TRAVERSE CITY — The lake was pancake-flat, on a day so placid one’s neck hairs might bristle in the eerie silence. That’s when Sonja Daniels Moehle spotted something in the water beneath her kayak.
Sonja, 10, called to her dad, David Moehle, who paddled alongside her on the northern Benzie County lake that Easter afternoon. They skimmed along the 50-foot-wide strip of water between a lingering ice sheet and the shoreline. They hovered over the spot where two arching objects created a sort of tan oval in the silt-draped bottom 3 feet below.
They paddled the same area many times before, but never noticed anything unusual.
“I was like, ‘Is that horse ribs?’” Sonja said. “I was like, ‘That’s a bone.’”
She imagined the two pieces — and another one sitting inside the circle they formed — were local lore brought to life, a tale lake landowners used to share with visitors.
Legend has it a team of horses broke through the ice and drowned while pulling a logging sled more than 100 years ago. Ghost horses, the story goes, live in the lake and can still be seen today. The family asked for the location of the find to remain vague.
“I told her it was just drift wood,” David said. “I grabbed hold of it and fully expected to pull up a stick.”
But what David saw wasn’t a stick, a stump or a piece of trash. It was a discovery that for his family of four launched a months-long lesson.
Giant deer, or something else?
Amy Daniels Moehle vividly remembers the afternoon. She and her older daughter, Nadia, 14, sat inside the family’s house watching a movie, staying warm and waiting for a pork roast to finish cooking.
David called on his cellphone. They needed to come to the lake immediately to see their find.