By Gale Fiege Herald Writer
MARYSVILLE — Larry Larson woke his grandson Brenden Hale early that morning.
Hunters always get up in the dark.
They donned their camo, hats and boots.
On the drive north to the foggy mouth of the Skagit River, they stopped for hot chocolate and fresh doughnuts.
Brenden, 11, likes his grandfather’s traditional hunting-day breakfast. It keeps a boy warm.
Larson’s father, the late Bob Larson, loved to hunt with his family, so years ago he bought 26 acres along Skagit Bay.
From there, Bob Larson could look south toward Stanwood, where he had served as superintendent of schools and as mayor, and where, in September, the town named the high school stadium in his memory.
Hunting was a family pastime that tied the generations together, Bob Larson always said. His family scattered his ashes at the property.
Since Great-Grandpa Larson died last spring, it’s a good place to go to remember him, Brenden said.
It was mid-October, the first day of hunting season.
After setting up the duck blind and settling into the hunting shack, Brenden and his grandfather waited for a fly-over.
Larson rarely lets Brenden stray off task. Hunting is serious business. You have to stay focused.
Brenden completed his hunter safety course last year. The youngest in the class, Brenden earned one of the highest scores. Larson, the father of daughters, was pleased. He had his new hunting partner.
As the morning grew late, with no ducks on the horizon, Papa Larson let Brenden go off to play in the driftwood along the water.
The tide was out so the boy walked down the sandy beach.
“Then I saw something flat sticking up. It was the same color as the driftwood, but not really like it,” Brenden said. “I ran over to look.”
Heidi Larson Hale says her parents tend to spoil her children.
Her husband, Marysville Fire Capt. Chad Hale, smiles and agrees.
Brenden and his sister Danyel, 7, often receive small gifts from Papa and Nana (Larry and Val) Larson.
The kids were out shopping with their grandmother in the summer of 2009 when Brenden spotted a boomerang in the toy aisle of the store. The main character in one of his video games uses boomerangs, and he was eager to try one out.
Sure enough, Nana bought the boomerang.
For more than a year, Brenden and the boomerang were inseparable.
One day in June, Brenden, his sister and a classmate from Conway Elementary School were playing along the Skagit River in Mount Vernon.
“I thought I was being smart. To keep it out of the river, I threw it away from the water,” Brenden said.
His throw was too good, however. The treasured boomerang circled back over Brenden’s head and splashed into the fast-moving river.
“Too bad, dude,” his friend said.
Brenden ran down a trail, but he couldn’t even get close to the river’s edge.
“I watched my boomerang float away.
“I had told my mom that the boomerang would always come back,” Brenden said. “My mom told me I learned a lesson.”
Brenden wondered what that strange piece of wood might be, stuck there in a pile of driftwood not far from his family’s hunting shack on Skagit Bay.
Because the tide was out, he was able to reach it easily by running over the sand. Brenden scrambled up the pile and pulled.
The piece of wood was crusty and slightly misshapen.
It was a boomerang.
Brenden turned it over.
At one end was a tell-tale notch. It felt familiar.
“Papa!” Brenden yelled to his grandfather.
Larry Larson scratched his head. He was stunned.
Brenden’s long-lost boomerang had traveled close to 10 miles down the Skagit. It obviously floated past all sorts of snags and eddies and out the north fork of the river to the bay before it somehow wound up on the beach at the family property.
“Wow,” Larson said.
Brenden said the boomerang’s return must have been a message from his great-grandpa to wish them a good hunting day. How else would he have found it?
When Brenden got to Papa Larson’s house in Marysville that afternoon, he couldn’t wait to phone his mother.
He gleefully told his family the hunting-day story.
“See, Mom,” Brenden said. “Boomerangs really do come back!”
Gale Fiege: 425-339-3427; email@example.com.