SCARS ON ICE Doc sat on his folding stool in the middle of Lake Colby and lit his pipe. He had just drilled six holes in the foot thick ice with a hand auger, baited six lines and set a tip-up at each hole. When he was younger this was easy work but at the age of eighty five he found that it was becoming quite a chore. He looked out across the lake and was pleased to note that he was the only fisherman on the ice that morning. He enjoyed the solitude that came with ice fishing and was especially happy on those days when he was truly alone with his thoughts. No radios blaring across the ice and no cell phones or pagers with their obnoxious, high pitched beeping would disturb him on this day. His girlfriend of fifty years, Becca, had packed his lunch the previous evening and Doc had filled his thermos with a combination of coffee and brandy that morning. He was all set for a relaxing day of fishing. He tried not to let his mind drift back to the Lake Colby nightmare of twenty years ago.
Doc hadn't always been a solitary fisherman. He had once enjoyed ice fishing with a group of friends. They had been known as 'The Hole In The Ice Gang' back then. It was up until twenty years ago that on winter weekends, when the ice was thick enough, you would find the gang gathered on the ice on Lake Colby. Looking back, it occured to Doc what a strange group this really was. There was Salanac Sal, an Italian dancer and wallpaper hanger, who once appeared on "Dancing With The Mormons". Sal had worked as a clown and glass eater for Bungling Brothers Circus for several years before settling down in Saranac Lake. Sal was the only person Doc had ever seen who could break a bottle, chew and swallow it, all while dancing to "The Beer Barrel Polka". Sal would do this any time there was anyone at all around who could bear to watch. To curb this repulsive behavior the gang had banned glass bottles during the outings and Tony Skunk was ordered to only bring aluminum cans of beer. Tony wasn't that great a fisherman but the guys enjoyed his jokes, which his comedy writer, Scotty, was kept busy producing. The gang also enjoyed the fact that Tony would always bring along several cases of Miller Light, which he obtained using his discount from Kinney's Drugs, where he was employed. He would sell the beer for fifty cents a can to the guys.
Then there was Ramblin' Rick, who had been a wandering comedian traveling from town to town in his 1962 VW and plying his trade at various road houses and dives across the country. He thought of himself as the new Don Rickles and did fairly well on the West Coast. As he travelled East however, he found the audiences just didn't get it and they became more unfriendly. His downfall occured as he played a little Amish club outside of Pittsburg. He never could figure out what he said that night to set them off but he was driven out of town by an angry Amish mob in fast moving Amish buggies. He had to sneak back in the dead of night to retrieve his beloved VW. He then gave up show biz and settled in Saranac Lake. He still gets very nervous when he hears any of the guys tell an Amish joke.
The youngest of the group was Murph. His father, Luger, was the one responsible for establishing the "Hole In The Ice Gang" and he often told Murph stories of his fishing expeditions and misadventures with the gang. In spite of this Murph became a member. Murph had made a name for himself in scientific circles by patenting a toilet which, employing a means of molecular reconstruction, converted the collected solid waste product into a material which he would then mold into biodegradable lawn ornaments such as frogs, cherubs, lawn dwarfs etc. During the winter these sculptures tended to dissolve and result in a rich natural fertilizer. Murph's Roadside Stand, which is located in front of the Waterhole, displays an assortment of these lawn sculptures. They are usually reasonably priced. Murph was also the inventor of the ill-fated plexiglass submarine fishing shanty, which you will hear more about in a moment.
Zelma Marzell, a local singer, dancer and contortionist, would often show up and entertain the boys with some of her routines. This practice ended abruptly when one day, after too many Lemon Drops, Zelma attempted to demonstrate one of her famous precision high kicks. The kick was intended to knock a Miller Light beer from the top of Tony's head. Due to the excess of Lemon Drops, her favorite beverage, Zelma was slightly off her mark and the kick was aimed a bit low resulting in a slight concussion to her unfortunate partner. Unfortunately Tony never fully recovered.
Then there were Rockstar Ray and Bouncing Bumby, two veritable giants, who were once well known rappers. They enjoyed singing duets in loud, boisterous, voices after tipping a few aluminum cans. Their forte was singing TV commercials but they could also yodel loud enough to cause complaints from fishermen all over the lake. No one dared, however, to come close enough to make a face-to-face complaint. They would just move further up the lake and drill new holes, pausing once in a while to make an obscene gesture in their general direction.
Perhaps the oddest of the group was Eggplant, who was a recovering Norwegian transvestite from Birch Point. Most of the time Eggplant would arrive at the fishing area dressed as a macho ice fisherman. At times, however, he would appear in full drag, usually wearing one of Doreen Hogle's early 1900's outfits complete with parasol, which I believe she collected for that very purpose. This was rather disturbing to some of the group. On the occasion of Doc's final involvement with the group, Eggplant appeared dressed in this manner. Eggplant's ensemble consisted of an off-the-shoulder red floor length gown set off with black sequins. He wore matching red sequined pumps and around his neck he displayed a Tiffany necklace containing a large single black pearl, suspended from a thin chain of platinum. To ward off the Adirondack chill, the outfit was topped off by a silver fox stole. At his side he carried a matching tackle box from L.L. Bean, filled with assorted fishing lures from Mepps of Wisconsin. Doc thought the Mepps lures were a little tacky.
Doc knew the day was going to be disasterous when Ramblin' Rick arrived pulling the plexiglass fishing shanty that Murph had built behind his old, flower painted '62 Volkswagen van. The shanty was a box completely constructed of clear plexiglass with an opening at the top big enough for a large person to enter. The process to set up the shack was simple enough; cut a hole the same size as the base of the shanty and push it down into the water as far as possible, then secure it with rope anchored to the ice with pegs. This created a veritable underwater fishing shanty. The "watcher" could then climb into the contraption via the hole in the top. From this vantage point the chosen "watcher" could observe the lines from under the ice and call out when a school of fish was headed toward the lines. They would take turns on watch. Nobody volunteered for the submarine duty so they drew straws. Doc drew the short straw.
The first mistake in the chain of events was to let Sal drill the fishing holes with his gas-powered auger after he consumed several beers. As he drilled, the bit suddenly stuck in the ice and, unfortunatly, his gloves had frozen to the handle. The bit couldn't spin so the rest of the auger spun and carried Sal with it. At around 3,000 rpm's Sal became airborne. Doc was in the underwater shanty drinking a beer when Sal's flying body struck Tony, Murph and Rockstar, knocking them into Bumby who, in turn, grabbed Eggplant's gown causing the six of them to fall into the opening of the plexiglass shanty right on top of Doc. The see-through shanty immediately broke and sank into Lake Colby with all hands aboard. Luckily Rick, having avoided the mishap, had his cell phone and called in the Saranac Lake Rescue Squad, who arrived within minutes. After a brief recovery from frostbite in the hospital everybody went his own way and, as far as Doc knew, everyone took up new winter hobbies. So, if you should ever see an old guy out on the ice of Lake Colby smiling as he fishes just give Doc a friendly wave and leave him at peace. He's earned it.