I don’t usually get as personal in an article as I might in this, but I’m writing this early because I have to be in Hoyt Lakes for a funeral. An important part (the deadly and dangerous teen years) of my life was spent there. Compared to the south side of Chicago the Hoyt Lakes area was an idyllic place for a kid to grow up. In those baby boom years the place was awash with kids in a small community where Little League diamonds were almost as numerous as balsam fir; both fields and firs at the scrubby edges of town. Somehow, I don’t recall Hoyt Lakes having sidewalks. It may have but they didn’t matter because every kid walked, rode their bike, and played in the street. In any case a sidewalk would have been theoretical in winter until five feet of snow melted in spring. When we moved to Minnesota I got my first bicycle, a beautiful black three speed Raleigh racer. In keeping with dad’s money saving (penny pinching is more like it) habits the bike was used, but he thought the price good until each rotten tire burst in turn to change dad’s pale complexion the shade of lumber jack union suit red. 


It was on the streets of Hoyt Lakes I mastered that bike and without, I can claim with some prideful recollection, too much need of mercurochrome to patch up my wounds. Compared to some of my other pursuits bike riding was fairly bloodless, a lot less so than me with a whittling knife or hatchet. That bike was a form of pure freedom; one that was all mine until I saw the surprise mother bought for it and put on herself. You may recall those “streamer” affairs that were stuck in the back hole of a handle grip. Deciding I’d be surprised with bright yellow ones was an understatement, but I knew I was ungodly lucky she hadn’t picked pink or some other shade I’d never live down until old age. The youth fairy (at times particularly active on my behalf) stepped in to save me the first time I was sent to the store with streamers flying. As I pedaled along the shopping mall store fronts an unseen form snatched one streamer and disappeared in a flash. That did solve the problem as mother would not want her beloved to be so publicly undecorated. To this day I will not admit to knowing the answer to the mystery of that streamer disappearance. Mother wanted the boy’s name so she could talk to the parents, but I never saw his face. It was better that way.


You can’t imagine how much I liked the paved streets of Hoyt Lakes. They were all I could dream of for the simple reason they could grow no grass. The front, sides, and back of our brand now house, on the other hand, were fields of muddy glacial till with a rock half the size of a VW to be found any place a tree was to be planted. I know because my help-around-the-house employment the first year was rock and boulder removal. Huge boulders and sneaky stone clusters, I found and dug them all. Those days if you had a thirteen year old boy that was what you did with him. It kept him out of trouble while making him seventy eight thousand million times more appreciative of the Raleigh ride to freedom he’d enjoy after one more wheelbarrow of stony waste was dumped in the to-be-removed pile. I thought, as did my parents, that once we had the majority of the rocks out of the glacial till the black dirt we’d spread would be applying soft butter to warm toast. You see, to people from Illinois like mom and dad the term black dirt meant dark rick loam. In that part of Minnesota black dirt meant muskeg I’m sure some pit owner couldn’t wait to get rid of because it was half old black roots and branches mixed in with baseball to softball size cobbles. To mom and dad it was as if god had ordained this new chore for their well experienced rock raking son. I could have wept, but there was a small consolation in tracking black footprints and other leavings across the kitchen because unless I stripped in the garage the black goop was going to fall off or come off me one place or another. A toss of my head was enough to send a dozen 8,000 year old bits of vegetable matter flying. It did my heart good. Mother used to say I was growing like a weed and I wondered if it wasn’t due to my set of organic work clothes. You could have grown a good crop of something in those old clothes.


I have fond memories of Hoyt Lakes. It must have been there I lost my virginity, but no one, especially me, can recall such an event. I only mention it in the local color context of lost youth. A misspent youth is more colorful than my misplaced version, mostly in black and white. But HL  was a fine place to grow up and I’ll think many things when I’m back there for the funeral. It is, as you know, near impossible to sum up the contribution of a life. I felt this just the other day when I set down a hair brush that I realized had been in the family since the mid-fifties when mother was a Stanley Home Demonstrator. She was good at it, and if their hair brush (a diamond seal with STANLEY is clear as day) is any testimonial their products were reliable. My point is; how does a person judge or evaluate a product still serving its purpose after plus 65 years? You can’t. Another form of vision is needed. That one comes from the heart not the practical or the pocketbook. At the service, sad though I’ll find it, I will smile with good and warm thoughts that I’ll not push aside as some would throw out a brush for looking old.