Is it cool to be cold? Sometimes it can be
“Hey Dad, would you take me and some guys out ice fishing this weekend,” asked my son, Blake.
It took a moment for it to sink in. I mean, ice fishing around Washington County is not … that … great. It’s more or less an event that means a football is involved, some beverages, and any type of food. After I regained my composure, I told him to let me know who was coming and what time they wanted to leave. I’d have venison hot dogs, snacks, bait, gear, and enough spare gloves and heat packs to keep them honest.
Blake, Nate Darin, and Sam Braunschweig are seniors at Slinger High School. Some I have coached, and all have been together in baseball, football, or high school activities from prom to student council to other activities the parents have always been blessed to be a part of, in one way or another.
Tthe wind was howling when Blake and I arrived at the Little Cedar launch. I mean really howling. It was 14 degrees. I sensed when I saw the look on Blake’s face, and Sam’s, as they shifted down to the landing, that there was some suspicion as to how the day was going to go, or end.
I looked at them both and grabbed some snow and threw it up in the air.
“Don’t worry guys, I have a spot, based on the wind, that should keep us warm.”
These were smart guys, but I think I had fooled them. After all, Mr. Durbin is an writer and owns a fishing expo, so he “must know” what he’s doing. Suckers, the lot of them.
What I knew? It was going to be cold. I knew that much, but couldn’t show it. I did have a modest wind break across from the launch, where a point of land helped, but it only meant that frost bite might hit 20 minutes later than if we were out on the main lake basin. In reality, it did help. It wasn’t that bad.
I gave the boys, who weren’t ice anglers, a brief explanation as to why we set the tip-ups the way we did.
Sam reminded me it had been four years since we had gone ice fishing. That year I took my older son, Hunter, Sam’s brother, Zach, and the rest of their baseball team to the same spot. I’d be lying if the biting wind at that moment wasn’t the only thing that caused a tear from Sam’s comment. They grow up so fast. Too fast.
Sports are almost over, even if Blake plays in college. These guys are, and were, and will always be, family. Same thing with Hunter’s crew. You don’t get that in college.
I gave them the standard coaching when setting a tip-up. Go above the weeds. Set them in various depths. When you get bites consistently, then move other tip-ups into more productive water.
Nate showed up a little late, just as I was firing up the grill. The guys showed him how to use the electric drill we were using, the reasoning behind the tip-up spread, and they set off to jigging.
I just watched as I flipped the dogs, looking at the young men laugh, and tackle each other, and not knowing what they were doing in terms of jigging, but just having fun. Score didn’t matter (and usually I say it does).
Not one tip-up even false-tripped. Not one adolescent bluegill even bit. So we met for lunch on the ice and watched the spread. I made God several promises if a pike would trip a flag, I would read my Bible app more, but He chose not to respond to my modest request.
Not that day at least.
“Mr. Durbin, you think Rodgers will stay?” Darin said.
I was stunned that a teenager cared about my opinion.
“Hey, Mr. Durbin, what do you think would work best on Big Cedar?” Braunschweig said.
Again, I looked around, and couldn’t believe I was one of the gang. I mattered, at least for the moment. Or maybe they were just being polite.
There were even a swear word or two that slipped out from the fellas about stuff, and I won’t say who did it, but I loved it. I REALLY LOVED IT!
After four hours of wicked cold, not a bluegill was caught, nor a flag tripped. We started to pack up. I apologized to the guys for the lack of activity, but they all said they had fun.
“We should go again sometime,” one of them said.
I couldn’t tell who said it because the wind was biting and my hearing isn’t as good as it once was. I promised that we’d go once the iceleft and we could cast some bass baits. Maybe on Okauchee. They all said that it would be cool. COOL!
Thank God they don’t know my playlist on my I Phone for the next trip.
“Dad, thanks for taking us, and setting the gear, and the food and stuff.”
No Blake. Thank you, Sam, and Nate, for giving me one more moment. To be one of the guys, before you all head off to college, meant so much.
Thank you all so much.