He’s a Norwegian man’s man.

In his eighties now, Merland’s handshake transmits power – and tenderness, a rare combination.  Minnesotans boast, with good cause, their ten thousand lakes. Many choose fishing over the comfort of a fireplace from a hard week’s work.  For others, it’s simply that. A happy way to rest. Wintertime fishing demands stamina common to a working man. Famous for thriving in hard winters, anglers navigate the cold like NASCAR drivers do curves. . . It’s there. Make the most of it.

Let’s go do some ice fishing, Merland.

The friend had been standing near a window, studying the sky. By now he was already moving toward a side room where tackle was kept.

Merland responded without coaxing.

En route to the lake, visions of Northern Pike, Jumbo Perch and Blue Gill swam in his imagination. His large hands rubbed together. Part anticipation. Part to warm them.

A light breeze across the frozen lake chilled his flesh – even buried as it was beneath layers of clothing.  Today was extra cold. Beyond frigid.

He hardly lowered his fishing line beyond the just-drilled eight inch hole. Bam, a nice hit. Merland’s reflexes were as sharp as the bursts of cold from newly forming wind gusts.  Detaching the hook he tossed the catch a safe distance away from the hole, its single escape route. He dropped the line again. Bam.

He turned to his friend, Cold day, yes. . . but fine for hauling in dinner. His chuckle attended a smile that broadened with each new catch. The air was so harsh, the temperature so low, that each fish flopped three or four times on the lake’s surface before stiffening rigidly like curved planks.

In minutes the two men’s lines had hoisted a decent mess from the waters.

Merland’s friend turned to him, his teeth chattering.

This has been the best day in a while, yeah.  A good thing, too. Let’s get to the house!

Once home Merland half-filled a large tub with water.

Ultra cold fish are something like people. We can grow so cold, so unpliable, to seem fully beyond recovery. Then a warmhearted person comes along – someone like Merland. An ancient Scripture is shared. A warm handshake given. Compassionate Norway eyes – or those of others – touch the heart.

Fresh warmth – long forgotten – finds entry and a thaw begins. We feel revived.

Merland slipped each fish into the water one by one. He stood watching. In seconds they limbered, then swam again, lively as ever.

I would love to hear from someone who, like myself, has experienced cooling times in life? Passion faded. Joy moved out as cold set in. Then followed a wonderfully welcome thaw. Usually through a big-hearted person who simply cared.  Springtime displacing winter in the soul. I am thankful it happens. And can happen again.

©2015 Jerry Lout




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