December 7, 2006 at 9:07 a.m.

We’re making good ice now

We’re making good ice now
We’re making good ice now

The other morning I was pumping gas at a local filling station where I got to chatting with an older fellow. Despite the temperature that was hovering around 10 degrees, this guy wore a sweatshirt, a threadbare knit cap perched on the very top of his bean and no gloves. I’ve had a pet theory for some time now, so I thought I’d test it yet again on another unsuspecting subject. As I was snapping the last few ounces of fuel into my tank,I asked him, “Another cold day.” O.K., I guess it was more like a stupidly obvious statement, but I needed his answer for testing purposes, you see. Besides, when you’re dealing with cold pump handles and sub-freezing temps, exercising an economy of words has always been a Minnesota tradition.

He smiled, casually leaned back against his old truck and replied, “Yah, should be makin’ good ice now.”

I knew it. Of course, I knew it. I’ve long held a belief that all serious ice anglers underdress during the front end of winter and they all equate bitterly cold December temperatures to the rate at which it generates lake ice. A guy standing around in 10 degree weather wearing heavy choppers and a huge jacket that gives the impression of a tick about to pop wouldn’t be caught dead sitting on a pickle bucket in late January. You’re more than likely to get a different response, too. Something like “This sucks” or, “Gee, you think?” are fairly common. The look you get when they pinch their faces, grit their teeth and hiss those replies are a bit unnerving. Like I’m personally responsible for the weather and the decision they made years ago to continue living here.

So, my theory still stands. A lot can be surmised by those differing responses, and I choose to take the old-timer’s approach to winter and life. His clever remark about the cold weather making good ice was a cheery admission of optimism and anticipation of the upcoming ice fishing season. I’d also bet that he wore a sweatshirt that day to make a statement. The statement being that 10-degrees is pretty darn balmy, a stroll through the park compared to what’s in store for us in a month or so.

So, what thought do I want to leave you with? For starters, if you’re not much of an outdoors person during the winter months, you really should begin doing something. It’ll make the weather far more bearable. What, you ask? Gee, I don’t know. Try ice fishing or skating or skiing. Or, simply walking is a nice winter activity. Give it a shot. The fact that it could conceivably snow half the year and get cold enough to snap the blinker knob off your car’s steering column shouldn’t prevent you from having a good time outside.

But most importantly, don’t mope around all winter long like the “Puffy Jacket Guy” and chew my head off at the filling station when I engage you in some light weather conversation. It’s not “Minnesota nice.” And besides, it makes your face look silly.

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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