Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Circle of Life (Minnesota Pontoon Boat Style)

You probably associate the circle of life with The Lion King and Africa. But we have a circle of life here in Minnesota too, and it all takes place in a boat on the lake.

We start out in bulky kiddy life vests in our parents’ arms, aboard our grandparents’ pontoon boats, tooling slowly, outboard barely idling, maybe forty yards off shore after supper, the old people seeing and being seen, nodding to lake neighbors and waving to people on passing pontoons.

A few years later, at fourteen or so, we graduate to the classic fourteen-foot Minnesota fishing boat. Free of parental supervision, we race from hot spot to hot spot with the motor wide open.

It’s on to jet skis, ski boats and runabouts from there. It’s all adolescent hormones, suntan lotion and sound systems—and skis, tubes and wakeboards—and, “How fast does this baby really go?”

Somewhere in our twenties, some of us discover canoes and the Boundary Waters and quiet, contemplative solitude.

Other, more sociable types prefer to anchor in one of those floating communes of boats that pop up on island sandbars on weekends—communes where the party never seems to end.

Our thirties find us back aboard pontoon boats—as parents this time—holding our own children on our laps, cinching their kiddy life vests half-a-hitch tighter.

All too soon, we find ourselves driving the ski boat for those kids and their friends. They give us the thumbs up and yell, “Hit it!” We hit it. They fall off. We circle back. They give us the thumbs up and yell, “Hit it!” again. Over and over and over until they’re old enough to take the boat out for themselves.

Then, suddenly, we’re back aboard that pontoon boat after supper —at the wheel, forty yards off shore, motoring at a stately five miles an hour, seeing and being seen, nodding to lake neighbors, waving to people on passing pontoons, circling the lake and completing the Minnesota circle of life once again.