The sun glared a brilliant red as it emerged through the dense trees. Spiderwebs draped the chipped white and navy plastic of the pontoon’s seats, glistening with the dew of the morning. Leaves littered the stained blue carpet of the boat, and others glided lazily down to join the unkempt piles. The tarnish on the metal pontoons had faded to a darker bronze from where it waded in lake water, forming an obvious line of wear to show where that water had abused its surface. Suspended in midair, the lifeless propeller displayed its use like a trophy. A dark brown film of muck coated its once white exterior and long gashes in the three blades told stories of the times it fought to free us from shallow water, or slammed against the dock.
My sister, brother, and I all boarded the boat using a rusted ladder attached carefully to the bow on two protruding hooks as it hung off the ground. Each of us exchanged animated laughter, discussing the game of ball tag we would later play as my brother and I tossed the small, orange plush-ball back and forth. Clinging to my red and yellow life jacket, the musty smell of the fabric reached up to caress my nose as we all claimed a seat. My mom, dangling the keys to the ignition, pulled open the driver’s side door of my grandpa’s deep crimson truck. My dad clutched the stuffed swim bag protruding with a towel for each of us and SPF 50. He reached up to hand it to me, and I sat it gingerly beside my seat so I could keep a close eye on it. My brother stretched out his sun-kissed legs on top of the blue and white cooler with our last name smeared in sharpie marker in my dad’s neat draftsmen capital letters. The truck coughed to life as my mom turned the serrated car key. She stared backward, twisted awkwardly to see behind her while my dad guided her. She inched slowly toward the polished boat hitch and hit her mark with precision. We were ready for the lake.
Treading with hard, measured steps on the gravel, my dad replaced my mom behind the wheel. He slammed the car door, ceasing the calming sound of chirping birds celebrating the coming of a new day. The boat creaked and moaned under its own weight as the truck tugged it along behind it. Each of us ducked in unison to avoid the sagging tree branches that rustled in the August breeze. Behind us, the pontoon kicked up a cloud of dust which concealed the narrow dirt road we had already passed. The cloud swirled like a storm and expanded as we continued to bump along on the rocky path surrounded on all sides by looming trees. Sunlight peeked through the branches in a brighter yellow shade, casting thread-like rays onto the ground.
As it opened up, the tree tunnel yielded the radiant light of day, causing me to blink from the transition. Dragonflies whisked around our heads leaving behind the tingling sensation of buzzing in our ears. A small, deserted parking lot paralleled the tiny dock my grandfather had built. Grass peeked up in small green tufts at even intervals in the dirt between where the cars would have rested. The old wooden dock, which was sandwiched between two metal poles that clearly displayed their exposure to the weather, swayed with the rocking water that relentlessly slapped the battered wood.
My mom hopped out of the truck as we pulled up on the gravel path just next to a slab of sloping concrete. It dropped sharply into a steep slant before disappearing into the depths of the murky water. The truck crept forward once more around a gradual elevated curve in the road until the rear of the pontoon was positioned before the slope next to the bobbing dock. My mom waited patiently as my dad backed into the water, dipping the boat in at a sharp angle. She barked an order to my sister, and she responded by meekly tossing a frayed yellow rope toward the dock. My mom snatched it out of the air and choked the metal pole closest to us with the drooping rope. My dad straddled the boat carrier and cranked a lever to undo the hitch. His face turned a bright red from bending over. A loud groan escaped the hitch as the boat finally detached and was free to float in the water. My dad maneuvered behind the wheel a second time and drove the truck toward a vacant parking space. The carrier dripped continuously from where it had been doused in the dirty lake water. My dad leaped from the truck where he now occupied two unmarked parking spaces and went to join my mom who had pulled us and the rope taut to keep the pontoon from escaping. Hopping onto the boat through one of the gates, my dad inserted the key into the boat’s ignition. The machine gave an ear-piercing scream in response to the key before it hummed to life, letting out a small puff of gas from the motor. Mom had the rope twisted around her wrist like a cobra and held the boat against the front of the dock with it. As we inched slowly forward, she leaped on board and yanked up on the gate to fasten it in place. The greenish water shimmered in the sunlight before us, rippling outward in our wake. Once again we were reunited with Lake Kinkaid.
Some of the best moments in my life were spent on the lake on our old pontoon. To feel the wind tickle my face as we glided on top of the glassy water was the part of my childhood that I thought would never fade. Though our blemished and battered pontoon, with the stains that gave the carpet its character and the seats that scorched our bare legs are no longer ours, I still have the memories to keep each summer on the lake with me always.
I am a freshman at McKendree University and plan on majoring in Biology. I love animals and have a deep passion for nature. When I was younger, my family used to own a lake house on Lake Kinkaid which was one of my favorite places in the world. I love boating, tubing and being outdoors.