By Pat DeKok Spilseth
Looking out my windows I see the lake’s surface is a smooth, unblemished mirror of frozen ice. It makes me to want to grab ice skates and twirl on the frozen pond. Though this is perfect ice for skaters and ice boats, none are skimming across the slick ice. It’s still too risky to fall and break through the thin ice! I see four neighborhood grandaughters skating close to the shore accompanied by their sniffing dog and watchful parents. So far, no adventurous boys are skating farther out on the ice.
If only my ice skates didn’t pinch my toes when I try to squeeze them into their painful grip! Oh, if I was 20 or 30 once again! Falling on ice and breaking a hip or leg is simply too daunting for me at this senior stage of life. In my dreams I remember skating on the frozen football field in Glenwood while music blared from the warming house. Kids would attempt to skate figure 8s and skate backwards. I’d remember pretending to be a skater in the famous Ice Follies. When enough kids arrived at the pond we’d get in line and Crack the Whip…hopefully I wouldn’t be at the end of the line. It was so much fun, but I hated it when it was ME being flung into a snowbank!
When Dave and I had young kids, by January we usually had plenty of snow on our lawns. In the wooded park across the street there were great sliding hills. We’d bundle up the kids in snowpants, warm jackets, stocking hats, boots and mittens and strap on thin wooden skis to cross country ski on gentle hills in the park. Often a few neighbors would join us. When we got tired and wet from falling in the snow, we’d go inside for hot chocolate and visiting by the fireplace. What a great neighborhood for kids to grow up in!
Now most of our neighbors are retired. In the last few years young families with children and pets are moving into new houses. It’s delightful to see lemonade stands, strollers, bikes and kids rollerblading in the street; however, drivers need to be on alert because the road has become an obstacle course with all the construction activity. I love seeing kids playing hide and seek in the wooded park, climbing trees and searching for treasures once again. I miss those years of everyone meeting at the bus stop in the morning, kids climbing in our treehouse and swimming at the dock.
With COVID dominating our lives today, I bet more people will soon be fishing on the ice. Each winter I look forward to watching fishermen drag their fish shanties out onto the ice in our bay. They never stay in one space very long. They move willy-nilly with the fish. The colorful little houses are being modernized more each year. Fishermen no longer seem to be content quietly fishing in their dark houses. Some have TVs hooked up and coffee warming on some gismo. New-fangled portable houses have propane heaters, electric lights, a stove, fold-up bunks and even a bathroom. Ice fishing can get spendy. It seems that popular activities for many fishing folks are card games as well as drinking coffee with shots of whiskey flowing freely.
Fishing can be a great “get-away” for some folks. They move their “man caves” onto the lake as soon as the ice is safe. One has to wait for thick enough frozen ice so pickups can drag the houses onto the ice. Guys and gals will spend glorious hours fishing in the quietness of these dark houses.
My mom, Esther, liked to fish with her buddy Evelyn Husom. They’d drink endless cups of weak coffee, watered down to get more coffee out of the measured teaspoon of Folgers coffee. Supposedly, they wouldn’t get “jittery coffee nerves” drinking diluted coffee. Back in the 50s I think the girls enjoyed the quiet solitude of their hours in their ice house as much as the men. No telephone would ring, no meals to cook, house cleaning, laundry to do or separating kids fighting. Girlfriends have always been terrific company. Who doesn’t love it when no household responsibilities are in sight. Nobody needs to feel guilty. Life on the ice is serene. Ice fishing is available for guys and gals only a short time. Grab it when you can!