Shaking hands with him is like shaking hands with a tree. Sixty years of hauling nets make his thumbs as big as my wrists.
The building smells of fish. Forty years of fish. Fish from another era, one where men actually worked for a living. Did physical labor like lumbering, mining, or went out to harvest the lake in a time when we thought the world was inexhaustible.
He invites us to his “office,” a cramped small room in a dark corner. The walls are plastered with yellow newspaper clippings layered back through time. An archeologist would have a field day unpeeling history here.
The Sheila Yeates sank in the North Atlantic two years ago. Now we spend the morning visiting shipyards in Superior that might be capable of building a new vessel. One yard makes aluminum barges, and another repairs steel freighters. Captain Pope wants to get Lars’ advice. Who would he recommend?
Lars is quiet. Quiet past the comfortable point. I think maybe he didn’t hear the question and am about to repeat it when he starts talking about his brother. Came up from the cities after Lars. Was his younger brother. Thought he would fish too.
I am now convinced that Lars is wandering in happy country unaware. He speaks slowly and may not finish soon. His brother had his boat built by carpenters. He was out in October for herring when a squall came up. Superior is like that. One minute calm, the next a fifty knot fury of flying spume. Lars pauses a long while, and I believe his story is finally finished.
Then he says his brother didn’t come home that night.
Lars went out to look for him the next morning. Found his brother’s body washed up on the south shore.
His boat had come apart. The carpenters who built it used nails. Not screws.
We are quiet for a while. Then thank him and leave.
I ask Pope what that was about? He said that Lars didn’t want to say anything bad about his neighbors in the shipyards. But he got his point across. The vessel should take more than the crew. If you want to build a strong vessel you go to real ship builders, not carpenters or barge makers.
I think about this now. We need to build a better energy system. Or our boat will come apart.
We are all connected. Savor the earth.
L. Hobart Stocking