REFLECTIONS: Winters past were much more rugged

Yesterday was Saturday.

For the record, it was Feb. 4, 2012.

We were in Manistee.

The weather was in the balmy upper 40s.

And we were on the beach.

Yep, you heard right … on the beach.

We were taking Elsa for a three mile walk south along the shore.

And it was ridiculous!

There was no snow … none in sight.

There were no icecaps … or for that matter, not even any slush water.

None. Nada. Zip. Zero.

It looked like Old Man Winter sneezed as he flew past West Michigan.

Now, I’m not predicting the winter chills are over … but on the 10 day forecast, it ‘kinda looks like Mother Nature can’t decide what to do … or what temperature to send our way.

One day it calls for snow flurries, the next calls for rain and the third calls for sunny weather in the high 40s! The long term weather graph looks like the stock market gone berserk.

The only answer for it all is that Zeus and his wife Hera must be having a spat up above … and Boreas (God of the North Wind) and his daughter Chione (Goddess of Snow) … were told to stay in their rooms!

Good grief, a week or so ago in Big Rapids, we were experiencing thunder and lightning!

Unbelievable!

See, as a kid growing up in Manistee, I can recall REAL winters.

We lived on 811 Cherry Street in the 40s, across from the Country Club. My parents had built their home one door south of the corner of 8th Street and Cherry.

I can recall one frigid morning when there were three … that’s right, three … snowplows stuck in front of the house. The snow was so deep, one could walk over the snow fences on the golf course, just west bordering Cherry.

It was early morning, and one truck got stuck. So the driver came to our house and called for help. Another snowplow responded … and it got stuck as well. Once again, the doorbell rang and another call was put out … and shortly thereafter, there was a third mired in winter’s grasp.

I can remember mother making hot chocolate and coffee … and I can still recall trudging through the incredibly deep snow to deliver them to the workmen as they worked to free their vehicles … which they eventually did.

Let me digress for a second. I mentioned the snow fences. There were two tiers of them put up at that time on the country club … and looking out of our front window on Cherry to the west, it was as if they were never there. Both tiers were totally covered that winter.

Those were the days … for there were lots of no-school snow days. And, as kids, we loved it … and built unbelievable snow forts and underground labyrinths that sometimes ran for 25 feet or so … complete with rooms and lookouts.

In rummaging through some of the older photos I found in Manistee, I ran across a picture I had taken and processed in my darkroom of my father around 1950. He’s standing on top of an icepack along shore about 50 feet south of the pier in front of First Street Beach. For the record, it was taken during the middle of February.

That particular year, the Manistee shoreline of Lake Michigan was a wasteland of icepacks and icecaps — treacherous to walk on, but beautiful to photograph.

I doubt if we’ll see any of that this year … but it IS Michigan. So we’ll just have to sit back, wait and see.

Meanwhile, the weather hasn’t been the kindest for the ice fishermen … or, to be proper in this day and age, ice fisherpeople. (Ha!)

Personally, I’m not too sure I would be too enthusiastic walking on the ice — if there is any — on some of our local lakes.

And speaking about ice fishing, I recall a couple of cute ditties …

It seems there were these two men sitting out on Chippewa Lake (east of Big Rapids) all day in front of their ice holes.

One has been having no luck at all, which the other (probably Mil Hale … for those of you who know that ice fishing enthusiast) was pulling fish after fish out of his hole in the ice.

The man having no luck, finally threw up his hands in disgust and leaned over and asked the other what his secret is.

“Mmmmmm mmm m mmm mmmmm mmmm,” the successful fisherman replied.

“I’m sorry, what did you say?” the first fisherman asked again.

“Mmmmmm mmm m mmm mmmmm mmmm,” the other fisherman repeated.

“I’m sorry, I still didn’t understand you,” the unsuccessful fisherman said again.

The man spit something into his hand and said very clearly, “the trick is that you’ve got to keep your worms warm!”

Yuck!

And then there was the gal who got up very early to go fishing.

She goes out on the ice, pitches a tent, set down her fishing rod and starts picking a hole in the ice.

Then she hears this booming voice: “THERE ARE NO FISH UNDER THE ICE!”

The gal looks around, sees no one, and starts picking at the ice again.

The voice bellows out again: “THERE’S NO FISH UNDER THE ICE!”

Now the gal is just a bit edgy. She looks up and yells “God, is that you?”

The reply comes back: “NO, IT’S THE MANAGER OF THE ICE RINK!”

OK, so that was a bit corny. Last, but not least …

A fisherman from the city was out fishing on the ice.

He noticed another man … an old codger … cut a hole in the ice just down from his … and, as he’s watching, he takes out his tackle box and a mirror.

Being curious, he holler’s over to the fellow: “What’s the mirror for?”

“That’s my secret way to catch fish,” the ‘ol guy replied. “Shine the mirror down the hole … the fish notices the shiny spot through the hole and swims to the surface. Then I just reach down, net them and toss them out on the ice.”

“Wow, does that really work?” the city slicker asked.

“You bet it does,” was the reply.

“Would you be interested in selling that mirror? I’ll give you thirty bucks for it,” the city boy asked.

“Well, OK,” the ‘ol guy said.

After the money was transferred, the city fisherman asked. “By the way, how many fish have you caught this way?”

“You’re the sixth,” was the reply.

So much for ice fishing! Have a super weekend … and just flip a coin if you’re looking for a weather report (it might be more accurate!).

(P.S. And thanks to Tom Stege the younger of Manistee. He called to correct my 1962 World Series stat. It was won by the Yankees 4-3 over the Giants, not vice versa, as I wrote. As I explained to Tom, spell check can take care of a lot of errors, but not stupid ones!)

Jack Batdorff is the chairman of the Pioneer Group. E-mail him at jbatdorff@pioneergroup.com.

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Posted by Jack Batdorff

Jack Batdorff is the chairman of the Pioneer Group. E-mail him at jbatdorff@pioneergroup.com.

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