Cedar Lake

For a ten year old, life in the city was no picnic. There were gangs to be avoided, scuffed-bare dusty lots where impromptu baseball games reigned. Being small of stature, I never got picked for a team until everybody else was chosen. We played marbles in the dirt and wandered through abandoned cemeteries, peering at headstones, resurrecting in our minds the lives of the dead people.Then one day we moved to the country. Suddenly I lived in a huge twenty-seven room hotel with no neighbors at all. From the top of the hill behind us I could see the buildings of a sheep and turkey farm. In one direction about a mile down the road a town dump existed. But in the other direction, a deep dark-water lake nestled between the road and (to me) towering cliffs.Born of the ice age, an ancient glacier scoured an eighty-foot deep chasm that filled with icy spring water. though very deep in the middle, Cedar Lake shallowed out into a spoon-shaped pond filled with lily pads and dragonflies. Plenty of rainbow trout and sunfish cruised under the pads.Near the pond stood an old abandoned ice house, the sturdy chute starting at water level and soaring at a steep angle to a high window. the electric age ended the need for an ice house which now provided a home for mice, snakes, and a family of snowy owls. The morning sun glinted off their silent white wings, whoo-ing across the lake.Protected by a high hill, the glass-smooth water presented a pristine surface for my canoe to float on. Passing the home of a large catfish family, a small dam at the other end of the lake gave fishermen an ideal platform. A large building set a few yards behind the dam contained a fascinating collection of wheels, gears, rotting leather belts and long work tables. Thirty years empty, the room told a story of its former industry. A seam of pure kaolin clay was discovered nearby and mined for sale to the kilns of Southern New Jersey. Famed for its white fine-grained quality, this clay found its way into homes across the country as fine porcelain.Saying good-bye to the large snapping turtle that lived there, I paddled up the lake to a favorite spot to swim. The sun warmed the top layer of water to a depth of two feet. below this, the water swiftly cooled to a chilly fifty degrees. My brother and I were good swimmers and we had no fear of the deep water.An hour fishing in the shallows usually netted a few sunfish. We watched them swimming around in the bucket, while we sucked on wounded fingers pricked by needle-rich dorsal fins. We never cooked them, but released them for another day.A little further in the woods behind the pottery factory we could hear the shouts of a Boy Scout camp. For eight weeks, the camp Nobibosco boys would learn woods craft, play sports, build teepees and get poison ivy. One day we ran back to the house with the news that the whole lake turned to milk! A clay seam had opened up at the spring end near the factory and quickly spread throughout the lake, exiting in the waterlily pond at the other end. While not good for out summer guests, dire predictions ended three weeks later when the water cleared.Every season brought new adventures on the lake. It was fun watching the ice fishermen in the Winter, bringing them hot coffee and staring at the telltales, willing them to move. Spring brought the excitement of Rainbow Trout Day when hundreds of baby trout were dumped into their new home. Autumn was glorious and sad, but Summer was pure magic.

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