The years I attended grade school and high school we spent Christmas vacations ice fishing. My brothers, dad and I would finish the morning barns chores and we were off to Mt. Morris Lake, east of Wild Rose a few miles.
We first chopped holes through the ice. Pa’s ice chisel was one that Arnold Christensen, the blacksmith in Wild Rose had made out of a Model T Ford axle. He’d sharpened one end and drilled a hole through the other. Pa pushed a length of leather shoe lace through the hole and tied it in a loop. We were not to use the ice chisel without looping the leather throng over our wrist as we knew of many ice chisels on the bottom of the lake.
Next was to set up our tip-ups, a device that we stuck down in the freshly chopped hole. It contained fish line that would play out if a fish took our bait—we used large minnows for bait. Sometimes other fisherman chided us that if we caught no fish, we could always fry up the minnows. They thought it was a big joke. Pa’s take was the bigger the minnow, the bigger the fish we would catch. The tip-up also had a little flag that would fly up if a fish grabbed the minnow.
With the tip-ups set, we walked to shore, started a little fire and sat watching the tip-ups a hundred yards or so out on the lake through a trickle of wood smoke. Several others fished as well, and we often invited them to join us by our smoky little fire. Each different person meant a new set of stories.
As I look back at those ice fishing years, the stories were nearly as important as the fish we caught. We also caught fish. A bunch of them.
THE OLD TIMER SAYS: Happy New Year. Every year is a good year, some are just better than others.
WRITING WORKSHOP: The dates for my writing workshop at The Clearing in Door
County for 2010 are August 8-14. Contact www.theclearing.org for further information.
January 4, 11:45-12:30. Wisconsin Public Radio, Ideas Network. Telling Wisconsin Stories. (With Larry Meiller)
January 14, 6:30 p.m. Madison History Round Table. West Side Business Men’s Association. Old Farm
January 19, Noon luncheon. SAIL (Supporting Active Independent Lives) Black Hawk County Club, Madison. Telling Stories—Why and How.