PUMPING IRONY: Dock of Ages

A week ago, this knee thing had me a little worried, but it’s been improving pretty steadily in the past few days, to the point that Saturday’s annual taking-in-the-dock ritual didn’t even do it in. I think I’ve written before about this little exercise: yanking heavy metal stanchions out of the frigid water, pulling up… Read more »

A week ago, this knee thing had me a little worried, but it’s been improving pretty steadily in the past few days, to the point that Saturday’s annual taking-in-the-dock ritual didn’t even do it in.

I think I’ve written before about this little exercise: yanking heavy metal stanchions out of the frigid water, pulling up decking and beams, all while trying to avoid toppling into the drink. My workout buddy (and son), Mr. Parkour, joined me this time, happy for an opportunity to flex his newfound muscles in a daring new venue. We were joined by My Lovely Wife’s brother, S.P., who has sort of taken over the overall project in the absence of his brother, K.P., who bore the burden himself for several years before deciding that maybe somebody else could get up early on a weekend morning and drive four hours north for the opportunity to deconstruct a dock that he maybe trod upon only a couple of times during the previous six months. I could go on, but you get the picture.

It’s an interesting thing, these family cabins.

Minnesotans love the idea of decamping from their urban or suburban homes for the rustic charm of a northwoods refuge, but when you really get to thinking about it, it’s like having a second house, which means somebody’s got to take care of it: cut down the weeds, fix the sump pump, clean up the bat guano, etc., etc. We’re lucky, relatively speaking (get it?), since this is a family cabin, and thus shared by several families who would prefer not to own a cabin themselves. That way, each of us can put off regular maintenance projects in the hope that someone else who actually makes it up there at some point will pick up the slack.

The annual taking-in-of-the-dock, however, is not something you can put off until someone else forgets to do it. Come December, Woman Lake will be encased in a large and powerful sheet of ice, which tends to convulse angrily during the colder months of the year and, we’ve always been told by our elders, would snap that dock like so many matchsticks should we be so foolhardy as to leave it in the water. So we go up there each fall to rescue the dock, which MLW’s father pretty much designed and built with his own two hands, making it a kind of pilgrimage, I suppose, except that most pilgrimages are once-in-a-lifetime journeys with some spiritual significance and this one has more to do with the fear and loathing engendered by a large sheet of demonic ice that I’ve frankly never actually seen in operation — which might qualify as a spiritual crisis if you really take the time to think about it, but I’ve never really seen it that way.

It is, however, a helluva workout — and I mean that in a good way. I could see somebody like Jon Hinds at the Monkey Bar Gym in Madison throwing a dock into a swimming pool and getting his clients to take it apart without getting wet: wrapping a long, thick rope around the stanchions and yanking them out of the water, hauling 4-by-4-foot decking and 16-foot beams — a lot of pulling and lifting and squatting and lunging. We worked up quite a lather in the 90 minutes or so it took the three of us to dismantle the monster and stacking the parts up in the boathouse.

S.P., who’s a cycling and swimming fanatic, remarked when we were finishing up that his father had to give up on taking in the dock at a certain point because he just wasn’t fit enough to manage it. I didn’t say anything at the time, but it occurred to me as Mr. Parkour and I were heading home that I could be making this pilgrimage and hauling in that dock every fall, well into my 70s, if I stayed in shape.

I’m going to hit the gym tomorrow anyway.

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