Mish-qua-woc, the native name for Honey Creek, flows 75 miles through the rolling hills of southern Wisconsin, eventually emptying into the Lake Michigan Basin. Honey Creek was so named for the many bee trees lining the banks. The bee trees no longer exist, nor do the native Potawatomi Indians.
I grew up hundred yards south of Honey Creek in the 1950’s. Cousin Tom lived about a mile farther south. From sunup to sundown, we spent every waking moment spearing carp, trapping turtles, or fishing for what ever would bite. Riding a river on a raft, kayak, or canoe is the ultimate high. Flowing with the current has the power to immerse the spirit with the majestic pulse of Mother Earth. It is a peaceful and free sensation that I wish all youth could experience before being saddled with the burdens of the white man's world.
Tom and I were defenseless to the seductive lure of Honey Creek, which led to trouble more than once. One morning, Mom had gone somewhere and I had orders to stay home. That same day, Tom rode up on his bike and said, “Let’s go to the creek.” Without a second thought we were on our way. I figured Mom would never know.
We were spearing carp, walking upstream, and taking our shots when carp tried to get past us. A lagoon near Blanks Bridge usually produced a few carp, so we detoured into the marshy chasm to try our luck. All of a sudden, Tom stopped and said, “I am standing on a turtle.” Now, a turtle was a pretty big prize, so we wanted it. Spears wouldn’t penetrate the tough turtle shell, so Tom stood on top of the turtle while we debated how to secure our treasure. Tom seemed willing to stand on the turtle in the murky water all day. After about 20 minutes I finally said, “Tom, we need to do something.” He said “What?” Fortunately, I had an idea. Unfortunately, it wasn’t a very good one. “Tom,” I said, “I figure he’s heading toward the main flow of the creek, so I think his tail is on this end and my guess is he isn’t a snapper or he would have bit you by now. So I’m going for the tail.”
I was wrong on both accounts. When I grabbed for the tail, vice-like jaws clamped down on my fingers. Ouch. Not good, because a snapper usually never lets go of his prey — me. I yanked my hand up out of the water, getting ready to say goodbye to my two favorite fingers, when unexpectedly the snapper let go, dropped back into the water, and swam away. Problem solved except for two bloody, chewed-up fingers, but bad as my fingers looked the thought of facing Mom looked worse. Anyway, we hightailed it back, and I was washing off the creek mud when Mom showed up. I tried to hide my wounds, but moms in general are pretty sharp; not much gets past them. It didn’t take her long to get the story out of me.
“Why wouldn’t you tell me you were hurt?” Mom asked in a shaky, hurt voice. “Well, I was scared you would be mad that I went down to the creek.” Well, Mom got all teary-eyed and said, ”Don’t ever be afraid to tell me you hurt.” Good Old Mom. I guess that’s why moms around the world are cherished. Dad was a different story.