MUSKOKA SUN - Many of our Muskoka friends are, like us, lifelong cottagers who’ve been here since our youth. We’ve seen many, many changes over the years. And because we’re all now in our 60s and exercising our right to be crabby and curmudgeonly, we find ourselves like Statler and Hilton from the Muppet Show, sipping our martinis on the deck and complaining about the latest SeaRay to blast past our docks at what appears to be a new aqua-speed record.
HOLD ON TIGHT.
Staying on a tube is one thing. Staying on a tube with half a dozen friends is another level of challenge entirely. The driver of this boat didn’t have to work very hard to dump his passengers off the shore at Clevelands House, but nobody seemed to mind very much at all.
Photo by Andrew Wagner-Chazalon
“These new cottagers,” we whine, “no appreciation for peace and quiet. We never used to go so fast, or so darn CLOSE!”
Well, the first part is definitely true. Boats didn’t go much quicker than 30 miles an hour back in the ’60s. Today’s boats do that in neutral. As for proximity, well, I can sure remember my Dad standing on our deck, gesturing madly to passing boats to, basically, get the hell off our property because they were almost grazing the dock.
In fact, further to that very point, I have often pointed out to my friends that for all the obnoxious behaviour we see on the lakes and the roads, and in the stores in Muskoka today, not much has changed. I suggest to them that, if we flash back to, say, 1960, what would some of those grandparents rocking on their verandahs have thought of us kids, ripping around the lakes in our little Peterborough outboards, or skiing slalom for hours on end behind Dad’s ChrisCraft?
“These kids today, no respect for peace and quiet” was, I’m sure, a repeated chorus that rang out often from Gravenhurst to Port Cockburn 50 years ago, and every decade before and since.
Perhaps the most egregiously obnoxious behaviour back when I was a kid, I’m ashamed to say, came from my very own family. We owned an island in the middle of Lake Rosseau in the ‘60s, and one of our favourite family pastimes on a pleasant summer evening, after dinner, was to trundle out to a small deck about 100 feet from the cottage. There, my Dad had set up an electric clay pigeon launcher, and the five of us – my Mum and Dad, my two older brothers and I – would fire off round after round of shotgun blasts as we’d have family skeet shoot competitions. Good heavens, you’d think we were the Clampetts.
Today, I just shudder at how inconsiderate this behaviour was! Can you imagine how many dozens of cottagers, within a mile of our island, must have been cursing the Deeks family for destroying their peaceful post dinner conversation with pow-pow-pow for half an hour!? Seriously, please accept my apologies. Even if you weren’t there!
The one big difference between then and now, though, is that there’s certainly more people, and more cars, and more boats today. And the boats are generally bigger and certainly faster. What that means is that bad or unsafe or irresponsible behaviour affects, or potentially endangers, more people. A few drinks behind the wheel of a boat in 1960 posed less of a threat than it would today, which is why the OPP crackdown of the last few years really is a good thing… even if it’s put a big damper on the old idea of fun.
It’s sad to say, though, but bad or unsafe or irresponsible behaviour still tends to be concentrated among the under-25 set. I see younger kids today exhibiting the same kind of cocky behaviour and me-first attitude that my friends and I did a long time ago. Speeding right through the river in and out of Port Carling, gunning their boats as they pull away from a dock or marina, tying up in the middle of a two-boat dock space, running sea-doos as if they were the only vessels on the water, playing their in-boat sound systems loud enough that the Space Shuttle could hear them. But as much as we grow up to realize that this kind of behaviour is inconsiderate, there’s always a new crew growing into it behind us.
Nonetheless, good and bad behaviour are all part of Muskoka. And Muskoka is the world’s greatest resort because it’s a haven for families, for kids from one to ninety-two.
We are all privileged to be here, whether we own, rent or visit. And for those of us who are guilty of complaining about those who are guilty of not fully appreciating the privilege, I’d just say, let’s keep it in perspective, shall we?
It can’t be as bad as listening to shotguns every night.
Jim Deeks has been a Muskoka cottager, and member of the MLA, all his life. He also writes a column on golf for another publication in Ontario. email@example.com