Joene wasn't the prettiest girl in all of LaPorte High that year, rather skinny and kind of quirky. People said it was because she was the only girl to survive in the large Sutherland family. What could you expect growing up with five brothers on a farm.
Old man Sutherland owned the large white farm house off Weller drive on the Southwest edge of Stone Lake. The Sutherland farm stretched out along the south edge of the lake. The back yard dock stretched out thru the woods, stalling out at about four feet in the water. Shallow enough for catching crayfish and minnows, the waters edge calm and sandy before dropping off into a deep pool. The Sutherland's diving platform anchored here, 12 feet out from the end of their dock. Most all of the kids that lived on the lake used it, as well as the hired hands.
Joene could be found most days after school swimming or fishing or sunning down on the shore. People also said she was the outdoorsy type, and a natural... fish. She could out swim, dive, and hold her breath longer than the best of them. She even held the current record for largest fish caught in Stone Lake, a large mouth bass measuring in at a whopping 35" long.
Jake Smith knew his way around the Sutherland farm better than most. He worked on and off at the orchard owned by the Dr. and would often walk the Indian paths thru the woods. The Dr. was a generous man who owned eight summer cabins at the eastern edge of the farm. These were mostly rented out to city folk not able to afford the more expensive Cottages on Lake Michigan, but still found themselves in need of an escape from the heat of Chicago durring the summer months.
Number 5, the smallest of the cabins, closest to the beach was too small for a family. It usually got booked by the single quiet male but for some reason it wasn't booked this year. In exchange for part of his wages, Jake was allowed the privilege of staying in it.
They met one hot afternoon at the diving dock. She snuck up on him while he napped on the dock.
She had only meant to scare him.
From the boat launch she waded straight out then slid into the clean green water. Her quiet breaststroke was fast and efficient.
“Wait till mom hears this,” she giggled out loud. Thinking she was minutes from catching her brother's transgression, silently gliding through the water. The distance, a challenge she had mastered years ago.
Jake lay spread out across the diving platform, warming his naked skin. His suit draped over the side of the dock. Luckily no one was around. He was sure if Dr. Sutherland caught him he'd loose his stay in cabin 5, maybe even his job.
The Lake was beautiful this summer, clear and clean. Joene's secret hid beneath the water, there she felt free. Swimming for Joene was a natural extension of limb, she had been born between the weed. Seaweed, like in tadpole, they said.
She quietly pulled the black suit down into the water, holding her breath she dove under the raft. In the center between the drums a cross of several ropes provided space to hide the suit.. She hung it over one of the lines, took a breath and dove back down into the deep. Out from under the raft she shot into the air.
Her eyes couldn't believe what they saw.
Jake screamed “Holy Mother...” and jumped to his feet. His natural reaction was to grab the family jewels in his left hand, best he could, and blush and there in all his glory Jake Smith met Joene Sutherland on the diving dock.
It was only meant to be a prank but she melted on the spot.
They said, she fell for him right there, right then.
That was early summer, 1888.
tgwithin © 2013