickly and ran back to the tents but told no one until morning.

On a trip with the Hoffman Estates Boys Club, Mark O’Brien also reported seeing the Quagmire Creature.  Whereas the first boy only heard the creature, Mark said he actually saw it.  He was collecting wood behind our campsite a good fifty yards away from the main site when he saw this creature emerge from the bog and advance toward him.  He must have been observing Mark from the swamp for some time.

Mark himself was a troublesome youth and was always getting into mischeif.  He appeared angelic but within him were many devils.  I can only speculate that Mark may well have seen him and maybe even encountered him.  But when the Quagmire Creature came face to face with Mark it was probably more than it bargained for.  When the boys heard his accounting of the incident many believed that it was the creature that fled for his life and was never to be seen or heard again. 

You’d have to know Mark to really appreciate this accounting.  But never again on any boys club trip was there any sighting of The Quagmire Creature.  Once with Mark was more than enough for it I am certain.  I can almost visualize it jumping headfirst into that swamp never to be heard from again.  What a pity for it made for great campfire stories.

The Strange Depression On Our Field


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Not far behind our old barn on the field is a strange depression that looks for all appearances to be about the exact shape as the indention of a flying saucer. It is the only place on our half-mile long field with a depression like that. In fact, it is the only indention on that entire field. How did it get there?

Well, it made for a great story line outside our woods for boys club campers. None of the kids could explain that depression either. They were quite dumbfounded as to how it got there but that is the same amazement that has held me captive since I was a young boy. I’ve visited that location many times and sometimes if I had the motivation would start digging there just to check it out more thoroughly.

Can you imagine if you were driving down the Big Bass Lake Road on the southwest side of the lake and saw a flying saucer there? Would you stop to check it out or continue on your way even a tad quicker than usual? The haunted island has a more vivid story to it but this one remains a gigantic mystery as to how that depression was formed in a field that is otherwise 100% flat? Maybe Rod Serling might have had an answer for one of his Twilight Zone programs?

Maximum Usage of a Rowboat


I really enjoyed our metallic rowboat that we used on our camping trips to our property on Big Bass Lake.  It was used upside down as a diving platform and upside up for just plain rowing or fishing.  It was also used for baths near shore once filled with water.  It really got a lot of use and was a major component on all our trips but esecialldy ones with he Marion Boys Club. 

The boys took turn learning how to row and learned that craft well along our wooded beachfront.  I remember well their initial efforts and how hard it was for some of them to row in a fairly straight line.  For fun, I would occasionally splash the boys with water when I rowed to cool them off on hot summer days.  Then, at night, some of the kids would sit in the rowboat on shore as cool breezes refreshed them. 

The rowboat proved instrumental for fishing as some of the boys preferred using the boat over that of fishing on shore.  It was in constant use from the time we arrived until the day we left.  And, what a time they had with that rowboat!

Practice, Practice, Practice!


I remember the Marion Boys Club singers practice time at the boys club. Dale Kanaur would have them at the piano making sure that everyone was in tune. The singers was a big selling point of our boys club. I’m not really sure why they stopped because they were putting us on the map. They even sang in the US Congress when we were in Washington for the National Conference. I was so proud of our kids then as the Congress gave them a standing ovation. They practice ever so hard three times a week at the club. They Blended so well together. I’m sorry it ended and I’m not sure why it did? Anyone in our audience know?

Maximum Usage of a Rowboat


I really enjoyed our metallic rowboat that we used on our camping trips to our property on Big Bass Lake.  It was used upside down as a diving platform and upside up for just plain rowing or fishing.  It was also used for baths near shore once filled with water.  It really got a lot of use and was a major component on all our trips but esecialldy ones with he Marion Boys Club. 

The boys took turn learning how to row and learned that craft well along our wooded beachfront.  I remember well their initial efforts and how hard it was for some of them to row in a fairly straight line.  For fun, I would occasionally splash the boys with water when I rowed to cool them off on hot summer days.  Then, at night, some of the kids would sit in the rowboat on shore as cool breezes refreshed them.

The rowboat proved instrumental for fishing as some of the boys preferred using the boat over that of fishing on shore.  It was in constant use from the time we arrived until the day we left.  And, what a time they had with that rowboat!

Night of the Monster at Big Bass Lake


After a rather spooky outing to the Haunted Island that night, the Marion Boys Club kids returned to our wooded beachfront for a campfire of ghost stories.  The boys wanted to know how that island came to be made known as haunted (you can find that story on another post at BBL and Beyond under the category Haunted Island).  As I began that story, all of a sudden the boys heard two large splashes about forty yards out into Big Bass Lake.

