ElkFarm Stories

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Tag: amery beach

Margie and Me

She surprised me, alone on her bike by the Amery Beach. Told me she felt like a swim but the water safety class had the beach that July day.
“Hi, Loren.”
“Margie. Strange to see you here.”
She smiled and said little except to ask if I wanted to ride bike together. She straightened my collar. I pretended to punch her in the stomach.

“Sure.”
“Think you can keep up with me,” followed by her famous chuckle.
We rode to the culvert area where North Twin runs into South Twin. Usually there’s  a lot of fishing going on at this spot but not today.
We sat down facing South Twin, and at the same time asked each other how summer was going.
For me it was going great with lots of reading and an upcoming family trip to the Wisconsin Dells.
For her, a family reunion, plenty of reading, and sleeping in.
Throwing rocks, skipping rocks, a few words.
“Mrs. Wilson was nice, wasn’t she.” We just finished 3rd grade.
Me, I never thought about teachers and nice. Just grumpy ones and regular ones, but I told her she was fine.
Both back on our bikes, I asked her if she knew about the church tent by the football field.
“Yeah, I came by it to get to the beach.”
The tent site was deserted. We rode up to it quietly before dropping our bikes on the grass. Still no signs of life.
The sign advertised the “Amery Revival” Three nights, and the question: “Have you accepted Christ as your personal savior?”
Nothing but chairs under the middle section, and a platform on the north end.

“What’s that tank for? Dunk tank?”
We laughed. Too small for a dunk tank.
We both saw the name BAPTISM on it at the same time. Catholic Margie and Lutheran Loren: clueless about tanks like this.
We stared at each other, gazing around for adults. Then we looked down at our clothes and decided quickly that they were swim-worthy.
She walked up the steps at one end, and I came up the other. Touching our toes in the water, we felt it pleasantly warm. Laughing, we couldn’t believe we’d soon be swimming.

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Hippos in South Twin Lake, Amery

Rare photo of the hippo family wallowing in the area of Mystery Island toward the middle of South Twin. Not sure who snapped the photo.

The Amery Beach had to be THE place for any Amery kid from age 5 to 17, a busy social area that made summer great and cooled us on 95 degree days. Swimming lessons on June mornings, but after that it was wide open. No lifeguards until after 1:00 on all days, but that was okay. We didn’t go there a lot in the off hours, and if we did we thought nothing of it.

BUT, a big BUT, Amery kids could not, never, ever, swim in South Twin after Labor Day.  For one thing the temps were dropping and school had begun. Less time to be at the beach, and the swimming days were only a memory of a good summer at that point.

And there was another danger.  It often made the rounds as a rumor but one with several almost stories of sightings? The story going around was that after Labor Day, the Amery department in charge of the beach and animals would release hippos into the lake, hippos that had been stored somewhere in the country, somewhere, for the summer months. We never did spot them, but again there were always stories. And what, we asked, would hippos do in the depths of winter? They were like turtles, it was explained, and they’d hibernate, burrowing down in the mud somewhere out toward the center of the lake. In spring they’d come out when it got warmer and the ice disappeared. Then the week before Memorial Day, in the darkest of dark nights, the city animal crew would call them, special calls, and they’d be hauled out in the country somewhere.

It was a fun part of local culture, and it worked. I NEVER saw a kid swim in South Twin after the first of September, nor before the end of May.

If you don’t believe this, look it up.

Loren

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