For most of my life, my family has celebrated Memorial Day at Compass Lake. It has been a holiday full of traditions spanning many generations. Hot dogs, homemade ice cream, watermelon and ribs are all part of the menu, and long naps in the hammocks after hours of swimming and tubing on the lake are always on the agenda.
These things and more have always been the official beginning of Summer for our family. In my childhood years, school started back after Labor Day so it was at least three full months of fun at the lake. With school sessions now starting in mid-August, we must cram the fun with our grandkids into a shorter period of time.
Family traditions hold us together over time. They bring us back to a place that binds us even as each succeeding generation moves further and further away. It literally took a hurricane of epic proportions to break our decades old tradition of Memorial Day at Compass Lake.
Hurricane Michael dealt a body blow to Compass Lake, like it did so many other areas along its trek from the Gulf Coast to middle Georgia. Naively, my original goal was to be back into our house at the Lake in seven months, Memorial Day of last year. Little did I know that we would just be starting our renovations by then.
One year and seven months after Hurricane Michael, parts of our family joined for yet another Memorial Day at the Lake. Though much remains to be done, it was so good, so fulfilling, so wonderful to be back.
Our new boat arrived the day before we did. With no time to get a registration, I drove it for hours pulling my grandson on a tube. Luckily, the marine patrol did not arrive until after we had docked the boat.
The patrol quickly pulled over a boat pulling two tubes right in front of our dock. While I am not sure of the driver’s offense, he was towed back to shore. I am sure his two young girls were mortified as they were led back to the landing still on the tubes.
Vessels seemed to scatter a bit as the patrol boat made the rounds. There were more boats on the lake than I have seen in many years. I guess that all this social distancing put everyone in a mood to get on the lake.
There were many new boats parading around, most replaced due to the hurricane. Most of the new watercraft seemed to be pontoon boats, as is the one I bought. There were numerous high ballast boats, making big waves along the shore to my chagrin. Even a few saltwater fishing boats made their appearance.
Late afternoon, a thunderstorm came up with almost no warning. I was in a storage shed as it hit. My daughter, Catherine, was on the dock trying to take down the hammocks. We both got caught and had to weather out the storm with its 70 mile per hour winds.
I could hear cracking trees but thought it was just my imagination. The next day I saw the two smaller oaks that had blown over and the one cypress tree that had snapped within 50 yards of where I was standing in the shed.
I watched furniture going into the water from the dock and my grill flying through the air. The freshly tilled soil in the yard that was ready for sod to be put down was steadily washing into the lake, the third time in a week.
Thankfully, my new boat weathered the storm without a scratch. We found all the parts of the grill, replenished the charcoal, and started the fire up again. That was important, since we did not have power for a couple of hours.
It may have been the strongest wind I have ever witnessed at Compass Lake. With all the wind related trauma we have all suffered in the past couple of years, it was unnerving to say the least.
My grandson, Henry, wanted to jump off the high dive again following the grilled hamburgers. One more jump, he said.
Despite nineteen months of repairs and hard work, despite the 70-mph thunderstorm, and despite no power, all he wanted was another jump. Things are finally getting back to normal, one jump at a time.
Dan Ponder can be reached at [email protected]