The summer before he died, my dad spent all of his free time chopping a walking path along the Oconto River.
He’d emerge after spending hours in the woods, dirty, sweaty, all scratched up from tree branches and wild blackberry bushes, and grinning like an eight-year old on the first day of summer vacation.
The project began with a simple sickle and an axe, but became more sophisticated with every chop. Eventually, he enlisted friends and family to ferry wood pieces via a small river boat to designated drop off points. He’d emerge from the woods to the river’s edge, gather the two-by-fours, and disappear again into the depths.
That summer he built nine bridges along the mile-long path and, sweetly, marked the end of the route by carving two wood chairs out of fallen trees for his grandchildren, five-year old Charlie and three-year old Katherine.
On Friday, we took a lovely spring tramp along the route my dad carved more than 23 years ago. We had our doubts, but the bridges held our weight, though they’d languished untended all this time.
We marveled as we crunched through the knee-deep snow — at the freshness of the air, the stillness of the woods, the promise of new life under all that frozen ground, and, mostly, at my dad’s profound legacy.
We intend to resurrect “Peggy’s Bridle Path,” which is what my dad called his summer project, and we’re deeply grateful for the opportunity to do so. We’re not particularly handy, but we know that’s okay.
We’ll make our way slowly, gratefully accept advice from our talented friends, and follow the generous path my dad carved for us so enthusiastically during the hot summer of 1992.