One of my greatest pranks of all time involved my parents. They had bought a second home on Coverdale Lake, just north of the Indiana state line in Michigan. It was a small lake with a narrow channel that led into popular Long Lake. This channel was not deep enough to accommodate speed boats. As a result, Coverdale flotation traffic was limited to slower pontoon boats, sailboats, and fishing boats. The house was painted pink when they bought it with a knotty pine-paneled interior, so they initially had plans for extensive remodeling and to turn it into their retirement retreat. That’s a whole other story! Instead, it eventually became my home that I rented to my sister when my wife and I moved to Ft. Wayne several years later.
The home sat high above the lake in a wooded area on a private cul-de-sac with no other homes on either side. The properties across the street were at Long Lake level, so their driveways were steep drops downward. This meant that there were fabulous lake views from both the front and back of our home, in addition to the privacy, so the home had a lot of investment potential, especially once it was de-pinked. There was a stone fireplace in the living room that had a lacquered 4-ft. long log, six-inches in diameter, suspended over the mantle. It had a smooth surface, having been stripped of bark, with a knothole, and the stub of another sawed-off branch. The log must have had some significance to the former owner, but it seemed like an odd way to decorate a living room. At least, it was stained the same color as the pine paneling behind it. My dad hated the look of that log, and it became the first thing that he removed from the home after purchase. We thought about burning it in the fireplace, but for some unknown reason they never used their fireplaces for anything other than decorative displays. The one in their main home had a black, antique grate with white birch logs and never once was used for an actual fire.
I describe it as a log; however, it was really a severed tree limb. I’ve seen mantles shaped from trees, but I have never seen another log suspended over the mantle, hanging there like a broken branch as a decoration. It sat in the garage for some time before my dad decided to dispose of it. One day, I helped him load it in the back of his station wagon, and he took it to a dump site near a construction project in his neighborhood. For some onery reason, I decided to follow him in my car and retrieved it. You have to understand that my dad was meticulously neat about everything. He did not like things out of place or unorganized and treated his lawn like it was part of the Master’s golf course. My sister and I tried to meet his rigid standards of cross-cutting, recycling the clippings, and properly trimming. I probably failed miserably, being impatiently in a hurry to just get the never-ending job over with. We both feel that we spent most of our high school years mowing and edging his landscaping masterpiece. Heaven forbid that a fallen leaf disrupts its pristine presence.
Dad would stand at the kitchen window each morning with his cup of coffee and admire this work of art. One morning he discovered something out of place and went out to investigate. That’s when he discovered the abandoned log sitting on his precious lawn. I, of course, had placed it there the night before. This was just the beginning of what would become a family tradition.
My mom thought it was funny, as she observed his reaction and called me to report that he had taken it back to the same dump site. I immediately drove there and retrieved it once again, but stored it for a while in our garage, waiting for the right time to strike again. I guess a few months later I wasn’t being very creative when I pulled the same stunt again. This time my dad kept the log, ready to devise his own stunt.
It arrived at my office at the radio station in Fort Wayne a few months later via Fed Ex, a long package on my birthday where I was admittedly clueless as to what it contained. Inside, covered in gift wrap and adorned with a bow was this log. My parents were much more creative than I ever was with this delivery. However, the next time they visited Fort Wayne to see me, I booked them at the new Holiday Inn downtown. Knowing the manager, I also arranged for the log to be nestled in their bed. They took it back home with them. By then, my mom had used a wood-burning kit and began to engrave the dates and places where this log showed up unexpectedly. At one point, it stood upright decorated for Christmas. Mom had a ball with it! My sister was the next victim, and she returned the flavor, but over the years the log mysteriously disappeared. In fact, I’m still waiting for it to reappear!