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Location: Washington State, United States

10 September 2006

A Drive Over A Lake

The IJsselmeer was created in 1932 when the Zuiderzee, an inland sea, was closed by a 32km (19.88 mile) dam, the Afsluitdijk. This was a part of a major land-reclamation project, which was known as the Zuiderzee Works. The IJsselmeer is now used as a major fresh-water reserve- for drinking water, agriculture and recreational activities (although I don't think my father's antics could exactly be construed as a recreational activity.) Continued draining of the IJsselmeer polders exposed many planes that had crashed into the lake during WWII.
My father's little escapade took place in a Citroen 2CV, a "lelijke eend" (ugly duckling.) My father and a couple of his buddies thought it would be a real hoot to drive the Lelijke Eend over the frozen IJsselmeer at night. Their destination- Urk.
Urk was a small isolated (and very religious) island for over 900 years, with salt-water fishing as its main economy. This ended when the Afsluitdijk was built. Urk was then connected to the mainland for the first time. Today, fishing is still the main industry.
Here is a little Urkian story:
The most famous Urkish folktale must be the tale parents tell their children when they want to know where little babies come from. The tale involves a big stone which is about 30 metres from the shore of this former island. This stone is known as the Ommelebommelestien (I dare you to pronounce that!) Legend has it that on this earth there are two kinds of people, strangers and Urkers (people from Urk). Strangers are usually born from a cabbage or a stork brings them to their new parents; however Urkers come from this big stone which lies about 30 meters from the shores of their former island.
Nowadays the stone is usually called 'Ommelebommelestien'(Ommel Bommel Stone), but in older days people used to call this stone the Ommelmoerstien: moer means "mother" in the Urkish dialect.
Father stork comes all the way from Egypt to put babies in this stone. When the baby is about to be born the baby's father has to go to Schokland to pick up the key that gives access to the stone. So when you ask a Urkish man if he has been to Schokland, you actually ask if he has children.
In the older days when both Urk and Schokland were still islands in the Zuiderzee, the father had to take the obstetritian in his boat and row from Urk to Schokland to get the key, and from Schokland to the Ommelebommelestien to get the baby. Nowadays he can probably just go to Schokland by car, but has to row to the stone anyway. The door to the stone is somewhere below sea level, so pretty hard to find.
Once the door is found a small price had to be paid for the baby, one Dutch Guilder for a girl but two for a boy. That was in the old days; nowadays the same amount has to be paid in euros, and because Dutch law does not allow sex discrimination, the price for both a girl and a boy is the same: 2 euros.
Mother is kept in bed with a nail through her right foot. She must celebrate that she has just become a mother. I'd rather celebrate with a gin and tonic. When you visit Urk be sure to have a look at this wonderful stone. Right in front of it a small statue is erected. It shows the father rowing to the stone and the obstetrician holding the baby.
Anyway, back to the intrepid travellers. It was dark, and since the IJsselmeer was a lake, there were no streetlights. Their only guidance was Urk's lighthouse. I'm not sure if most lighthouses are used this way. They had a couple of scares with rough ice, and thin ice. The conclusion is not very exciting, although the drive certainly was. They made it safely, and for some reason, this is one of my dad's favorite memories. My father- parting the Red Sea. He seems very proud when he tells it. I'm sure if I did the same thing I would hear forever about how stupid this kind of motoring is.

But then again, it might be just another reason why I do the sometimes not-so-wise things I do, and that I'm very proud of doing them.


Blogger QuillDancer said...

My exhusband used to tell his son stories about driving out on the lake and ice fishing from the cab of his pickup. My step-son and his best friend-thought that sounded like fun so they gave it a try. Luckily they didn't make it far from shore and sank the Jeep in about 7 feet of water. They came home safe -- wet, shivering and smarter.

10 September, 2006 16:08  
Blogger INAMINI said...

QuillDancer- men, what makes them think they can get away with anything? Do they ever really grow up? ;)

10 September, 2006 18:01  
Blogger Lizza said...

Okay, this entry brings up a couple of questions...and even before I've had my morning coffee! (darn you, woman)
1. So, basically Urkers are Egyptian? haha
2. Your father and his buds risked life and limb to drive over a somewhat dark, thinly-frozen lake...just for kicks?

He sounds quite the character! And I'd love to hear about the Daddy-inspired not-so-wise things that you do.

Wonderful story, inamini.

10 September, 2006 21:03  
Anonymous INAMINI said...

lizza- I'm sorry about the questions. About Urkers being Egyptians- I'm just impressed that they had obstreticians. My dad's judgment skills- they haven't improved much over time, but they certainly provide for colorful conversations. Please feel free to enjoy your coffee now!

11 September, 2006 16:19  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Inamini,

I was just surfing on the internet when I found your story about Urk. I come from Urk and what you told about the origian of Urkian kids is indeed the most famous folklore of Urk. During summer we always tried to find the door but off course we never found it :). Anyway a real nice story. You have been in Urk before?

regards Andre

01 February, 2008 03:47  

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