IT WAS A beautiful afternoon for paddling a kayak around West Plum Lake. There was a brisk wind out of the west that had pushed every cloud out of the sky and a bright sun shone from above. It was 60 degrees, according to my truck’s thermometer reading.

That was last Saturday and as of today, we are all still waiting for another such day to come; maybe by July.

Days like Saturday are to be treasured, no matter how fleeting they may be or how little they foretell what is to come the very next day. Snow in the forecast for Sunday and Monday didn’t dampen my spirits as I launched my kayak for the very first time this year.

From the landing I paddled across the lake to head west along the shoreline where there was a little shelter from the wind. Paddling past the only private property on West Plum, owned by good friend Jim Thomas, I noticed that the beaver house by his side pond was bigger and better than ever; better if you are a beaver that is.

Several wood duck houses along the swampy shoreline were still empty, but flushing a pair of woodies just beyond the last house in line brought a smile to my face. At least one nest is likely to soon be occupied.

As they burst out from overhanging branches along the shore just ahead of me, I could not but marvel over the stunning beauty of a drake wood duck. No matter how many wood ducks I see, I never get over feeling anything less than awe at how beautiful they are. I will say without hesitation that anyone who does not consider the wood duck drake in full breeding plumage to be the most beautiful member of the waterfowl family in the world is just plain crazy.

Not far beyond the wood ducks were three more ducks — hooded mergansers, two drakes and a hen. Mergansers are near the bottom of the basket when it comes to eating quality, narrowly bettering spoonbills, but are right up there when it comes to springtime beauty. As with all birds, it is the drake that stands out with a crest dominated by snow-white feathers.

Down toward the last point before getting to the very back end of West Plum, my mind drifted back to the days when I was a child. I can’t tell you how many times my cousins and I rowed a boat from their grandfather’s resort on Plum Lake proper to fish and explore every inch of the lake and shoreline.

Here was the place where we pulled up on shore one afternoon, bored with catching no fish, to indulge in a favorite pastime. With an abundance of fallen limbs, we had a ready supply of fighting staffs. There was no abundance of brains as we emerged from our Robin Hood battles with scarred knuckles, bruised wrists, and other assorted scrapes and cuts.

Out from that point was the spot where I first learned I might not be destined to become a ladies man. A sunny summer afternoon I went fishing. With me was the sister of a summer cabin resident on Plum. I was 12 or 13; she somewhere about 16 as I remember.

I fished. She, wearing a sleeveless scoop-neck top and short shorts, served as pleasant company while sunning herself from the back seat of the boat.

All was going swimmingly well, with thoughts beginning to spin through my head that a teenaged girl’s body was amazingly pleasing to look at. Then, succumbing to an ever inquisitive, but sadly less than intelligent mind, I asked her what all that stubble was on her shins.

The moment had ended. I’m sure she had not shared the amorous thoughts I’d been having and if so, I had just thrown sufficient cold water on them to permanently douse them.

As I circled the lake I passed other spots which brought back memories. There was the place where Violet Thomas, Jim’s mom, had directed me and my two cousins to fish for perch. That afternoon, the cousins got in a fight over who got to sit in the front seat where most of the perch seemed to congregate, while I was dumb lucky enough to stay out of the brawl.

What they didn’t know was that Uncle Neal was watching us with binoculars and was waiting for us with a willow switch in his hand as we rowed back there a while later.

My cousins felt the switch across their backsides. Uncle Neal said he should give me a lick or two just on general purposes, but let me off with a stern warning about misbehaving in a boat.

With the breeze pushing me back toward the landing, I had time to study the water ahead of me, watching seven mergansers, four of them beautiful drakes, keeping a safe distance between us.

I watched a bald eagle hover not far above the water, then make a sudden swoop that proved fruitless as a pair of mallards jumped and flew out of harm’s way while he was still about 10 or 15 yards above them.

Back at the landing a father and daughter, good friends of mine, were about to launch a canoe for their maiden voyage of the year.

It was a perfect day for it.