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  • Robert Loewendick

Keys Lost in the Lake

The sun was only thirty minutes from setting over the western lake shore. I hung up the cell phone call to our son, Rob, and securely fastened the pocket after sliding my phone into my shorts pocket. Linda sheepishly shook her head and repeatedly said, “I’m sorry. They just slipped out.” It would be dark before Rob arrived with our spare key to our truck – our ride home from Salt Fork Lake, after boating and fishing all day. We rent a boat slip from the State to dock our pontoon boat for the season. “Are you absolutely sure they went in at that exact spot?” I asked. Linda pointed to the rear of the boat, at the point the boat touched the dock. There, when Linda returned from toting a load of gear up to the truck, my key ring, with keys for our three vehicles, house, a small Maglite, and a small metal wrench, fell from her shirt pocket and into the lake.

The keys and flashlight were replaceable, but the little metal wrench, well, it was not. Not because it is so unique I couldn’t find one on Ebay, but the reason I carried that specific wrench every day, was of interesting, sentimental value. The wrench was one of identical twin tools, that during the 1930s, my grandfather carried with him every day. He used the wrenches to adjust the distributor points on the motor of his Model A Ford. Grandpa’s old car would begin to run sour only after a dozen miles of travel, because of the rough roads and wear on his family ride. He’d pull over, pull out those wrenches from his pocket and make the motor adjustment and back on the road he’d go.

After grandpa passed away, my uncle and my father each added one of the wrenches to each of their key rings. Not that they needed the tools for mechanical reasons, but to remind them of the daily hardships their father experienced during those years past. Also to remind them that hard work and not giving up are values a family man must hold and to be thankful for what you have. After my uncle died, my older brother received and added uncle’s wrench to his key ring. When our dad passed a few years later, I placed his wrench on my key cluster. Brother and I would occasionally mention a few words of recognition to each other about our wrenches in third generation hands.

Five years later.

I often teased Linda about losing my keys in the lake, giving her a jousting time when telling the story of the lost key ring to friends. Of course it was an accident and reminded myself that everything is temporary, but knowing grandpa’s little wrench was only ten feet under our boat, was a bit saddening. We tried dragging the lake bottom with heavy hooked fishing lures, large magnets lowered on ropes, and a rake on extended handles. No luck and the years of muck and weight had consumed the keys and wrench collection.

While fishing with Rob one afternoon, he mentioned he has an acquaintance that scuba dives for fun and for hire. Rob suggested he would mention the lost keys to his diver friend and see if he’d be interested in a retrieval attempt. We continued to fish and didn’t mention it again. Rob is an electrical engineer by trade and solving problems is a gift he has. He’s also a tender-hearted man and holds the value of family close. Yes, he’s my son and I may be boasting, but if you met him, you’d soon see for yourself. His caring and hard working character reflects several traits of his great-grandfather who began the wrench relay from decades past.

A couple weeks ago, while helping my daughter and her boyfriend with some firewood at her house, Rob pulled into the driveway. We were taking a break and enjoying a cool drink. Darkness was falling and Rob asked if I had a small flashlight in my pocket. I usually do, but not this day. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a little, dim light and he said his needed a battery. As he extended his hand to show me the light, I noticed the lens edges were caked with mud. My heart paused and my eyes widened. The little light was attached to a ring of muddy keys. And a little muddy wrench, that underneath, shined with hope and of never giving up.

Clint Huffman located the key ring in four inches of mucky lake bottom.

The Maglite still worked after five years underwater.

Grandfather's wrench survives.


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