No, I’m not a cold-weather person at all! Riding in a sleigh drawn by reindeer across the frozen tundra isn’t on my bucket list, so it’s hard for me to understand why folks live in snowy, freezing places. Ice fishing on a frozen lake? Not my cup of tea! You get the idea: I’m a warm-weather guy.
This all again occurred to me the other day as I ran a half-mile across the lake at near 50 mph at 6 a.m. in 33-degree temperature. That’s when I wisely decided that piercing the cold at 35 mph might be a better choice. It’s also when I realized that I never got around to having a special cover made for the walk-through windshield area that I promised myself I would have made last winter. I can close my windshield but someone forgot to design the darn thing with some way to block the icy wind that howls through a 2-foot wide by 2-foot high open area just below where it shuts. I hate it!
I get my jollies in different ways, but one of my favorites is to watch the bass guys on a freezing cold day try to hunker down low enough to get behind the piece of glass they call a windshield. I don’t think bass boats were designed for real cold conditions, and I covet my windshield every time I see these low-slung sleds whistling by in freezing weather. I do notice that they usually throttle down, no matter how much they’re wearing.
Maybe I feel the way I do because when I get real cold my hands just don’t work well. Some guys have ice water in their veins but I don’t seem to have the antifreeze gene. Trying to cast when your fingers don’t work is a drag. One of the things I hated during my Olympic training was running races or time trials in the cold of winter. Try running a 400- or 1,500-meter race in a nasty, freezing rain. Remember, you’re running in a light singlet and shorts with virtually no protection. The faster I ran, the colder it got. I felt like a popsicle! See why I feel like I do?
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I had also duck-hunted for years with my Dad and I remember way back in the ’60s that I hunted at Mendota in the middle of a check with a leak in my waders. It was in the low-20s and everything was frozen solid, but I toughed it out through some good hunting. I lost feeling in my legs hours before we finished. The pain I went through was memorable. Funny, my Dad never felt it. But his waders didn’t have a hole either.
Yes, I’ve persevered and dealt with frozen conditions, but it was my father who really pushed me over the edge. Unintentionally, of course. See my Dad had the ice-water gene and he loved fishing for crappie all night in freezing conditions, usually right after Christmas! The colder it was, the better he liked it. He always talked me into going in spite of the suffering I knew was ahead! I can still see him sitting in the front chair of the boat in the freezing wind at 2 a.m., fishing a minnow below the lights we used to draw in the slabs. He loved it, but I was absolutely shivering. I solemnly promised myself I would never do it again after each trip.
As you can see, I had a traumatic childhood, freezing my tail off many times. But I kept coming back! I’m always amazed at how fast my memory of the previous fiasco fades. I usually see the danger signs, but they seem to short-circuit my otherwise good common sense. I hate it when a fired-up fishing buddy tries to get me out in cold weather, for what he thinks is a sure bet. “Big suckers!” he says. “Really!,” I reply. “What time are we going?” Never give up!