November 25, 2005 at 8:32 a.m.

Winter –– bring it on!

Winter –– bring it on!
Winter –– bring it on!

Driving to work last week, I saw something that brought a tear of joy to my eye. I saw it during those few days that we experienced unseasonably cold weather and it brought a smile to my face: ice forming in the shallow bays of our area lakes. Yes, a shallow bay of South Center Lake was completely socked in by ice and I suddenly became positively giddy with thoughts of ice fishing.

I was also struck with the sudden realization that I couldn’t possibly live anywhere else but Minnesota. Well, maybe if I were forced to leave, run out on a rail for dubious and reprehensible legal troubles, I think I could be happy in northern Wisconsin or Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. But that’s it. Any further west would put me somewhere in the Dakotas and I simply cannot bear the thought. It would take mere days before I suffered from some form of acute madness brought on by treeless flat plains and sustained high winds. Did you know that North Dakota has four state forests and their state forest service website lists three guys named Keith, Tom and Tom under personnel? I wish I were kidding but I’m not. One state forest (Mouse River) totals 259 acres and boasts “stunted aspen trees of the sand hills.” Wow, pack the station wagon and load up the kids. I could be mistaken, but don’t some folks in Chaska and Eden Prairie have lawns bigger than that? I imagine a stout, ruddy-faced woman named Pearl sitting next to a silent rotary telephone, snapping gum and twirling an unused pencil in her fingers at the North Dakota Office of Tourism. Heavens no, North Dakota would never do. I need more trees and elevation changes than that.

The way our country’s laid out, if you travel east of Michigan (and wish to remain in the lower 48) you run the risk of dipping perilously close to the earth’s 40th parallel somewhere near Cleveland, Ohio, where the winters are short-lived and, well, positively wimpy. No, what I require is months and months of sustained and brutal face-numbing cold that’ll create lake ice thick enough to support my heavy SUV fully loaded with equally heavy ice fishing accoutrement.

I enjoy our four defining seasons and the anticipation each season brings with it. As each March draws near, I begin to think seriously of fly-fishing for trout and salmon and all other forms of open-water fishing. In October, when I get the first whiff of wet leaves decaying in the woods, a switch is thrown somewhere in my brain and my thoughts turn to deer hunting. And the first cold snap in November or December always triggers thoughts of jigging crappies and walleyes through the ice.

As far as vastly different and distinct seasons go, we really do have it pretty good here in Minnesota. I dare say that I’m beginning to like winter best of all, and the older I get, the more I look forward to seeing it come each year.

My two boys and I can’t wait to get on the ice and into the portable shelter, so if we’re going to have winter, let’s go. Let’s get going with the brick-hard car seats, white-knuckle driving and chattering teeth. Bring on the squeaky snow and icy sidewalks that force us to walk funny and flail our arms unexpectedly to regain balance and prevent leg-snapping falls. I halfheartedly raked the lawn and put a deer in the freezer, so as far as I’m concerned, autumn is officially over. Bring it on, Old Man Winter. I’m ready.

Dan Brown’s weekly outdoor column is brought to you by Frankie’s Bait and Marine, in Chisago City, and St. Croix Outdoors, in St. Croix Falls, Wis.

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