And the murder mystery continues . . .
Besides the folksy crew that runs Bender’s, there’s a small sect of people making an annual pilgrimage to the fishing Mecca. They’ve been returning to the same spot on the same week for decades to commune with nature in the rustic setting and fish, fish, fish. Little Bro Bob has given nicknames to most of them:
The Professor and Mary Ann: a couple in their 60s who bear little resemblance to Russell Johnson or Dawn Wells. “Mary Ann” asked Bob early on not to call them that this week as Johnson, the actor who played The Professor on “Gilligan’s Island,” passed on earlier in the year. Apparently, little brother missed, or opted to ignore, her request, and continued to refer to them for the rest of the week as part of the shipwrecked crew of television yore.
The Tres Amigos: three 40ish, soft-spoken men who are more aptly named as they are three friends who love the annual get-together. Easygoing, they can be pushed over the edge. During our recent trip, for example, someone pranked our boat by sneaking four catfish into the live well. When Bob suggested it was the work of the Tres Amigos, one of them stood up and told little brother, “those are fighting words.” Bob backed down.
Walleye Mary: While never actually making an appearance, she was referred to constantly by Bob as the queen empress tsarina of walleye fishing. After a run of 60-odd years at the camp, her aches and pains trumped her love of fishing this year and she stayed home. Whenever anyone showed off a prized catch, Bob would mention that Walleye Mary would have done better.
The Canadians: Three men and a boy from Quebec, one of them the Son-Of-Walleye-Mary, as Bob called him time and again. While they said they are from Quebec, their story doesn’t quite hold water: what Canuck drives nearly 24 hours to go fishing in Minnesota? The two other men have a distinct military air about them.
Son-Of-Walleye-Mary: A man who constantly grins while Bob rattles on about his sainted mother. Are there teeth grinding behind that smile?
The Boyles: The only campers without a nickname, they are a clan headed by Mr. Boyle, who has been coming to the camp for 62 years. Now 69, he gets about the grounds with a walker but still manages to get in and out of a boat. There’s a subtle animosity between the Boyles and the Bob/Gonzo team. The Boyles suspect the mechanics from Chicago are taking fish illegally. The Windy City gearheads complain that the Boyles spill gasoline into the lake.
All the guests go about their business in a quiet orderly fashion. In contrast to the revved up, tricked-out craft that Gonzo brought, they fish out of small rental boats that toss about in the tsunami of wakes left by our flying Lund.
Another point of animosity comes at meals. While everyone else dines on the scrumptious and ample dinner camp cook Patty Bender lays out on the table, Bob and Gonzo bring a large cooler of meat. Bob grills it on a barbeque they haul along, and they both eat the hot meat with bare, unwashed hands.
The cookout practice is looked down on by the Benders because at best the food causes the dogs to get in the trash and at worst attracts bears. I risked being called a traitor and dined with the main company up at the big house where I sensed there was a little disgruntlement. The other guest perceived a social snub, while Patty asked, “Don’t they like my cook’n?”
So there are all my suspects, but who should the victim be?
I’m going to offer up Bob, found floating face down in the water.
God knows there were plenty of people with motive.