Doc sat on his folding stool in the middle of Long Pond 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, Emma, had packed his lunch the previous evening and Doc had filled his thermos with a combination of coffee and Irish Mist that morning. He was set for a relaxing day of fishing.
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 ten or fifteen years ago that, on winter weekends, when the ice was thick enough, you would find the gang gathered on the ice at Ampersand Bay. 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 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 would watch. To curb this repulsive behavior the gang had banned glass bottles during the outings and Tony 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, so he was always invited. They also enjoyed the fact that Tony would always bring several cases of Miller Light.
Then there were Rockstar Ray and Bouncing Brandon, two veritable giants, who were once well known tag team wrestlers. This was before wrestling became repopularized by W.W.F.W. and those other initialized organizations now popular on the wrestling channel. They enjoyed singing duets in loud, boisterous, voices after tipping a few aluminum cans. Their forte was singing t.v. commercials but they could also yodel loud enough to cause complaints from fishermen three miles up 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 comment 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, which I belive she collected for that very purpose. This was rather disturbing to the rest of the group. On the occasion of Doc's final involvement with the group, Eggplant appeared 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.Zelma Marzell, a local singer and dancer, 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 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.
The quietest of the group was Paulie, who had made a name for himself in scientific circles by patenting a toilet which, employing a means of molecular reconstruction, converts the collected solid waste product into a material which can be molded into biodegradable lawn ornaments. During the winter these sculptures, formed into the likeness of frogs, cherubs, etc., dissolve and result in a rich, green, fertile lawn. These toilets can be found in many of the area homes. Often you will spot one of Paulie's roadside stands along the Bloomingdale Road with an assortment of the lawn sculptures placed neatly in front for sale. They are usually reasonably priced. Paulie also invented the ill-fated plexiglass fishing shanty, which you will hear more about in a moment.
Doc knew the day was going to be disasterous when Paulie arrived pulling a plexiglass fishing shanty behind his old, flower painted '62 volkswagen van. The shanty was a tall box completely made of clear plexiglass with an opening at the top. 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. In this manner the "watcher" could climb into the contraption via the hole in the top. Thus situated, the chosen observer could watch the lines from under the ice and call out when a fish was ready to strike. Only one person at a time could fit into the device so they would take turns on duty. After the device was set in place Doc drew the first short straw.
The first mistake in the chain of events was to let Sal drill the fishing holes with his gas-powered auger after drinking several beers. As he drilled, the bit 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. Later, we figured at around 30,000 rpm's, Sal's gloves had come off. Doc was in the underwater shanty drinking a beer when Sal's flying body struck Tony and Rockstar, knocking them into Brandon who, in turn, grabbed Eggplant's gown causing the five of them to fall into the opening of the plexiglass shanty which immediately broke and sank into Ampersand Bay with all hands aboard. Luckily Paulie, 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 everybody went his own way and, as far as Doc knew, all took up new winter hobbies. So, if you should ever see an old guy out on the ice smiling as he fishes just give Doc a friendly wave and leave him at peace. He's earned it.