Here’s what I know has been lost in the bottom of Lake Hallie. Three pairs of my reading glasses and one beater from my electric mixer. More hooks, bobbers, lures and other fishing gear than you could count. Thousands of balls from Lake Hallie Golf. Jewelry, like my neighbors Sue Mertens’ and Marion Mecikalski’s diamond rings and likely countless others.
Here’s what’s been found: About 1,000 golf balls a summer for over 50 years for Marion and her husband, scooped out of the shallows with a butterfly net. One pair of my glasses and my beater; one of those lost rings.
Dave Mecikalski arrived unannounced at a girl’s house after she showed interest in what their mutual friend pitched as “a chance to date an outdoorsman.” He and Marion have been together ever since.
They bought their house on Lake Hallie in 1967 and moved in after getting married. Marion was 18, and Dave was 20. A few years later, while Marion’s family visited, she gave her wedding ring to her brother for their mother to hold. Marion never swam in her jewelry for fear of losing it. While she was cooling off in the lake, she noticed her brother raking the grass. Before he’d handed his sister’s precious ring off to Mom, he flipped it in the air and caught it. Flipped it higher in the air and lost it coming down.
In the days that followed Dave ran a metal detector over every blade of grass in a grid pattern throughout their yard. Later he brought home a military-grade mine detector that could search underwater. He found nothing but every screw, nail or wire ever dropped into that part of Lake Hallie.
Marion continues their story: “Twenty-six months later, on the 30th of October, Dave and his dad were taking the boats out after a belly-washer of a rain.”
There were three holes in the bank near where the ring was lost. That heavy rain flushed everything out. Dave tells me, “I looked down and there it was, sparkling up at me in about six inches of water.” How many times in those past two years had his eyes scanned their yard and beach for that ring? At first he thought he’d found another pop-top from a beer can.
He says, “I never gave up looking.” Marion adds, “It was a shock.” She put the ring back on next to her replacement band and wore them as a set, a story of hope on display.
Lives have also been lost in Lake Hallie. A boating accident made the front page of the Eau Claire Leader on July 25, 1917. Oscar Anderson, 33, was a tailor; John Anderson, 37, was a baker. They shared the same surname but were not related. One friend rowed while the other stood at the bow of their rented boat. An oar fell in the water and when one man reached for it, the boat tipped, and they both tumbled in. Oscar was found immediately, John the next day. Their families buried them together in one grave.
This was not the only tragedy here. The first was reported by the Leader on July 13, 1883: “A little Norwegian boy, whose name we were unable to learn, was drowned at Badger Mills last Sunday.” The second happened in July, 1897. A short Leader article reads, “A 15-year-old-boy named Larson was drowned in Lake Hallie. ... The family are farmers and live near Badger.” No obituaries appeared for these immigrant children. They are likely buried near where they died.
In July, 1939, 3-year-old Esther Revor stumbled off a dock while playing. Her grandfather found her body in Lake Hallie one hour after she was missed. He may have grown up hearing stories about the others lost to this lake. Such heartbreak is unimaginable, which makes all of the replaceable things that have vanished seem so insignificant.
My former neighbor Sue Mertens’ expensive ring has never been found. Her husband’s gift was a heart design with a diamond in the center. Inside the band, he had engraved “I give my heart to you.” After a day in the water raking weeds to clear her beach, Sue realized her ring was gone. She tells me her husband is a gentle man: “He wouldn’t yell at me, ever.” Still, Tom was stunned at the loss.
Once they searched the sand and found nothing, Sue quipped, “I guess my heart belongs to Lake Hallie now.”
People may wonder how I could lose a beater in a lake. Simple: To save gray water from filling my septic tank, each night after doing dishes I throw a bucket-full over my balcony onto the rocks that hold up my shore. Sometimes I miss a utensil or two. At first I accused my husband, the one who empties the dish rack, of losing our beater. I held its partner in my hand. Beaters only function as a pair, like chop sticks or knitting needles or oars.
“Think,” I said impatiently. “Where did you put it?” This was February, back when we mostly only saw each other. Some days I was testy. Bruce shrugged. We both wanted butterscotch pudding. That night, and for many afterward, I mixed with just the remaining beater.
A few weeks ago while trimming shrubs along my bank I noticed something silver wedged in the sand. Six months earlier that beater had pierced the frozen earth like a now-banned lawn Jart tossed from one story up. After the spring thaw it likely slid into the lake. I scrubbed off the grime and made our next dessert in record time. Still, I may never again run my mixer without remembering the months of my one-beater pudding. Each time I was reminded of that Zen koan, “What is the sound of one hand clapping?” As if we need a riddle to remind us that the universe is fragile.