Are You an Outsider at the Lake?

Friends of mine have been cottagers on their lake for more than fifteen years. One fine evening I went with them to a local lodge to enjoy a fancy dinner. As we prepared to head back to their cabin after the meal, a young woman walked up and warmly greeted my friends with hugs and kisses.

It turns out that she is well acquainted with their oldest son and was very pleased to see my friends. A few minutes later the woman’s parents approached and politely introduced themselves.

The father, a distinguished looking older gentleman, then said in an interesting tone of voice: “Ah yes, you are some of the new people here”.

At first I though he might have been a bit off, or maybe I had misread his intention, but as the conversation progressed it was evident that he seriously refused to recognize or accept anyone who has built or bought a cabin on “his” lake after the early 70’s.

Now, as I said, my friends have had a property in the area since the mid 90’s and they have known the old boy’s daughter for quite some time, so I couldn’t understand why the man was being so rude.

The next day I asked my friend about the incident and it surprised me to hear that he actually still feels like an outsider, despite being on the lake for the better part of two decades.

Although he doesn’t really care about being considered one of the locals, I wondered how it was possible that on a Canadian lake, my Canadian friend could be made to feel like he doesn’t belong by a stodgy old fart who has to cross an international border to get to his cottage.

Could you imagine if the situation were reversed?

Who Owns The Lake?

Apparently, the gentleman is part of a small group of people who have owned properties in the area since the 50’s and 60’s. For one reason or another they resent the fact that the connected lakes and rivers have not remained their own private playground.

If a First Nations Canadian had made the comment to my friend, it would have been fair game, but I hardly consider it justified by anyone else.

This situation is not exclusive to this particular lake. In fact, after speaking with a number of people who own cottages or cabins on lakes that have older cottage communities, it seems the resentment by the old guard is quite ubiquitous.

Even in my own neck of the woods, there is a definite divide between the “original” owners and those of us who are more recent arrivals.

I do my best to say hello to everyone I come across and almost always wave when people go past my property. Most of the neighbours are polite and respond with a wave or a quick greeting, but in all the time that I have been here only one of the “old guard” neighbours has bothered to take the time to introduce himself and welcome me to the community.

Setting The Rules

Like my friend, I am not particularly interested in becoming one of the lake’s social elite, but a couple of questions beg to be asked:

When, if ever, does a “new” cottager get to be considered a local?

And, who or what determines whether or not you get to be a part of the esteemed club?

If there is going to be a defined “us” and “them” hierarchy at the lake then I suggest the criteria be laid out in a broadly accepted framework that allows local status wannabees to have a benchmark to work from.

In the absence of such clearly defined membership parameters, “new” cottagers on lakes everywhere are going to be left to their own imagination and may be misguided in their assumptions about what the process involves. And some may even fall victim to rumours started by the mischievous locals determined to sabotage the newcomer’s path to “local” status.

How To Get “Local” Status: Top 15 Possible Secret Local Status Requirements
Here are some whispered examples of things that may have an affect on a “new” cottager’s initiation into the local status club at the lake:

There is a secret registration book someplace that logs the amount of time you spend at the cabin. The minimum time requirement for local status is not public knowledge.

You have had an affair with someone in at least three other cottages on your lake.

It depends on how many antique boats you have.

You have to shoot at least one rogue black bear.

You have to know the names of all the unnamed islands, points, hidden reefs, fishing holes, etc.

Local status is based on the original owner of your property.

You must have a rumoured stock portfolio of at least one million dollars.

You have to be sponsored by a “local” to attend the annual pig roast at least twice.

There is a nomination process and secret ballot that takes place every February.

You must be invited to join the “locals only” fishing tournament as a guest for 3 consecutive seasons.

You have to join the local gas co-op.

A crooked half-rotten sign with your family name must sit at the entrance to your cottage driveway for at least 40 years.

You have to catch at least one muskie or northern pike over 48 inches and have it confirmed by a “local”.

At least three generations of your family have to learn to swim at the cottage.

It’s a personality thing. If you simply act like a local, you become one.

The above list is by no means exhaustive and since I am not an official card holding member of my lake’s local status club, I am not privy to the true list of membership requirements.

Written by: Andrew Walker


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