By Steve Weisman
It’s amazing how fast a generation can pass. When we are young, it seems that time sometimes stands still. Seconds crawl by like hours, and we think an event a month away is forever. A year, well a year is light years away. However, as we age, those notions begin to leave us. By the time we are middle age, we are telling our children to “not wish your life away by wanting time to go by more quickly!” We also begin to see those mentors (parents, aunts and uncles, and other adults) that we have looked up to begin to die. That’s when it strikes us: just how quickly a generation can pass.
In the past six months, I have lost two such mentors. One was my father-in-law, Alvin Scheffel and the other his older brother, Lloyd Scheffel. They both lived long, full lives (91 and 96 respectively), but as it usually is to their family members and friends, we wanted them around longer than that. Now that is truly selfish, isn’t it!
They were part of the Scheffel clan (6 boys and a girl) who grew up in Tyndall, SD. I still remember them telling me stories of how the boys would leave school over noon hour to go road hunting for pheasants and come back with their limits! Their dad would take the entire clan up to Lake Kabetogama for a week when they were kids, and later when I got to know them, they would spend a week out at the Missouri River camping along the banks of Sutton’s Bay near Gettysburg, SD.
All of the boys went on to college with four of them, my father-in-law, his twin brother, Melvin, Lloyd and Alfred all becoming doctors. Another one became a funeral director and the final brother became a pharmacist. That’s quite a record, I would say considering they grew up in the late 1920s. And talk about strong willed! They were that. Yet they were also kind and compassionate. Just what you would like to have for a mentor – lucky me!
When I talk of a generation coming and going, that is what happened when Alvin and Lloyd passed away this year. All of the siblings in that family have now left us. I say that with mixed feelings: pride in knowing how wonderful and successful they were, sadness in that we had to let them go and yet peace knowing that they have gone on to a better place.
I do have to tell you this. Both Alvin and Lloyd practiced medicine for over 40 years. Alvin was the senior doctor in a five-physician family practice in Redfield, SD, while Lloyd was an obstetrician/gynecologist in Chicago. Ready for this one? Lloyd delivered well over 20,000 babies in his career! To put that into perspective, the population of Estherville, Spencer and Spirit Lake combined is only around 22,000! That’s how many babies that he delivered in his career!
Rendezvous at Triggs Bay Resort
For over 30 years, the Scheffel families came for a week in late May to stay at Triggs Bay Resort on East Okoboji. My wife and I lived only 20 miles away in Estherville, so we would come over every day to be part of the Scheffel “rebellion!” It was family time, but to the Scheffel “boys,” it was fish, fish, fish and then fish, fish, fish some more. Their motto: if a little was good for you, a whole lot was much, much better.
Well, luckily for us, I had a pontoon for most of those years and could handle up to 12 people at a time. Most of the time, we had at least 6-8 of us out fishing. Although it was important to all of us, there was one young man who was most special. That would be Tom, Lloyd’s son, who was mentally handicapped. There was one thing he waited for and talked about all year: coming to Triggs.
His passion was fishing bluegills with a cane pole that his Uncle Alvin had rigged up for him. It was simple but deadly: a bobber, a plain hook with a splitshot about 12” above it and a Belgian worm suspended at whatever depth the bluegills were at. During late May they were in the shallows, so it was perfect.
Tom would watch that bobber so patiently, and all of a sudden he’d lift the pole, pop the bobber out of the water and the bluegill would fight in big circles around and around until it popped out of the water.
Then it really got exciting, because that bluegill would come flying toward the boat – beware of flying bluegills! We’d fish by the hours, sorting, keeping some and letting some go back. So many wonderful, wonderful memories.
Uncle Lloyd, every once in a while would ask Tom, “What are you doing Tom?”
Tom would simply reply, “Fishing.”
“Are you having fun, Tom?”
One word response, “Yes!” Suddenly the bobber would bounce and Tom would bring another bluegill into the pontoon. “Are you having fun, Tom?” I would ask.
My wife and I attended Lloyd’s funeral, and Tom was the one who received the United States flag in memory of his dad’s service in the Navy during World War II. The last couple of years were hard on both Alvin and Lloyd, and the trips to Triggs had to end. However, the sparkle in their eyes remained, and there were the memories!
I do wonder, however, how this went down on Halloween Eve. It was Monday Night football, and my father-in-law was a long enduring Viking fan, and Lloyd was a Bears fan! That night, I think I could hear the rumbling up above! Of course, the older brother (da Bears) won that one!
(photos by Steve Weisman) Typical bluegill catches while staying at Triggs Bay Resort: