|Lilly of the Lake and Her Escort|
I can finally answer that question that’s been nagging at you: How many Bohunks does it take to build a deck during a blackout?
I found the answer to the question at the 2016 Big Bohunk Family Reunion (BBFR). This year, there were 51 of us (4 generations out of 5, counting from Grandpa and Grandma as #1). We come from three related “clans.” The companion animal count this year was 12 dogs and a macaw. We humans ranged in age from 3 months to 80 years. Mom was the Grand Matriarch. She had an escort (some young cousin) helping her everywhere she went (and a grapefruit margarita in her hand most of the time). The 3-month-old was the newest baby cousin at the 2016 BBFR, though we have an even newer one, too new to come, who will be debuted/initiated next year.
|A Dingo Ate My Macaw|
We are all the offspring (by blood, marriage, adoption, etc.) of my paternal Czech grandma, Viola, and her German husband, my grandpa Adolph. Viola and Adolph had three children, my dad and his older sister and brother. Way back when, Grandma and Grandpa bought a small cabin by a lake in north-central Minnesota, where family gathered each summer. I can still remember when I was a little kid, sneaking out to the dock at night to free the poor frogs “caught” on a wire stringer (Grandpa’s catfish bait), or stealing spoonfuls of peanut butter late at night while Grandma, the inventory police, slept. Grandma and Grandpa eventually passed the cabin along to their daughter, who passed it along to her kids. Then sometime later, the kids (my cousins) added another cabin on the property and started up the summer gatherings again.
So now there’s the “old cabin” and the “new cabin.” The new cabin has a fully-stocked bar, the kitchen, a couple of bedrooms, and the camp’s only flush toilet. The old cabin is now bedrooms (bedrooms in both cabins are auctioned off each year for the following year) and a living room for games – jigsaw puzzles, poker, etc. Between the two cabins, there’s a picnic table, hammock, fire pit, recycling barrels, trash barrels, outhouse, and rope swing. During the reunion, there may also be beer kegs, pig roasters, grills, an auction table, various campers, and a small tent city. There’s a long flight of stone steps and an alternate dirt path down a hill from the old cabin to the lake, where there’s a dock, another picnic table, another fire pit, and during the reunion, various water toys, floats, & boats. Most people stay on-site, and some of us wimp out and stay in the motel in the nearest town.
|The Big Build|
In spite of the blackout, the cousins pulled off this year’s project: the Big Build. One cousin gathered donations ahead of time to buy materials for new sliding doors and a deck on the lake side of the old cabin. Not to be deterred by a sissy storm, the cousins fired up generators, table saws, and other power tools and got most of the work done—from nothing to deck & doors—on the first full day of the reunion (with a few food, beer, and bloody Mary breaks). It’s a Bohunk miracle that (a) it got done, and (b) no one got hurt (although there may have been one hammered thumb, pun intended). On day 2, they added the steps on the deck and a handrail down the dirt path. By reunion’s end, they’d also added a handrail to the stone steps. It was an amazing feat of determination and cooperation. So…how many Bohunks does it take to build a deck? As many as you can get: Builders, feeders, bartenders, entertainers, and many, many, many supervisors.
|The Grand Matriarch's Halo|
The 2016 BBFR also included a pontoon cruise, paddle boarding and jet skiing, and I understand there were late-night hootenannies (past my bedtime), featuring the song stylings of my oldest bro, Blind Lemon Pledge. Ray and I paddleboated every day, peddling to a small bay to check out the lilipads, the turtles, and two fledgling bald eagles, or we peddled around the lake after a family of very patient loons.
Because the Big Build had highest priority this year, we skipped the Esther Williams Invitational Lake Swim, and, unless it happened after my bedtime, Casino Night in town was also canceled.
|She Flunks "Holding Power Tools 101"|
The 6th annual These-Cabins-Don’t-Pay-For-Themselves auction, however, was another stellar success. The big seller this year was one cousin’s (our family pastry chef) homemade crème brulees, which our auctioneer caramelized on the spot with a full-sized blow torch for each lucky winner. It was quite a spectacle, and in a genius marketing move, the auctioneer was careful never to say exactly how many crème brulees were left to be auctioned, thereby driving the price up each time.
|Blow Torch Brûlée|
In the 2016 Golfathon, generation 3 handily beat generation 4. The whipper-snappers are schooled again.
Cabin Cuisine: This year’s menus included a Mexifeed (with homemade guac and pico de gallo), shrimp & steak kabobs, burgers, cheesy potatoes, baked pasta, pastries (cupcakes, a torte, macarons), zucchini-chocolate chip sweet bread, and much more. We did not suffer.
|Christening the Deck|
As my little contingent left the BBFR this year, the remaining cousins were hard at work again, this time at the cabin next door, helping our reunion neighbor Bob cut up and haul away the enormous trees he’d lost in the storm. Because that’s just what kind-hearted Bohunks do. (Sidenote: I believe Bob may have called the sheriff once or twice before he got used to us—and built a fence. So another thing about Bohunks? We don’t hold grudges!)
|Bob's Tree Removal|
|The Youngest Cousin|
Once again, the BBFR reminds me how lucky I am to be part of this big, loud, zany, messy family that can and will gather each year into its own wonderful village. We are carpenters, salespeople, accountants, doctors, teachers, pharmacists, retirees, Democrats, Republicans, Christians, atheists, Buddhists, rednecks, peaceniks. We love each other in spite of (or because of) our differences, we help and take care of each other. We’re already cranking up the auction knitting and stockpiling Deep Woods Off for next year’s Big Bohunk Family Reunion, and as a very special treat, here’s an amazing compilation video put together by talented cousin Nick: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8AoRz_wzlss
|A Room with a View|