I’m Your Captain – Grand Funk Railroad

My grandpa kept a log of every visit to Puckaway. And “log” is definitely the right word. These were not verbose journal entries or opinion pieces. He took down the events of the day. The work he had done, what the weather was like, who stopped by–stuff like that. I’m not sure how much they would interest anyone else, but they help me bind my memories of him to this place.

Richie wasn’t the only one who kept the log. If Inee (grandma) came up with him, she’d usually take up the pen. There are entries from their friend Jeannie, my mom, my aunt Linda–it served as a guestbook of sorts where visitors could briefly transcribe their experience. There are even occasional mini-entries and margin notes from a young me. After grandpa died, my dad took over writing duties during deer camp. But while I came up as often as I was able, I would never write.

There are so many things I could have chronicled. Lyssa and I finding out we were pregnant with Jake. Running underground power to the pole barn and my trailer. Opening up new areas of the yard and marsh thanks to the new four wheelers. Entire Puckaweekends. Bringing each of my boys up for their first trips. Still, it just didn’t feel right.

It’s no secret that I idealize and revere this place as a sort of Hero’s Memorial for my grandfather. And as much as I’ve tried to take care of it over the years, I always felt like I was playing catch-up and not doing a very good job. I didn’t want to write because I didn’t feel like I earned to write. I was ashamed that I wasn’t living up to the expectations I set for myself. I thought I was doing a poor job of honoring Richie’s memory.

I don’t know why, but it took until this year for me to finally realize that kind of thinking is bullshit. Grandpa had big plans and ideas for this place, but he never had expectations. Not for me, not for himself, not for anyone. And this land, paradoxically wet and marshy at the same time as it’s dry and sandy, is remarkably adaptable and forgiving. Areas neglected for years will bounce back the first time they’re properly mowed again. A little tree trimming can change a whole area of the yard for the better. These plates won’t fall and shatter if I don’t keep them spinning. They know how to wait.

And we’ve made progress. Lots of it. My God.

My trailer is air conditioned in the summer and heated in the winter. We’ve got a working indoor hot shower. We’ve got actual power running to it underground instead of through a network of extension cords hung along the garden fence and trees! You can stay there comfortably for multiple nights without ever having to go into the big trailer. You don’t have to walk 200 feet to plug in the pump; you can just flick the switch on the post next to it. The pole barn has lights and power, inside and out! It’s got an automatic garage door. And inside, there’s enough free floor space to accommodate two full-size trucks. We’ve reclaimed hundreds of square feet of the yard from woodpiles, building materials, scrap metal, and old vehicles. We dug a new outhouse. The outhouse itself has gotten a facelift and lights. There’s an entire network of marsh trails for the ATVs. I couldn’t have imagined this much change ten years ago. Especially with no funding and no help but a few hardworking friends.

And there’s more on the horizon. We’ve got a deck started. The scrap metal continues its exodus. I’m planning to increase bunk space in my trailer with a trundle bed. We’ll be hauling in Paco’s garden shed to further block the view of Danny’s detritus and get the tools out of the pole barn. We’re halfway through cleaning out the old wood shack so we can get rid of the truck trailer in the driveway. I might try something crazy like moving the bricks. And it’s about time we documented this stuff again.

In the grand scheme of things, none of this is that important. And compared to the legacies of some, if not most, mine is a strange little exercise. But I don’t care. It means a great deal to me. I love this place. I love what it meant to the man I idolized. I love what it represents for my family and my friends. The log is open again. It’s out there for anyone to see, but this is for me. For Jake and Josh. For Lyssa. For my parents. For Red, Farmer Joe, Sean, Tachney, and Paco. And certainly, this is for Richie.

Heir Apparent

Welcome to Puckaway, everyone.