When I moved to Minnesota I really had no idea what I was getting in to. I grew up in the moderate climate of Washington State, on Orcas Island, a location further moderated by the ocean and the rain shadow of the mountains. In my memory at least, it rarely got above 75 in the summer or below 25 in the winter. I’m sure it does get warmer and colder than that, but as a kid who was 15 when she moved away, I never paid much attention.
We moved from Orcas to Bend, Oregon, in 1985. Located in central Oregon, Bend is considered “High Desert” in that it doesn’t get much rain…but it does get a lot of snow. Eleven months spent in Bend taught me that winters do exist and driving in snow was not something I looked forward to.
When I moved to Minnesota several years later, I was glad that I had that Bend experience to prepare me a little bit for real winters.
I was not prepared, however, for ice fishing.
Every winter, as the cold settles in and mittens, hats and scarves lose themselves in an organized-crime sort of way, I shake my head in wonder at the ice houses that appear on the lake. Still, after 19 years in the Mid-West, I don’t entirely “get” the attraction. Yes, I understand that the houses are heated, sometimes even fancified to the point of televisions and bunkbeds, but still, I don’t get the allure of a hole in the floor of your little house. What if I don’t look where I’m going when I climb out of my lovely bunkbed and accidentally step into the lake?
When I first moved to the Mid-West, I spent a few months in Wisconsin. I will never forget the evening I first met some of the local Cheeseheads. They were talking about ice fishing and I was convinced that they were pulling my leg. I mean, really! Ice fishing? That’s for die-hard Alaska-lovers, isn’t it? No one in the 48 contiguous United States goes ice fishing! That is ridiculous!
Luckily, I kept my mouth shut because, turns out, they were completely serious about their hobby. This was no joke, no set-up to fool a greenhorn. This was real.
Yes, it’s real. And I don’t mean to make fun of it. It’s just something that I, a temperate-climate lover, don’t understand. But then again, maybe it’s a guy thing and I don’t understand it because I’m, well, a girl. I realize that I’m treading on dangerous waters here (pun intended), so I won’t lump ice fishing in with football, mustaches, a love of fire, and other manly pursuits that I don’t understand. Suffice it to say, I get a kick out of the ice villages that pop up every year on the lake…
…even if I can’t fathom why on earth they do.