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There is a dirt road to a weathered barn by the marina

Between two houses near in the Lakeside area is a dirt road that looks like a driveway, but it leads back to a weathered, gray wooden barn by a dock. There are willow trees, mulberries, set aside rusted steel industrial bits, and boats that have become part of the landscape.

If you go there early in the morning, two old men will be there sitting on steel folding chairs, talking quietly. No television. No radio. Just the rhythmic clink of rigging against aluminum masts from the next door marina, and the creek of the rope holding boats to the shore on large, rusting steel cleats.

The men looked at me passively as I pulled up and my car shuddered to a stop and the door squeaked open.

"Hey..." I called out "I hear I can buy fish here."

A man with thin hair noded almost subliminally and went back to talking with his white bearded companion.

For generations this family has set out on the Big Lake at 4 AM nearly every morning to catch lake whitefish, a large, deep water fish native to the Great Lakes. Related to the salmon its meat is dense and flavorful.

When the catch is plentiful it is loaded onto a freezer truck and shipped to Chicago. A few the men fillet and set aside for locals and sell it for $3 a pound. For those who can find the fishermen. The thin haired man walked into a pristine, gleaming quilted steel freezer that took up a quarter of the barn and emerged with a tray of fresh fish fillets.

"How many you want?"


He tossed them on a springwork scale...2.5 pounds.

"That's about two pounds. Six dollars." A deal. $6.99 per pound at the store. $4.99 per pound on sale.

As I walked back to my car with a bag of fresh, lake caught fish, a very old man in round spectacles on a skeletal black framed bicycle peddled down the dirt road to the barn and chatted with the thin haired man who pointed back toward the freezer and showed some bags of fish set aside. The whole time the white bearded man sat silent in the steel fold out chair.

I proudly showed my neighbor my catch as her grandchildren played, in orbit around her on tricycles. Excited I had found this gem of a place to buy fresh fish. So clandestine. I described the dirt road. The gray barn. The old men. She said..."Oh! Yes! My father used to go there to buy smoked fish when I was a little girl. I remember going there. I grew up on that stuff. Oh my, they've been fishing that lake forever."