They huddled together as I informed them that the monster of Big Bass Lake might be making known his existence to them.  Kenny Huffman, who had already been really scared at the Haunted Island, drew so close to me that I could hardly breathe.  And he was the only kid over sixteen on this trip! 

I told the boys how the monster makes his appearances only on the darkest night as he comes up for a cupful of air and anything else he can gulp down.  Andy Freshwater’s eyes got really big at that time.  Just then the boys heard another splash even closer in to shore.  He must smell us, I suggested, to which the kids headed directly to their tents.  By the way, it wasn’t fish making those splashes either but rather Dale, another supervisor on the trip.  He used a few large rocks when he was supposed to be using the latrine to scare the kids. 

We could both hear the boys letting their imaginations run loose within their two tents as they began guessing just what kind of monster they were hiding from?  So, who knows what is really lurking in the dark and gloomy depths of Big Bass Lake at night?

A Multitude of Stars


How would you like to spend 30 minutes looking up at this flat on your back? The Marion Boys Club did. Jeff Andrews rarely was quiet until now. His mouth was open but in a gasp. Look at all them stars! No city lights could knock out these babies as they were all up there that night.

Whenever any club entered the tree farm that was the reaction the kids gave. Look at all them stars up there!

The Hikers Dress Code.


These two boys would NEVER have been dressed like this on a hike had they been with any of my boys clubs. You’d never see any boys from the Marion, Hoffman Estates, or Salesian Boys Clubs look like that on a hike. Prior to going on any trip to our property I sent out a dress code to all parents of the kids that would be going with me to Michigan.

On that list were jeans or sweatpants, tennis shoes (one leather), two pullover long sleeved sweatshirts, three T-shirts, underwear, swimming suit, shorts, and work gloves, which were optional. On the Salesian trip boys also brought their dress shoes since they were going to church as I had a large group of Catholic boys. But it should be noted that just as those boys would not have worn their dress shoes without socks, the same would be true on hikes yet with their tennis shoes. Without socks parts of the shoes tend to wear on bare feet producing painful calluses. And, the same can be said in regard to hands when rowing a boat. Just as socks with shoes, bare hands are safer in gloves especially going down hill. One boy without them grabbed a tree and the bark of that tree tore the boys skin on his hands badly. The next time he was at the store he opted for work gloves over snacks.

Long pants or sweatsuits also protect the skin from poison ivy, nettles, or underbrush and bushes that can stretch the skin. Sweatshirts also protected the skin from those very things. Even around camp some boys wore their full sets of clothing for chopping wood, collecting it, or for cooking. If you’ve ever had an hot ember strike your bare skin near a fire you’ll have a whole new appreciation for sweatpants and shirts.

Close in to our campsite the boys either walked around in bare feet or in their canvas shoes with bare feet. Short walks were not likely to produce calluses. Even when rowing some boys wore shoes to project their feet from the hot metal rowboats. Those that opted for just bare feet were often denied entrance at the Big Bass Lake store so they learned from that experience fast.

At the end of each trip the boys had a whole new attitude about my dress code.

 

The Strange Fog on Haunted Island


I can’t remember a time at Haunted Island fog was this thick. It’s consistency made It difficult to locate ones own feet. It hit the island exactly at the same time we did. For the first time I was pondering an overnight stay on the island. It would be hazardous to try and row back with two boats. What if we got separated?

I told the boys a longer than usual ghost story that night by the house. They could barely even see it. Louis asked what was going on as he saw me appear rather nervous. I shrugged him off. I started to clear my throat to announce an overnight stay on the bottom floor when all of a sudden the fog almost completely lifted.I suggested we move to the boats at once and return to camp. Back at camp I broke open a bag of chips with some belly wash and told the kids what I almost considered. Their eyes got really big. Really? Asked Steve. I still wonder about that mysterious fog even to this day. Happy Halloween!

Under the Stars


On a trip to our property with the Marion Boys Club, three boys and myself separated from the rest of the crew, and spent the night in our forest. All we had was our sleeping bags and pillows. We built a small fire and then glanced upward. The night sky was full of stars. We talked quietly for an hour before the boys drifted asleep. What they thought was going to be a Spooky Night turned out to be a great night. It was good company in the midst of our forest.