Mike Wilson: Ice Capades
Published 12:30 pm Wednesday, September 6, 2023
I am no Nancy Kerrigan, by which I do not mean to suggest that I have never been whacked in the knee, which happened plenty playing lacrosse. Let’s just say I am not especially built for comfort on ice. I have enjoyed some success duck hunting on icy days, notably after chopping a hole with a hatchet and putting in one decoy. The ducks would fight each other to land in that hole, which I had judiciously opened only a few feet from the bank.
I had learned of that trick from my grandfather, who recounted happening upon a natural hole in the Hatchie River teeming with mallards, whereupon he shot them, built a big fire on the bank, stripped down to his skivvies, and started retrieving…
My buddies Boss-Man and The DC were kind enough just yesterday to remind me how we had embarked on a search for moving, and thus open, water during a major January freeze about 20 years ago and found it on a small creek after walking across a very frozen marsh a quarter mile or so. After enjoying a beautiful sunrise and bagging a couple of woodies, we decided it was time to head back. My travails began.
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For some reason it didn’t take much direct sunlight to weaken that ice that had seemed so solid on our way into the creek. My friends — essentially emaciated and blessed with large feet not unlike snowshoes — had no problem merrily traipsing across the ice while leaving no trace, pretty much like camoed kung fu masters. I, the token endomorph of the trio and blessed with small feet, was applying considerably more psi to the point of contact (i.e., the soles of my wader boots on the rapidly thinning sheet ice). Many thanks to Sir Isaac Newton for dreaming up all those physical laws!
I heard ominous cracking on my first step of the return trek and broke through and it was downhill from there. There was simply no getting back up on the ice. As my elfin amigos watched, laughed, and proffered rapid-fire witticisms, I began to break the ice with the butt of the heavy 10 gauge side-by-side double I was carrying.
I suddenly knew why the good Lord had led me to buy it! They were good enough to dawdle nearby as I slowly trudged through the thigh-deep water with a soft mud bottom, which was sucking at my boots with every step. Break ice, pull up boot, take one step. Repeat. I am certain they would have helped if they could, but it was obvious that this was my cross to bear alone. They couldn’t even relieve me of the shotgun, which had begun to feel like a landscaping timber. When we finally made it back to land, I felt like I had had an hour-long Nordic Track workout. Boss- Man announced that he could in good conscience cancel my pending stress test.
Despite a growing body of evidence to the contrary, I am not a complete idiot. Now I stay home, read, and drink coffee when the lake is frozen, but mainly because I sold the 10 gauge and I don’t think a 12 — even loaded — is enough gun.
MIKE WILSON is a former Hampden-Sydney Spanish professor and 13-year resident of Prince Edward County, who now calls North Carolina home. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.