By AARON TURNER Hill Billy Editor
GREY EAGLE -- Cousin Todd Martin has a gift for coming up with unique games, games usually designed around his own ability to win. Saturday at Big Birch Lake, he took a big swing ... and missed. At the sprawling Lake located in Central Minnesota, the Johnson family is blessed with lake-front property and several cabins. Out in front of some of their beach-front, sits a home-made raft, nicely built of 2x6 lumber on 55-gallon blue plastic drums, chained to the bottom and affixed some 20 feet off shore. (Webmaster's note: See photo Above) It's there that Martin had his first go-round with game-making. He called the game "Pontoon Platform Police." The game was crude, if not a touch fun. There was one officer located under the raft. There's nearly 18 inches of clearance from water level to the joists. The jailbreakers had to start at the ladder, and after a five-second headstart, the police would begin the search. Contestants would try to circle the raft, keeping in contact with either the raft or the drums underneath. The officer would then try to touch each breaker and the one that made it all the way around would begin as the police in the next round. The game bombed. However, from that game blossomed pure genious. Martin and Matt Bever brainstormed and came up with the best name yet, "All Hands on Deck." Some wanted to use that name for "Pontoon Platform Police," yet they held off. On the next day, "a major step in the evolution raft games," as Bever said, occured. Cousin Aaron Turner found a whiffle ball on the beach, and from that simple discovery came the present and future of raft games from now until eternity. With the simple addition, many hours sifted by. The premise was similar, only the police officer started with the ball and contestants could start from any position on the raft with the corners being the most coveted spot. The officer was limited this go-round to the center of the raft and must stay in contact with either of the center two (there are six total) barrels. "It was revolutionary," said Marc Bever, a veteran of several years of rafting games. "I really think it's going to set the standard for rafting games from now on." It's not gender exclusive, either, nor age discriminatory. The Bever descendants: Marc, Matt, Todd, Aaron and in-law Jason Warnock, as well as several Johnson decendants: Breanna, Grant and Maddy all tried the game, and all loved it. After the original officer tagged the first person out, that culprit was soon an aide to the officer, with tag-team strategies coming into play. The choppy waters of Big Birch Lake added a little hijinx as the waves lifted and slammed the raft back. Turner, it was said, was at an advantage. His 6-foot-4 frame was the biggest wing span of the group, but it was little 9-year-old Maddy Johnson that got the gamer award, playing in water over her head without the aide of a lifejacket. Grant Johnson provided much of the comic relief, but it was the essence of the game, of "All Hands on Deck" that won the crowd and, without a doubt, will soon become a legacy of Lafayette Resort on Big Birch Lake.
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