Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Tribute to Uncle Keith

Friday saw the passing of my uncle Keith Anderson, my dad's oldest brother. I am especially fond of my uncles and aunt on Dad's side, growing up with them while I was young, each played an important role in who I am. Keith was probably one of the smartest men I knew, always outspoken, never wincing words. This is an admirable quality as you always knew were you stood with him and he always stood for something. Keith and his wife Dorothy gave me 4 wonderful cousins, Cindy, Linda, Paul, and Julie who are the epitome of standard Norwegian stereotypes...........blond hair, blue eyed, and just as smart as get out! They have all remained my friends which was highlighted by Paul joining us in Alaska last year. Keith was always my favorite subject with the camera as he never failed to deny me that handsome pose and great smile. My grandpa Roy and Keith ran the Mobil Service Station in town. Back then Eleva was a like many small towns. With a population of around 400 we had a grocery store, drugstore, Gamble store, feedmill, lumber yard, train depot, and 6 - 7 operating gas stations, 4 bars and a large log cabin for various civic gatherings. He eventually sold the service station to Vic Wenaas which I had the pleasure of working for. I think Keith felt alittle like I was carrying on a family tradition. When I was a young boy he would often include me in activities like camping and fishing. Keith loved to camp. Neither of us would ever forget the time he invited me to camp and fish with Paul and himself at Coon Fork Dam near Augusta. The Coon Fork River was only about 30 miles from Eleva, but to me it seemed like a thousand miles away. I was probably 12 years old, it was my first time camping with them, and it was fishing opener. This usually meant trout fishing back home however the Coon Fork River emptied into the Eau Claire River which had a sizable population of Muskies. The river below the dam was as wild a river as I saw. The tea colored water flowed from pools, over car sized rock, through rapids wandering its way downstream. I had experience with northern pike, however Keith had suggested we walk downstream and cast the pools. With my trusty old Zebco and solid glass rod, I pitched my old spoon into the current only to see a monstrous fish leap out of the water with my lure in its mouth, heading for the Mississippi River. Having little experience with this kind of behavior it took about 3 seconds and crack, the line reported a failure! My reaction was swift and vocal. Knowing a few swear words may bring a similar reaction that my dad may have given I held my honor by stomping my feet and hitting the pole against the rocks with the vengeance of a fisherman scorned. Of course Keith understood my love for fishing, even at that age found humor in my experience. This was over 40 years ago and up to last summer he still found joy in reminding me of the fish that got away. I did redeem myself later that day by catching a smaller muskie near our campsite yet he for some unknown reason (like illegal size) he let it go. Foiled again!

Later in life I had the pleasure to pay back Keith something for everything he had given to me. His other brother and my fabulous Uncle Jerry (featured in a couple previous posts) lives in Idaho. Jerry and Keith were best of friends and when grandma was alive, Jerry would try to get back to Eleva once a year. Well, I caught wind of this and asked both of them to join me for a day on Mille Lacs. I cannot explain how excited it was when they accepted. My house was a 2 1/2 hour trip from Eleva and another 1 1/2 hour to the landing, a full day for sure. It was exactly the same time of year, first of June and we started out on the west side. Catching nothing we made a beeline for the south shore when out of the corner of my eye I noticed a few boats on 7 Mile Flat. At that minute the strategy switched and decided to see what might be out there. Arriving it was like glass, perfect for slowly working the edge with a crawler, using the electric motor. Rigging each with a spinner rig and nightcrawler, we started to backtroll. Almost immediately I nailed a nice walleye, maybe 20 inches. One in the box. 10 minutes later Keith set the hook on a dandy. A nice walleye off the flats puts up a tremendous fight and this one did not disappoint. When I finally landed it, the fish measured over 27.5 inches. I was just about to release the fish when Jerry yelled................David, what are you doing? I exclaimed that I was releasing this fish which prompted and immediate response "The hell you are!" I quickly got the hint that these were the biggest walleyes they had ever caught and it was not going to be for nothing. Jerry had nailed another nice 26 incher 5 minutes later. As we were back trolling Keith asked me "Dave, What do you think Al Linder would be doing right now?" I replied "Keith, he would be doing the same thing we were" with an air of confidence mixed with BS. I had my doubts Keith even knew who Al Linder was, let alone ask about him. It could not have been more than 5 minutes from the question when Keith looked at me, pointed his hand at a boat and asked "Dave, is that Al Linder over there?" (30 feet from us). One good look and Holy Moses, it was Al Linder! We both had established the tone for the remainder of the day. Keith actually knew who Al Linder was and as predicted, he was doing exactly the same thing that we were doing. Another mystery of life. The above picture was our 4 biggest fish for the day and it set up a date for the next year where we smoked cousin Paul, his father-in-law, and my other cousin Greg. It was very satisfying to be able to spend some time with Keith in my environment and show him a good time.

I will miss Keith, his wisdom, advice (although I did not agree with all of it!), his kindness and life lessons he taught me. Although we cannot stay young forever, we can pass these things on to the next generation as Uncle Keith did as he had much to give. God Bless you Keith.


NeenahPete said...

Wonderful tribute to your Uncle Keith. My sympathies.

Dewey said...

I'm sorry for your loss Dave.... But you still have the memories.

Anonymous said...

Yes David I can remember uncle Keith and all the great times and visits I had with him and Milo. They were both legends of the little village we love. We all will miss him back home cause we will be one short for our commercial club poker game. It seems we always have a younger fella to pull the empty chair and start another legacy

later buddy