Monday, January 30, 2012

Winter Sport

"Noon! Goin' up on the Pool. Poke's No-Door Special. You guys, me, Jim, Poke. Red wigglers, minnies, and mousies."

This rendered out as an ice-fishing expedition on Pool 9 above the lock and dam that would employ small angleworms, brassy minnows, and rat-tailed maggots as baits. Poke Adams's No-Door Special turned out to be an ancient Model A Ford from which the doors had been removed to facilitate escape when, not if, the ice broke. Poke had never bothered to register the car. He operated on the premise that motorized craft using the River required licensing only if they were boats, which were floaters by design and function, and which his old Ford was most emphatically not. "Not with no doors, it ain't!" he assured us. "Why, if the ice busts, this old A-Model will go down like a rock. So don't you worry none about us getting pinched for no license."

With these words of comfort we thundered out over the ice with Poke more or less steering. I never knew only four cylinders could make that much noise. "Tore off the muffler comin' back through a stump field after dark!" he screamed over the roaring engine. "Couldn't see. Ain't got no lights!" Some of the time we were going sideways but mostly we went straight on, and after a while Poke let up on the gas and we glided into a large white bay between two islands. Poke cut the ignition while we were still going ten or fifteen miles an hour, turned loose of the wheel, and stepped out on the running board as he watched ahead. It's odd, seeing your driver do things like that. It takes some getting used to.

With ice spuds and axes we cut a circle of small holes in the ice, skimmed off the mush with strainers, checked the depth with a willow pole, set our bobbers to fish just off the bottom, baited up, and went at it. Benny's bait was hardly in the water when his bobber danced and sank and he hauled out a good crappie. "First fish!" he yelled, and Poke produced a brown bottle that he uncorked and placed on the hood of the Special. Benny went over  there and stayed a moment and then came back. Then Jim caught a fish, paid a visit to the car, and returned just as William and I were heading over that way. What with the good fishing and those visits to the Friendly Creature, we were keeping pretty busy. Whenever the fishing slowed a bit someone would yell "Move!" and each man would shift to the next fishing hole on his right and maybe it was the walking on the ice or maybe it was the baits moving down through the water, but the change always produced fish. After several of these flurries the original bottle was exhausted and another had replaced it. There were certain intervals, however, when the fishing ground to a halt. We would fall upon barren times, and nothing seemed to revive our flagging fortunes. Then Poke would howl "Roundup time! Pow-d-e-rr RIVER!" and leap into the Special and tear wildly around the circle of fishing holes, yelling like a banshee as he stamped on the running board with his left foot.

Since then, I have used long plungers to pound air into the water and drive fish toward waiting tammel nets, but never before or since have I seen a stripped-down Model A Ford driven in circles by a half-soused river rat in an effort to stampede bluegills and crappies. Don't knock it. It works. In fact, it worked so well that Three-Finger George later lamented the fact that he'd gone up to New Albin instead of on river patrol where "I could have hung paper all over you violating bastards!"

No comments:

Post a Comment