“THE BEAT GOES on. Drums keep pounding a rhythm to the brain.” 

—Sonny and Cher, 1967



So sang America’s favorite singing and comedy couple of the 1960s. The song was all about America and how things stay the same, though the times may change.

It still is a pretty good summation of today’s world. Men still go off to war. Boys still chase girls hoping for a kiss. Grandmas still sit in rocking chairs and reminisce. Electrically they keep a baseball score. The grocery store’s the super mart.

Back in those days, I still chased pretty girls hoping for a kiss. The little grocery store in Sayner gave way to “big” supermarkets in Minocqua and Eagle River. Playing baseball in Sayner we had yet to keep our scores electrically, but in just a few years hence, we would.

My grandma didn’t sit in a rocking chair, but she sure could keep all her grandsons entertained with stories of years gone by. Far too many men marched off to war in 1967. Cars went faster and though I never got a ticket, I did catch holy you know what when someone would squeal on me to my dad that they saw me going past their house doing 80. I did point out to my dad that the old Nash Rambler wouldn’t do more than 70 on its best day, but I still caught heck.

Well, the beat does go on. All those things that went on back in the ’60s are still going on. Now, we have added things to it like riots, protests, oh, wait, we had lots of that going on back then too. Grandmas reminiscing? Yep, grandmas are still doing that; only now they must do it while maintaining a social distance.

Not all of the beat that’s going on is a happy beat, but fortunately for me and my lovely wife, we do keep a happy beat going in several ways. Over these last several months, we have kept the beat going practically every weekend with day trips to some of the best places to be found in northern Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

Last week, we made it an extended road trip; three days, it was. About 90 miles from home we spent those three days camping at Brunet Island State Park in Cornell. The park is situated on a 1,000-acre-plus island bounded by the Chippewa and Fisher rivers. We had checked it out several times in the past, but we had never camped there.

It was, as are all state parks in Wisconsin, Michigan and Minnesota that I have been checking on for available dates, packed to the gills with people. Every site was filled and yet, the dense old-growth forest that covers the island gave you an air of peace and quiet no matter how many people rode bikes, hiked, paddled kayaks or canoes or walked dogs past your site.

We did most of those things everyone else was doing. We sat around a campfire in the evening. I did bacon, hash browns and eggs in the same blackened fry pan at the same time just as I have done forever.

We were entertained by deer casually browsing in a deep hollow to one side of our site and up on a low ridge on the other. There were plenty of them wherever you went in the park including triplet fawns, which I figured were very late drops judging by what I deemed to be their maximum weight of maybe 25 to 30 pounds each.

We listened to barred owls “hooty hoot hoot” each night. We had many different birds entertain us, one of them being a big pileated woodpecker which flopped its way over our heads as we hiked the Spruce Trail along the Fisher River.

With a name like that, I naturally found it to be an obligation to fish that body of water. Our last day in the park, the Fisher River treated me much better than the lagoons off the Chippewa the day before. The lagoons had lots of fish, but if you put four or five of the bluegills and perch I was catching together, you might have had one eating-sized fish. They were tiny.

The fish I caught on the Fisher were not. Armed with my ultralight rod, I caught a pair of beautiful smallmouth bass within five minutes of kayaking across the river from the landing to a huge downed tree half submerged along the far shore.

It took a lot of skill and fancy rigging to present an attractive lure to them. Yeah, sure! A tiny red bobber, a 1⁄32-ounce hot pink jig and half a worm on the hook, can’t get any more simple than that.

The downed tree proved to be a bluegill magnet. Surprisingly, the big ones weren’t hanging out in the deeper water off the end of the tree. Instead, they were mostly in 18- to 30-inch deep water within 10 feet of shore or closer. Who knew?

Fishing there, as well as up the river to its junction with the Chippewa, I caught lots more bluegills, but no more bass. I kept just six ’gills, all between 8 1⁄2 and 9 1⁄2 inches. They made for a meal’s worth of fillets for the fry pan when I got back to the campsite.

Soon, our time ran out and with an ice cream cone from a local shop, we were on our way back to the present world of grandmas reminiscing, supermarkets becoming more and more super in size, and baseball games where they keep the scores electrically. 

And the beat goes on.