As a 15-year-old Blake Hanko enjoys the best of both worlds growing up here in Ohio — at least for an outdoors-minded teenager. The Erie County 4-H member spends his summers hanging around his family’s Cranberry Creek Marina, located on the shore of Lake Erie just west of Huron, in the heart of some of the best fishing the Great Lakes has to offer. I have boated and fished out of the marina several times in the past couple of seasons and have enjoyed getting to know the folks who operate the popular “mom & pop” boat business — Bob and Susan Hanko — and have come to envy Blake’s lifestyle and demeanor.
At Cranberry Creek, when he’s not helping out his mom or sisters in the bait shop or his dad on the boat docks, he’s netting water snakes or casting for smallmouth bass and perch from the beach and breakwalls of the marina — or any manner of adventures a kid can find in such a setting. Hanko even has his own 16-foot outboard-powered boat, which he’s been puttering around in since he was 12 after taking his watercraft operator’s class, and is an accomplished boat handler and angler.
When the teenager isn’t “messing about” with the boats and the marina, the balance of Blake’s free time is spent on the family farm, some eight miles inland. In the fall and winter, when he’s not tending to his 10 head of market steers or his hay business, he’s hunting deer or taking target practice to hone his shooting skills. This spring Blake planted a garden, which will keep the lad busy and the family in fresh vegetables this summer, and perhaps offer something additional for him to show at the Erie County Fair.
As a kid growing up in suburbia where I had to beg a car ride to the nearest fishable water and discharging a BB gun in my own yard put me on the wrong side of the law, I can only imagine what life would have been like growing with one foot in the country and the other in a boat.
As for Blake, he doesn’t appear to take any of it for granted. He has a great work ethic, appreciates what he’s got, and has his head on straight. At least from this parent’s perspective. Mom and Dad may beg to differ…