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The Big Log at Portage

“Can we make it to the big log”, I asked my brother Mike. He was four years younger. I was the better swimmer. Mike never liked the water and like myself, had barely made it through swimming lessons.

That old log was as big as a small house and occupied the middle of the bay at Portage. At low tide, it was a short walk from the shore, with a ladder to climb up the side of the log. George Miller had built a platform on the log with a diving board made from a beachcombed plank, way too thick to get the bounce needed for a good dive. The platform was built from 4x4’s that had been notched into the big log and spiked, with beach planks laid out on top. At high tide, the log was in 7 ft. of water, a good place to swim in the summer. The log never floated and the tide never came over the top.

In the Fall, we hunted from the platform, as the gap between the islands at Portage was a natural flyway for the ducks. When the wind was up the ducks would fly into the harbor for protection or out of the harbor when the storm was coming from the south. When the wind didn’t blow, it was called blue-bird weather, and the ducks didn’t fly much.

There are stories of the Indians flying a net between two poles at the mouth of the slough connecting the inner harbor to Tramp harbor. When the ducks flew in or out of the slough, the Indians dropped their net on the unsuspecting ducks and all hell broke loose; as told by our Grandfather from a conversation he had with Edmond Meany, a history professor at the U.W. before WWII.

We begged Grandma Ada for a safety pin and a piece of red yarn for bait. We used a string that had been pulled from the center of a parachute cord for fish line, tied to the end of a stick. We were all set to fish for bullheads from the big log. The bullhead is a scrap fish and only good for Grandma Ada’s flower bed. Bullheads have two horns right above their eyes that are poisonous if they stick you and will cause infection. Their heads are huge compared to their bodies, looking pre-historic, which they probably are. They might be edible, but we never tried.

The log’s platform served as a launching place for fire works on the 4th of July, with a trough on the diving board for launching the big rockets. It was a thrill to be old enough to join the uncles on the platform and cars lined the head of bay to see the show and honk their horns at the end. One year a triple banger didn’t make it more than 6 feet off the platform when it fizzled and fell into the box of fireworks causing the whole entourage to jump into the bay and swim for shore.

After many years of sitting in the mud, the old log just went out with the tide, never to be seen again.