The crystal clear water of Devil’s Lake, a hidden jewel in Wisconsin, is surrounded by high bluffs which are magnets to hikers, campers and rock climbers alike. My husband, Larry, and I were fortunate to find an available campsite on a picture perfect weekend. We set up the tent just in time to enjoy watching the birds fly over the breathtaking pink and purple sunset. We eagerly looked forward to our friends, Lola and Thom’s, arrival so the hiking, biking and, most importantly, laughing around the campfire could begin. Then I heard a sound that changed everything, “Bang!”Larry shut the door of our 2000 Windstar Ford van. I heard him gasp in shock, “Oh rats! I thought I was unlocking it, not locking it. I left the keys in the van.” “How could you do such a thing?” I moaned.
Sure enough, there they were, laid out between the seats, resting like a silver trout between two pond cup holders. And, as luck would have it, our spare key – tucked under the right wheel – had long since disappeared.
In less technical days, opening a locked vehicle was so much easier. Back when I taught ESL classes at a synagogue, a student from India came to class frantic because he had locked his keys in his car. I promptly marched into the synagogue kitchen and retrieved a handy black spatula and proceeded to squeeze it through the rubber between the windows. Voila, the car opened.
Another time Larry locked the keys in our Ford station wagon. A group of foster teenagers Larry invited camping with us opened it with a coat hanger.
“We learned this trick in our juvie days,” they laughed.
But with computerization, the days of opening cars with a spatula or coat hanger have ended.
Not accepting defeat, I walked around the van a couple of times, before observing one glimmer of hope. The back vent window was opened about two inches. I also noticed a group of male campers toasting their feet around a cozy campfire, after what looked like a fruitful day of fishing.
Normally Larry is a good problem solver, but for some reason this one stumped him. Having given up hope, Larry saw no other solution but to borrow our friend’s car to retrieve another set of keys. I grimaced at the thought of an unnecessary six-hour trip. What a way to ruin a beautiful weekend!
In a frantic state, I walked up to the fishermen and said, “Do you have any ideas how to retrieve our keys from our locked van? The back side vent window is open about two inches.”
“Well, we have a fishing pole and lure,” one camper replied. “But the pole is not long enough to reach from the back of the van to the front. Scratching his head, he said, “We could attach it to something, but what?”
“We could duct tape the lure to my fiberglass tent pole,” Larry piped in with renewed hope.
The ideas continued to swirl from one camper to the next as our plan unfolded. Eventually we decided to tie a treble hook to a twelve inch long piece of fishing line, which we duct taped to the end of Larry’s tent pole, turning the pole to wind the line around it. Where would mankind be without duct tape?
Move over Rover, duct tape is now modern man’s best friend. Getting more excited by the minute, Larry and the fishermen continued to pool their ideas.
“What we have here,” I said to myself, “is a near impossible venture, at least a challenge, and men with nothing better to do. It’s male bonding at its best. MacGyver would be proud of them.”
Larry, our appointed fisherman, assigned us our positions as we prepared to go for the keys. Fishing for car keys – how absurd was that! My job was to stand by the side of the van with a flashlight, while Larry blindly and painstakingly fished his way through the back vent window to the front of the vehicle. He manipulated the fishing rod up and down with help from the campers.
Being the only one who could see clearly, I gave the directions about how to move the pole, “Slightly to the right, Honey,” I told him. “Now move it to the left, and down a bit.”
We were all tense and focused as we engaged in our most unusual fishing venture. As the typical fisherman’s wife, I really didn’t have much hope for its success. But I watched in wonderment as these men maneuvered the pole until it finally hovered over the steel fish–our keys.
“How far above the keys am I?” Larry asked. “How much line should I unravel?”
I watched as the lure made its first scooping attempt, about an inch shy of the capture.
“Try again, Lar. This time more to the right,” I said.
He lowered the hook and unwound the line. After a couple more tense tries, I watched in disbelief as the keys flickered in the moonlight, drawn up into thin air. My heart raced and my stomach did summersaults as they worked the pole backwards.
The fishermen were delighted at the capture, but they didn’t see what I saw – the potential entanglements, including: tossed clothing, camping supplies, and the velour seats, any of which could so easily ensnare our coveted prize. Touch anything and we’re cooked. I continued directing the blind fishermen to move the pole in such a manner as to avoid entrapment. With a sense of empowerment, I was the Siren commanding my ship of male servants who were painstakingly following my directions. I relished the fleeting moment.
In sheer delight, I saw the keys within inches of the vent window. We were breathless with excitement. Handing the flashlight to one of the fishermen, I wedged my tiny fist through the vent window, capturing our prize.
We all jumped up and down in disbelief, and our shouts of triumph could be heard throughout the campground. Where was “America’s Funniest Home Videos” when we needed them? Did we really fish for keys? Larry, having redeemed himself, proved to be an excellent fisherman, though not without his team and sheer luck.
Lola and Thom pulled up, wondering what was causing all the commotion. They were not surprised to hear Larry had locked the keys in the van. He was known for creating problems that required fleets of fishermen to solve.
Enjoying the beauty of the evening and huddling around the inviting campfire, we laughed about our most unusual fishing venture. We already knew–it was going to be a weekend to remember.