As you might have heard, this part of the country has been experiencing a very mild winter. I’m good with that. I don’t miss the high heating bills, treacherous driving and all-around pain of winter.
When you live in a place like Minnesota, you can only get so worked up about global warming. It’s the one natural disaster that kind of works in your favor, for a change. Let the millionaires in Tempe sizzle in their desert compounds, and the trendy clubs in South Beach get flooded. All I know is that it’s February and I’m wearing a light jacket!
But winter is hard-wired into the Minnesota psyche, and I’m not sure most of the folks here can survive without it. The lack of snow and unseasonably warm temperatures are exacting a toll that ice, snow, and cold never did.
The kids can’t go out and skate or slide down a hill. I did see some kids attempt a game of hockey at the local park, and they had to compensate by moving the goal on one end in about 15 feet because there was grass sticking up on that end. They also had to skate around a clump of dirt that stuck up mid-rink.
But for the most part they have turned into little Facebook hermits, hanging around the house all day. This means Mom has some real looooooong days with the kinderfolk. But the species that suffers the most from our lack of winter is the middle-aged paired male, otherwise known as the hubby.
The reason for his distress is that this year, ice fishing sucks. To understand the true impact of this, you have to know the history of ice fishing.
This part of the country was settled mainly by Scandinavian immigrants. If you can imagine historical conditions, we can picture Lars and Helga in their one-room prairie cabin. It gets dark at 4:00 p.m. That doesn’t really matter, because the snow has drifted over the windows anyhow. Besides, it’s -25 degrees out.
Assuming that married couples then had about the same emotional make-up as couples do now, the first visitor to knock on their door in the spring is going to find one of two things: A new addition to the family, or two skeletons with their hands around each others throats. I’m guessing the mix was about 50/50
These immigrants had a very Protestant, church-based society, so to stem the tide of domestic murders Swedish theologians invented ice fishing.
This allowed a relief valve on the marital boiler, so to speak. The men could congregate in small, rough-hewn ice shacks and once again feel they ran at least a small part of their world. They could drink and tell their friends about what a miserable woman Helga had turned into. But after catching a few fish and downing a few cases of beer, maybe it wasn’t so bad. Maybe they didn’t need to smother her with a pillow while she slept, at least not until next week.
And as for Helga, well, that smelly, good-for-nothing was finally out from underfoot for a while, and she could just sit and do nothing for a minute, maybe write a long letter to the old country telling them how miserable her life was. But after having a chance to relax and decompress for a bit, maybe she wouldn’t have to brain Lars with a frying pan when he came through the door. She always knew he’d be easier to kill when he was drunk, but he’ll be drunk again soon enough. She’ll let him by this time.
So ice fishing saved their society. Families were raised, the area was populated, and Minnesota became a state. The rest is history.
And it was only able to happen because of ice fishing. But without that option this year, I’m guessing the only people who are going to catch their limit are the marriage counselors and divorce lawyers.