After a few weeks of southern tales we take our focus off Carter Edwards (he will return) and head north to a land I still call home for an engaging two part story concerning a couple of bachelors and their fight for freedom
Some call it love, others, well they say it's just infatuation. Ollie's stand on the subject of romance and the like-- it's all just plain stupid. He ought to know, holding the honor of being the oldest bachelor in town.
His favorite fishing partner and best friend Swen, thought he had life figured out. For the price of a cup of coffee over at the Loon Lake Cafe he would be obliged to explain just how marriage will drive a man under. Due to the fact that he was a logger nearly all of his life, he had every opportunity to stay clear of women with hungry looks in their eye.
"It'll ruin everything from good fishin' to enjoying a peaceful sittin' with a fine bowl of pipe tobacco," Swen often reminded half-interested listeners at the cafe's back table. "Besides, who needs some woman sneakin a beer out of the icebox when ya got friends that'll do that."
Now Ollie never talked much about falling in love--fishing and politics were his strong arguing points amongst the guys who nursed a cup of coffee long enough to make breakfast fade off into lunch. But lately Irma Peterson has made a shameless attempt to show up at his house with fresh baked goods and even went so far as shoveling his porch and sidewalk as to be able to make her accidental twice weekly meeting. This created an environment for endless jesting from the old duffers around the table. Ollie had it, at 72 he felt secure that no woman was going to snag him–end of conversation.
February was exceptionally harsh that year. Most of the men would normally be down at Wolf Lake ice fishing for northerns or, with a bit of luck, a walleye or two, but this was proving to be the coldest winter since ‘48, or ‘37 depending on who was telling the story.
Cabin fever started to set in and the menfolk were getting a bit edgy and hard to live with, especially the married ones. It was to cold to sit out in the fish house and after a couple of hours of coffee drinking the conversation became heated to the point where someone would slam their fist to the table in rage. A person could only drink so much coffee and a true fisherman could only handle so much nagging at home.
The fever spread throughout the town. Gladys, Loon Lake's most dedicated waitress, had it with the old guys at the back table and their ceaseless appetite for coffee. She put up with their twenty-five cent tips long enough and one more rotten joke from them and Gladys said the cafe would be torched and burned to the ground and she would gladly dance on the ashes.
Yes, it was February and a miserable one at that. The official thermometer at the Lief Erickson Memorial Airport had not crawled above the zero mark in 27 days and no relief from the meteorologist was in sight. Swen said he saw a flock of penguins flying south that morning. That set Gladys off and it took six stitches to close his wound from the broken coffee cup
To make matters worse a rumor had been set in motion about town that the annual Snow Snake Fishing Festival may be canceled due to the fact the lake had frozen clear to the bottom in some spots. Ollie slammed down his coffee cup when Albert Jensen broke the news. Every year Ollie made a solemnly sworn promise to win the walleye fishing competition. Alas, every year that promise failed to come true.
The Snow Snake Festival celebrated many time honored traditions such as The Ugliest Fish House contest, The Great Northern Sled Dog Race, the crowning of the Norske Queen and by far the most popular–Dump The Desoto In The Lake raffle.
Christen Asbjørnsen, a scrawny slightly bent over man whose wardrobe consisted exclusively of khaki pants and flannel shirts, for the past ten years guessed, within reason, the day and month the Desoto would take its plunge to the miry depths of the northern corner of Wolf Lake. Before he left Norway in 1938, he held the position of district census taker. After years of climbing up and down hills and through fjords to number the people, he started guessing, by ways of early Viking mathematics, how many people lived in his area. Now he studied the wind, moon and temperatures and then calculated by the position of the earth when the ice would melt enough to allow the shell of the car to plunge.
This year the raffle became the talk about town because the winner would take home a prized 14 foot Alumacraft fishing boat complete with a 15 horsepower motor. It wasn't every year that such a prize found its way to the Desoto drop, but being the 25th anniversary of the Snow Snake Festival, a local boat dealer sweetened the pot considerably.
Many of the seat warmers over at The Loon Lake Cafe wanted to keep the boat the best kept secret for fear of outsiders buying tickets. The big sled dog race brought mushers and visitors in from a wide area so their hopes of a small number of entrants had a slim chance.
It was February and a cold one at that. The Desoto normally fell through the lake around mid to late March, but the tickets were no longer sold after the festival so late comers could not have better odds. Still there was an air of nervousness in fear the weekend celebration may be canceled.
Saturday morning a strong western breeze blew in bringing the temperature up to a scorching 49 degrees and in those cold war days long before global warming had ever been conceived, the coffee cup philosophers down at the cafe laid blame on the sudden weather changes to the communist exploding nuclear bombs in Siberia.
Saturday arrived and the festival remained on schedule despite the sudden chinook. The Lutheran's Women Guild cashed in on coffee and doughnut sales since the 50 degree weather brought record crowds to town. Folks here about thought summer had arrived a bit early and took advantage of God's solar blessing.
Sunday morning Ollie was trying to beat the clock hoping to catch the ever elusive trophy walleye..............................................
Settle in, grab a cup of coffee and enjoy your stay here at Shelly's. The pie is great, the coffee pot is always on and soon you will find this to be the best place in town. SOON TO BE AMERICA'S MOST READ BLOG