At the lake, calluses form thick as sap. Shoes become obsolete. Norway pines rustle back and forth high above the dock, and the water is made smooth like silk, even in September.
Horseshoe Lake is near Backus, Minn., pop. 246, home of Scamp Trailers and peppered bacon from the local locker. From Hwy. 371, the tracks left by the Moores' arrival over 30 summers carve ruts in the dirt road. The cabin is shared — the Backus House Commons is collective living at its finest. One week per family between Memorial Day and Labor Day. Not a year goes by without complaints of things missing. That one coffee mug that awaits the first morning sunrise on the deck? It's your coffee mug, but it belongs to everybody else. The struggle of governance plays out in endless rules. The only foods that can be left in the fridge are ketchup (one), mayonnaise (one), mustards (two, and must be different kinds), butter and chocolate bars. But the lake neutralizes. It brings us back to our roots: A large Catholic family, transplanted from Chicago, but longtime Minnesota residents. My dad's nine brothers and two sisters grew up at Fort Snelling (my grandfather worked at Veterans Affairs). My cousins and I grew up at the Backus house.
"I go to Backus to be," one uncle stated. Whether the dining room table groans, heavy with food for 20, or stands abandoned in a week of few visitors, the Moore family inhabits the house. And in fall, we close it down, taking with us the memory of another summer united by the lake.
Lebohang Moore, St. Paul