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Deb Larson

, Star Tribune

Warm memories of a hole in the ice

  • Article by: JAMES LILEKS
  • Star Tribune
  • January 12, 2013 - 6:10 PM

Let me get this straight, newcomers think. You people drive a big truck on the ice, drag out a house, cut holes in the floor and turn on a heater. So you can fish?

You know, there're these things called stores, where you buy fish. It's much easier.

But where's the lore? The tradition? The intergenerational bonding?

Deb Larson, a Woodbury event planner, would point out that there's more to fishing than fish. There's the lore. The tradition. The art. The intergenerational bonding!

With the help of artists Lou Fancher and Steve Johnson, she wrote a children's book called "One Frozen Lake," an account of a young child going ice-fishing with his grandfather. We caught up with her to find out what drew her to this Minnesota tradition.

"There's a little town out there! It's utterly fascinating for a child -- drilling the hole, eating the candy bars, everything that goes with that long, unhurried block of time in the shack. And hard water fishing is hard, too -- you can't pick up and move like a boat."

She's speaking of her memories as a kid. "I grew up in an ice fishing family, and my dad and his cronies would go out all the time, and sometimes I would go along. My dad built the ice house himself, which a lot of men used to do back then -- but he would sit outside on a bucket in the middle of the lake, because it was either manly to do that, or too many girls were giggling in the house.

"He started taking my son when he was 7. I was flabbergasted when they left at the crack of dawn, wondering if my son would be bored, but he came back so excited, couldn't wait to go again. How many fish did you catch? None."

She notes that a kid might not care if you caught any fish, what with all the exotic things to see.

"I was fascinated by his accordion-style tackle boxes, the lures painted so intricately, the frogs -- some had funny faces, some were almost scary. The holes -- it was just fascinating to look down and see something swim by. I have some cool antique stuff, like the tip-ups, and ... ."

Hold on. Tip-ups. Explain that.

"You'd drill a hole and set it there and put a line in the water, and when it got a strike the flag would tip up.

"There's lots of things to do. We played cards, drank hot cocoa, and the adults would drink ... [laughter] something else."

If this sounds like something you'd like to try, Deb and her husband will be leading a group of parents and children from the Wild Rumpus bookstore in Linden Hills out to Lake Harriet on Jan. 26.

"There's quite a few people who are prejudiced against it. ... But no, it's warm and cozy."

Once you get your shoes off, that is.

"I don't know why, but as soon as the hole is drilled, some kids want to stick their boot in the hole. I remember doing that. Other people say they did it. Dad had to take off my boot, dry it out."

Muttering under his breath all the time, no doubt. But the kids never forgot it. Nor did dad. Or gramps.

JAMES LILEKS

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