Monday, August 31, 2009

The Second, My Brother-in-Law Jeeb

Jeeb isn't his real name, it's actually Mike, until someone corrected me was John Jr. Too late, he was always Jeeb to me. Mike passed away last Tuesday after a 5 year courageous battle with kidney cancer. He was 53, a year younger than I. Mike was my wife's only brother and my favorite brother-in-law. Living on Paradise Lane in Galesville Wisconsin, his hobby farm of 120 acres sat at the end of a beautiful valley in God's Country. Here Mike is standing in a very nice field of clover he had planted. He was very proud of that clover indeed, as well he should have been!

Because Mike and I both loved to hunt and fish, we got along pretty well. Being a Norwegian from Eleva and he of Polish descent in Independence WI, it took us a while to actually get to know each other. Once established out friendship would carry on to the end. One of the first things we did together was snagging salmon in the Lake Michigan harbors and tributaries. Since Pacific Salmon were introduced into the Great Lakes, the annual spawning run occurred in late September. Using large lead cast treble hooks we would cast into the harbors and streams, working it back in long steady sweeps until the hook hit a fish and the battle was on. It was a free for all in those early years as it was a perfect solution to all those fish dying, going to waste. We definitely put them to good use (never mind they were pretty dark as they turned to their spawning stage), and of course the sport was fabulous. Catching 20 - 30 pound fish all day was something you didn't experience much in Trempealeau County! The picture on the right is of Billy Borgwardt on the left and Mike on the right holding up 5 nice salmon and 2 large brown trout we caught during one of our trips. My guess is that mess of fish went over 100 pounds. We liked salmon fishing so much that in September of 1976, Mike's now brother-in-law was getting married and at the wedding dance we decided that it would be a great time to head 6 hours east to Algoma WI and try our luck. Mike and myself rounded up my brother Steve, who had a station wagon, and another guy from the wedding, Dave Wolfe and off we went. Needless to say our wives were not very happy but I had a great excuse.............I was with your brother. Unfortunately we were pretty hung over when we got to Algoma and simply turned around and came home.

Mike taught me how to make venison bologna. This was a yearly ritual and I got pretty good at it. Being from Independence, he was a master at grinding, stuffing, and smoking nice big rings of bologna. This was handed down for generations. Well, if I was going to get into it serious I would need a sausage stuffer. Mike knew someone in Winona and one night we headed over to see if he had any. Entering the house he did the formal introductions and the customary, having a beer first, the owner of the house pulled open a trap door in the kitchen to reveal an almost straight down stairway into the cellar below. There among the cobwebs and dirt floor were a number of items including an old Enterprise brand sausage stuffer. "Well, it only has one stuffing tube and the press liner was bent but other than that it's in pretty good shape" stated our host. When asked how much, "$25" was the answer. I wasn't sure what to expect however it seemed reasonable. Today I wish I had bought every one he had as they are collectors items. It is still in mint condition today and I carry on the traditions that Mike had taught me.

Mike worked as the head foreman at the TRW plant in Galesville where they made complicated automotive switches primarily for heater controls. He was a genius when it came to plastic molding. One of the guys he worked with held an annual sheephead fishing contest. Sheephead is a common name for the freshwater drum and are extremely plentiful in the Mississippi River at Trempealeau WI. I had asked a number of times to be invited and finally in 2005 was given the chance. Joe was the coordinator of the tourney which was usually on the first Saturday in July, from Noon to 3:00. Prizes were awarded for the largest fish, the most total weight, and one for the smallest fish. Mike fished with Jake Jacobs (Highpockets) so I enlisted my friend Eric Hayes to be my partner. Eric and I are pretty good fisherman and felt we had more than a good chance to win. Heading down stream we caught a number of nice sheephead, maybe a half a 5 gallon pail, and felt pretty good. Well Mike and Highpockets unloaded their catch, 3 - 5 gallon pails of Sheephead!!!! Both Eric and I were humbled to say the least. Mike really knew how to put those fish in the boat.

The third picture is one of Mike on the last fishing trip we took together. We were on the Mississippi River and had met my good friend Kevin, who was anchored in this spot. Kevin invited us where to anchor across the same channel and we hammered the smallies. This is just one of many Mike had landed. We had a great time however by now his treatments were beginning to take a toll. Cancer is a terrible disease, one that Mike fought hard against. It was a battle that he simply could not win. I have a great friend Mark Applen who lost his son Eric by cancer at the age of 17. I am reminded of his motto: Courage doesn't always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, I will try again tomorrow. That is the courage that Mike showed, and one that I will remember for the rest of my life. Jeeb, may your long journey end in peace my friend.

1 comment:

NeenahPete said...

Sorry, Dave, to hear you've lost another good friend and, in this case, a great brother-in-law. It's sad he was so young but he seemed to have led a good life and you were a positive force in it.