Falling through the ice: a memoir, a part one

Falling through the ice. Part one.


Back in the early 70’s, I knew better than to walk on  rotten ice. I came of age in a town which became a suburb of Saint Paul, Minnesota.  But then, Forest Lake was still a small-minded little town where driving into “ the cities” was considered a bit deal. And since I hated snowmobiles, what else was a guy to do in the winter but go ice-fishing?


One late February Sunday afternoon, I was walking back from a few hours of fishing. It must have been slow: I remember hauling my minnow bucket, the chisel, my bucket of rods.  It was slow, and I was walking home.  

As I recall, it wasn’t very cold- about 38 degrees- I must have had my snowmobile suit unzipped.  Walking back home, I had a wild notion.  Across the road from the lake, was a little pond, designated by the DNR as a “northern pike rearing pond”… where those barracuda of the north go in April to squirm into the cattails, and spawn.  The sign stated “ NO Fishing Allowed!”  Why I walked across that pond in late February, on old rotten ice, I have no idea.  It was too early to see the northerns. But maybe not! Could be some BIG females in there, waiting!


About five feet from shore, the ice gave way, and I was bobbing in the chilly water. My breath disappeared. Memories of “ to build a fire” by Jack London raced through my head… I  called for help… No one came.  Then, I calmly realized that no one would see me from the road. “so” ( I angrily said in my head) “ I’ll  have to save myself”.  I swam ashore, crawled up the bank. I still had my chisel, my bucket of rods, but the minnows all escaped.  A car slowed down. A bunch of jeering teenagers laughed at me, and drove off.  My pride injured, I soggily walked home.

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