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patterns of ink

How fruitless to be ever thinking yet never embrace a thought... to have the power to believe and believe it's all for naught. I, too, have reckoned time and truth (content to wonder if not think) in metaphors and meaning and endless patterns of ink. Perhaps a few may find their way to the world where others live, sharing not just thoughts I've gathered but those I wish to give. Tom Kapanka

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Unsettled Chapter 48-C

What Waited at the Frozen Lake

It varied from winter to winter, but typically Fish Creek , the Salt River and the Anchor Bay area of Lake St. Clair were frozen solid by late December. Sometimes when we skated, the creek and river were frozen but the lake was only safe around the edges.

The DNR published reports of where the lake ice was thick enough for fishermen to chip through and drop a line. Then the make-shift shanties came, little square shacks just big enough for two or three bundled-up bodies and maybe a kid or two. Shanties are now light-weight, portable pop-up units, but back in the day they were made of plywood and tar-paper and hauled out on the ice in pick-up trucks. (Every year, it seems, we’d read about a newbie who drove out too soon or too far, and —yep, right through the ice. Instant car wash!)

I only went ice-fishing once in my life. Back around 1964, when Paul and Dave were in Cub Scouts, they had to earn a merit badge by spending a day staring at a hole in the ice. I say that because we caught no fish and yet they still got their badges. Dad made each of us a line and spool. (I still have mine, but that hook never felt a fish.) We had no shanty; we just sat there on camping stools and watched our boots freeze to the wet ice.

I’m no fisherman, but to me the most redeeming qualities of spending a day with a pole involve a Tom Sawyer shade tree and a swimmin’ hole or going after brook trout in the Colorado Rockies. I've done that kind of fishing, but squattin’ all day in sub-zero winds on the frozen tundra of Lake St. Clair draws only a certain breed of die-hard Eskimo wannabees. Once was enough for us. I always remembered the experience, however, each time we skated out to the lake and saw the trucks and shanties.

Out beyond the shanties on the open ice we often watched a more appealing sport: ice boating. Unlike sailing on waves, ice boats glide across the glassy surface with the sound a bowling ball makes on the wooden lane before it hits the pins. We could feel the faint vibration of the ice-yachts come across the ice to the blades of our skates. Once snowmobiles were introduced to the scene in the Sixties and Seventies, we saw fewer and fewer ice boats against the horizon.

It’s been thirty years since I’ve skated to the frozen lake. My wife and three girls have never seen it. In all the years of visiting Grandma and Grandpa's house at Christmas, we never took that long winding creek-path from Dad’s bridge to the bay. I’m not sure they would have wanted to do it—anymore than I’d want to go ice fishing again—but I do wish we had done it once, just once... to see the shanties and the sails against the setting sun.


Blogger the walking man said...

Uhhh I saw enough of winter time water and ice in the North Atlantic and the whole skating and ice fishing thing, just seems to me to be a masochist's adventure.

14/1/10 4:57 AM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

I've never been where you went while in the Navy but some friends of mine have taken that Alaskan cruise and really liked it. I agree with you about the ice fishing, but my neighbor can't get enough of it, and he brings home some good fish. Maybe that is what was missing from our one adventure--the fish! =)

14/1/10 6:19 AM  

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