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Friday, August 25, 2006


Sunday morning Ollie was trying to beat the clock hoping to catch the ever elusive trophy walleye before the festival ended. The first set of mushers could be seen coming down the hill and onto the glistening lake. The dogs started to finish the last leg of the race across Wolf Lake as the spectators frantically began jumping and cheering their favorite teams on. Ollie's fish house door flew open and he blasted off into a rage--yelling to the spectators something about the "mother of all walleyes," being scared off with all their carrying on.

Elsie McDermot, who never saw eye to eye with Ollie, told him to go soak his head and get back in his stupid ol' fish house before she belts him with her cane and just as she turned around, she lost her footing in the slippery warm snow and in the process knocks over The Lutheran Women's coffee table sending nearly $500 blowing into the blustery wind.

The chase was on. The fine folks of Tamarack Falls took off after the money. The weekly paper described what soon took place as, "an ugly mess of people, dog sleds and dollar bills." To top everything off, the ice suddenly cracked, shooting a dull thud across the lake, ending at the northern edge, allowing the rusted Desoto carcass to fall to an early grave.

In a panic driven moment the dog sled team from Winnipeg crashed into Ollie's fish house, leaving nothing but a pile of lumber and fiber board. The Team Duluth dogs ran towards town and several other sleds crossed paths and wrecked what was left of the grandstands, judges booths and remaining fish houses. From that point on, nobody had a clue who won the dog race.

Ollie knew the prize walleye was history. In despair he tossed his pole into the pile of lumber and thought seriously about torching the whole mess, instead he turned and walked back to the cafe. All in all, it was a wise decision not to hang around for the sled dog awards since the judges had no choice but to draw names for the winner. Straight forth another fight broke out when a team from Chicago took home the honors. Big city dogs had no right being in the winners' circle.

After a period of disgusting muffled grumbling, Ollie, Swen, Eric and Oscar and the other remaining few duffers decided to walk back down to the lake to see who won the fishing boat. Although the awards were not to be announced until five-thirty, they pretty much knew their guess of early April didn't make finals.

Most of the old guys figured the misfit, Christen Asbjørnsen, likely had the chinook all figured out with his slide rule mumble jumbo and was already loading up the boat, making their journey back to the lake even harder but Swen hoped his guess of March 20 had a chance. Unlike horseshoes, close counted in the auto guessing game.

Just as they arrived, the ugliest fish house winner's name was announced. Swen, with his pile of scrap building materials now piled in a heap, took home the prize. He accepted the $25 gift certificate from The House of Minnow's Bait and Tackle, but knew Monday morning there was hell to be paid for his prize.

As the sun set into the pines of this, once tranquil community, it finally came time to announce the grand prize winner of the 14 foot Alumacraft boat and motor. After the judges carefully narrowed down the contestant with the closest guess to the surprised exit of the Desoto, Mayor Carlson and the new Norske Queen, Evelyn Toegras, climbed onto what was left of the stage and announced the winner of the boat and motor--Erma Peterson.

Swen got up and left. "What in tarnation did a 72 year-old woman want with a fishing boat anyhow," he grumbled as he walked back home. The rest of the evening he sat in front of his black and white Philco with Folgers, his aging dog, trying to figure life out.

As Ollie pulled off his boots, hung up his long johns and crept into bed, he could only think of all the destroyed fishing houses, Swen's lucky win from the bait shop, the walleye that got away and, of all things, Irma Peterson winning the aluminum fishing boat.

As he closed his eyes, thinking about all the crazy things that took place, he thought maybe, just maybe, 72 wasn't too old to get married after all. He was hoping for a good night's sleep, after all, he had a phone call to make in the morning.


Nylecoj said...

What a man will do for a fishing boat. :-)
My Uncle's have a an ice fishing house that is more like a mansion, satellite TV and all. I think their wives like to send them on down to spend time in it when the cabin feveer starts to kick in.
Great story

Barb said...

What a wonderful happy ending(well except for the flatlanders winning the dogsled race). Believe me a nice fishing boat is very romantic when the 70's roll around.I grow my own flowers ,can't eat candy or steak ,so having a boat, so my man can catch me some fish ,is "Love in Bloom"

Ms. RightWing, Ink said...

When I lived amongst the bachelor fishermen there were some rickety fish house, others, well, they had a log cabin on the lake. Mil Lacs Lake in Minnesota has a lot of high buck rentals, they say you can even get a girl if you wanted one.

I don't know about that but anything is possible. I can also tell stories of pickups going through the ice.!

camojack said...

Well, why not?

Them both being 72 an' all...

MargeinMI said...

Thanks for the smiles, Ms. RW!

Maggie said...

Oh my! Another story of unrequited love.