"There's something not quite right with you boys!?!?!" and thus was the beginning of an interesting conversation I had with my Dad on the ice Saturday afternoon. Inquiring with the slightest bit of hesitation and an equal measure of what the #$%& am I getting myself into I asked "why do you say that?".
He took a deep breath and then started . . . "Well, you boys layer up in all this new fangled super insulating clothing, and then sit out in the middle of the lake all day, despite the blasted weather conditions, in lounge chairs drinking beer and something you boys affectionately call "white lightening". Then when it comes time to eat you wolf down sandwiches warmed under your armpits and a couple little debbie snack cakes and call it a meal?!?! Lastly if you do somehow magically manage to catch a fish you take it home and put it in the freezer . . . where it may not get eaten for 3-4 months!"
Well, at that point I stared blankly at the old man trying to figure out exactly what was wrong with the series of events he had just relayed . . . I got nothing . . .
Clearly exasperated, the old man took another breath and continued . . . "I taught you boys better than that! Don't you remember all those times fishing pickerel ponds as little kids? Don't you remember warming frozen toes and fingers on a warm lake side fire? Don't you remember eating freshly caught fish wrapped in tin foil and gently steamed on the fire? Don't you remember cooking hot chocolate in an old tea pot? AND lastly PLEASE tell me you remember eating red hotdogs and marshmallows cooked on freshly cut alder branches?"
I again stared blankly . . .
Disgusted the old man staggered across the deep snow to the opposite bank and started hacking down dead branches with a small hatchet. As I drilled holes and prepared lines he worked tirelessly to organize a sheltered "hangout" area. As I finished baiting the last hook the smell of acrid wood smoke drifted across the hard water bringing with it a lifetime of happy ice fishing memories that began slowly seeping back to my conscious mind.
As I walked over to the old man my brother and I both asked in unison "Hey Dad did you bring any of those red hotdogs?" "Certainly" said Dad . . . I thought you boys would never ask!
I wanted to share this story as it really is interesting how ice fishing had and has changed tremendously from my Dad's generation to mine. He and his friends were without snowmobiles and would hike up to 5-10 miles to access good ice fishing waters. They enjoyed only tea (who can walk 10 miles drunk!) and ate everything that they caught fresh from the icy waters. When I compare that to our "modern" fishing lifestyle I begin to feel a little bit disgusted with myself and what I have allowed to be stolen from the enjoyment of this great outdoor activity. Well, with my eyes now open I vow to make more of a concerted effort to look at the "old" ways and make sure these excellent traditions and treasured memories are carried forward to my children!