Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Lake Stella

From Bob Cameron:

Lake Stella is a natural body of water, not man made. It is very shallow, maybe 5 feet deep or so. It is approximately three-quarters of a mile long and one hundred yards wide. In the past, it would always flood from the south in the spring and a few fish would get caught in there when the water from the Red River would go down.

When I was growing up, I didn't even know about Lake Stella until at some point someone casually mentioned it and I said, what, we have a lake near town? I always thought we were the only place in Minnesota without a lake, since our state motto was 'Land of 10,000 Lakes' and no lake to be seen (to my knowledge) near us (well, not counting Lake Bronson, but that was man-made and 30 miles away...another story in and of itself!) I soon learned that it was a strange little 'lake' - not a pond, or a slough, or a ditch; no, it was a true, natural lake, but just small and rather...long.

At first I couldn't see but a glimpse of it from the highway going out of town. Even on the rare occasion when we went on a 'close' country road, not much more could be seen of it. That, of course, just made it all the more mysterious. I wanted to get closer and find out what it was really like.

It was a few years before an opportunity presented itself. By this time, I had accomplished a dream of mine, of owning a horse. I was out riding one day when I said to myself, "Self, what's stopping me from going to Lake Stella?" "Nothing," I replied. "Well then, let's go for it!" And off I went. (By the way, I find nothing odd about talking to myself, having done it all my life. I picked it up naturally by hearing many people in my own family doing the same thing. They never thought it odd, so never have I; if others do, I think oh well and rattle right on...) Back to the story...

We went east of town, on the dirt road that ran by the old highway to the Junction (now gone); it was once the railroad bed into St. Vincent, that brought thousands (you may laugh, but it is true) into our town on their way west to settle into a new life. Some stayed, but most left. I knew the lake was in the general direction, but due south at a point not far out of town.

As we rounded a small bunch of trees, the sun flashed off the water and there it was, in the distance. I had Sunny cross down into a field, and we cantered across to another field that was fenced. No roads out in this part of the country, and before the new highway, little traffic anywhere. Except for the sound of the wind, and a few birds, it was peaceful. I knew even then that these rides and such times were rare and to be treasured. Thirty years later I still recall them with a smile.

The strange thing is that when we got closer we noticed the grass cut low, like a lawn. It was beautiful, but no one was there to appreciate it except us. I thought what a shame no one uses this lake, a best kept secret! I imagined a picnic on the lawn by the water. Ah well, maybe someone did that, once upon a time...