A real winter finally arrives

Published 1:06pm Saturday, January 28, 2012

Once again winter has finally made an appearance in our area of the state.

Although most of you probably don’t feel that a brown winter is a bad thing, the snowfall brings much needed moisture to the area. This past week was also a reality check and reminded us of what time of the year it is and that we still have a lot of winter weather ahead. The number of ice fishing houses that are sitting on the channel each day is evidence that many Minnesotans actually embrace winter’s bite and look forward to it.

On this note, I need to mention an error in my column from last week, where I mentioned a nice walleye that my grandson, Trevor, had caught. I accidently listed it as a 25 1/2-pound walleye, but it was in reality a 25 1/2-incher.

Now I know that most fishermen are known to stretch the truth a little but that was just a matter of thinking one thing and typing another. Luckily my brother-in-law, Lynn, who lives in Nome, Alaska, and seems to have plenty of time on his hands during the winter months was quick to call and point out my error. He went on to ask me if he could see the picture of that monster, which would be a record for sure. I wish that he could proofread all of my stories before they go to print.

Speaking of Lynn, they have been experiencing some very cold weather this year in Nome. The Nome area had a shortage of fuel because of a tanker that struggled to get into Nome because of the early ice-over in the Bering Sea. About three weeks ago when we were basking in 50-degree weather, he called and said that it was 37 degrees below zero, and I had to let him know what our high was 52 that day. I look at this as a little payback for summer when he will call and ask if it’s warm here when he knows that it is about 98 at the time. It’s all good-natured fun that we both like to participate in.

I have always looked at snow as one of Mother Nature’s ways of making things seem so clean and fresh. Now shoveling clean and fresh snow may not be one of my favorite things, but even that has some redeeming qualities like exercise and spending time with the old snow scoop.

When we bought a snow blower a couple of years back, I thought things would be great and almost felt like I was losing an old friend when the faithful scoop was put on the inactive list. I had nothing to worry about, however, when starting the snow blower became a problem because of a leaky gas tank. I then had to bring the scoop out of retirement.

I guess simple is still pretty effective because there are no parts to replace and starting it is as easy as motivating the operator.

The sight of little critter tracks in the snow has always given me a certain feeling that nature is on the right track, pun intended. We have some resident rabbits living in the backyard, and from time to time I will see one of them sitting in the front yard as if it were checking out the traffic, or lack of it.

To me there is nothing more relaxing than taking a drive in the country as the light of the moon lights up the snow-covered landscape. In recent years we have been seeing increased numbers of coyotes and sometimes at night my son, Brian, who lives in the country, says that he can hear them howling in the woods behind their place.

I don’t know what the coyote popultion is in our area, but I do know that it has been growing each year. The sound of calling coyotes reassures me that there are still parts of nature that man cannot totally control. I also think that their presence has probably been one of the contributors to the decrease in numbers of the pheasant population.

Although I had some serious doubts about it happening this year, the warming houses are finally open at the parks. It just wouldn’t feel like it was winter if I didn’t hear the banging of pucks against the boards or see the lights shining in the night sky a block away from our house.

When our boys were young, they spent every spare moment of their winter at Academy Park. I have always felt that the park is where kids really learned to play hockey. You could tell that it was a fun time for them when the boys would come home and tell us that they were playing hockey with some of the high school players in a pickup game. This was a big deal to young aspiring hockey players and taught them to love the game where no stats were kept and the only thing that counted was how much fun you had.

The one thing about hockey that makes it special is that everyone contributes and everyone touches the puck at one time or another during a game. I guess that is one reason that I still enjoy coaching youth hockey because it is a team sport, and while some kids strive to be the best they can be, others play because they love the sport and just want to have the fun of participating.

Until next time, play safe, watch out for thin ice, good fishing and enjoy the Minnesota outdoors experience.

Please remember to keep our troops in your thoughts and prayers during the holidays and the coming year. They are the reason we are able to enjoy all the freedoms that we have today.

Dick Herfindahl’s column appears each Sunday in the Tribune.