Cranberry Lake

from by Richard MacLemale

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The Story

My grandparents used to own a cottage on a small lake in NY, and in the summer, my grandparents would go and spend time there, and my parents would take my brother and I out to spend time with them. As a kid, it was the coolest place in the world. It had a pump, it had an outhouse (I'm not kidding,) and of course the lake. My grandfather had a boat. All of the kids in the family went. There were floats in the lake... a bunch of empty, sealed huge drums with a wooden platform on top and a small ladder. Nowadays you can't build those and put them in water any more, without some government agency fining you.

In the morning, right about sunrise, my grandma would make coffee... Sanka, actually. And she'd give me a cup, with mostly creamer and sugar. It was a big deal. We'd sit out on the crooked, screened-in porch and watch the sun come up. The porch, aside from being titled, had another interesting feature... it was decorated with beer caps. They'd been pounded into the wood. That was pretty impressive to a kid.

The outhouse was uphill from the cottage. Do the math and you'll figure out why the well water wasn't safe. My grandmother used to boil it but my parents wisely never let us kids drink it. The outhouse used to get pretty rank on hot summer days. This was 1975 or so.

The cottage had a party line. That means that one ring was the first house on the street, two rings was the second, and so on. You could pick up the phone and listen in on anyone's coversation. You'd think I was talking about the 40's or something, but no.

My grandfather taught me how to fish. We did a lot of what he called "pop bug" fishing. You got up at the crack of dawn, and instead of a worm, you had these little fake bugs that would float. You'd cast your bug out, and then slowly reel him back in, jerking it every so often. The fish would think that it was a real bug, and they'd come up and nab it. It was a whole lot more fun than staring at a bobber.

The neighbors had a store in their downstairs/garage. They sold popsicles, soda (called "pop" up north,) milk, bread, the basic staples. All the kids loved to buy candy there. Once a friend of my grandmother's sent me to the store to buy a pack of smokes. I couldn't remember her name when I went in the store, and when the old guy running the place asked me who they were for, I told him they were for my grandfather. He said "Doesn't your grandfather smoke a pipe?" Which he did. But he sold me the smokes anyway.

I remember a girl being there one time... she was about 15 or 16, and I was about 10, and there were no other kids around, so we hung out. I remember she drove us somewhere once on an errand and she drove with no shoes on. It's funny what you remember. I liked her a lot.

Years later my Dad and my Uncle tried to find the lake again, but couldn't. It's no wonder why. Some of the dirt roads that lead to the lake have no signs.

For years I've had these great memories of this lake. And the fact that no one could find it made it all the more interesting to me.

And then when Google Earth came along, I thought I might have a better shot at it. I used Google to find a cottage for sale on the lake, and then Google Earth to actually find the lake itself. I'd done it! I found the lake. I vowed that the next time I went to NY, I'd drive to it and take some pictures.

Anyway, the next time I was up in NY visiting my parents, I drove out there. As mentioned, some of the roads had no signs. I had to use Google's step by step directions - at 1.3 miles, turn right... and at 1.3 miles, there'd be a dirt road with no name, so I'd turn right. I finally found it.

I was surprised at how small the place was. I got out of my car, armed with my video camera, and took some very brief footage. It was extremely quiet. I could faintly hear a television playing through a screen door. I walked down the road and took video. The spot where my grandparent's cottage used to be was empty.

When I was walking back to my car, a woman appeared by the side of the road with a shovel. I have no idea what she was doing, and she looked at me kinda strange. I smiled and said "Good morning!" as I walked by. She mumbled "Morning." And then, "You're not with the Pond Commission, are you?" And I laughed and I said, "No, my grandparents used to own a cottage here." And I told her about how I'd come to try to find the lake, and about the old cottage, etc. She got really friendly and told me she was a retired teacher, and lived on the lake in the summer because it was so quiet and peaceful. She mentioned that there used to be some old cottages on the road but they'd fallen down years ago. No doubt one of those was the one belonging to my grandparents.

On the Cottage Road, I saw a guy with long hair walking down toward the lake with four empty bottles. He looked scary to me. This is one reason I didn't take too much video.

It was not my intention to visit there so I could write a song. I showed the footage to my family, everyone thought it was cool that I'd gone back there, and that was it. After I'd come back home to Florida, I started thinking about how it would make a good song. I wrote the lyrics and melody fairly quickly. When I was putting together the CD, I really felt that Cranberry Lake was the strongest song on it, so I put it first.

Having gone back once, I no longer feel the need to see it again. I'd accomplished what I wanted to. The pond itself is nothing special. It's being there with my grandparents and family that made it this wonderful place in my memory, hence the lyrics at the end.


The summer of 75 I was ten
My grandparents owned an old cottage back then
It sat by a lake that was quite hard to find
The drive was a long one but we didn't mind

And every morning my grandma would make
A weak cup of coffee I'd gratefully take
And we'd watch the sunrise and when it was through
We'd plan out our day and the great things we'd do

And everything seems so much fun when you're ten
We'd swim to the float, and we'd swim back again
We'd go to the old store and buy cherry soda and gum
The grownups would sit in the shade in July
And they'd watch us play and they'd desperately try
To not think about the adults we'd eventually become

My grandfather taught me to fish on that lake
We'd go out before everyone was awake
We'd sit there for hours and catch two or three
And I know that it was a big deal to me

And I had my first crush on that lake, way back when
I was so young, she was 16 then
To her I was only a kid, and I know
I thought she was pretty and I told her so

And everything seems so much fun when you're ten
We'd swim to the float, and we'd swim back again
We'd go to the old store and buy Coca Cola and gum
The grownups would sit in the shade in July
And they'd watch us play and they'd desperately try
To not think about the adults we'd eventually become

My father, he failed when he thought that he could
Find the old lake where the old cottage stood
It hid from my Dad but could not hide from me
And satellite photos and technology

I drove to the lake that we'd all left behind
I wasn't prepared for the sight that I'd find
A small pond of water, a hundred yards wide
I slowed down the car and I pulled to the side

And this is the place where the old store should be
And that lake looks more like a small pond to me
The cottage is gone, all that's left is an empty space
And this little pond couldn't possibly be
The place where I had all those great memories
But it's so familiar, I know that I'm in the right place

Our memories color events of the past
The cottage is gone, but my memories will last
And deep down inside you, you know that it's true
It's people, not places, that matter to you


from Every Single Day, released October 1, 2009



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Richard MacLemale New Port Richey

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