Dick Herfindahl: Remembering fun times of Christmas past

Published 11:00 pm Friday, December 14, 2018

Woods & Water by Dick Herfindahl


Each year as we begin seeing ice appearing on area lakes, there are always one or two folks who think they are smarter than everyone else and decide to push the envelope and drive out on “unsafe” ice. A friend of mine sent me a couple of pictures from a couple of lakes near Elysian. One was a picture of an ice fishing house about halfway submerged in the ice as it was slowly sinking. Another was a picture of a guy standing on the ice watching as his fish house and pickup were disappearing under the ice. This is a sad scenario and I can only imagine the “sinking” feeling that the guy must have had as he watched them disappearing beneath the ice. This is an expensive way to find out that the ice is still not safe to drive on.

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This is the time of year when a lot us have shifted to the ice-fishing mode. I am actually looking forward to trolling the local supermarket in search of the wily lutefisk. Now all good Norwegians must at least be samplers of this Scandinavian delicacy.

When I was a young Norske still wet behind the ears and oblivious to the real family tradition of lutefisk eating, I tried to avoid at all costs the ritual that my dad and uncles went through at the annual Christmas holiday feast. I have in past years mentioned my introduction into this old family tradition. At the risk of repeating myself, I will once again share a little of my family Christmas history.

One year, as I sat at the table with the grown-ups watching my dad and uncles indulging in the festivities with chunks of fish and butter dripping from their chins, I was drawn into the mood of the moment. All the years of hearing “you’re not Norwegian until you eat the fish” had suddenly caught up with me and in a moment of weakness I blurted out, “I’ll try some fish this year!”

At that moment there was utter silence at the table as everyone stopped eating for a moment and just sat there with their sleeves rolled up, which you had to do so as not to stain your shirt as the butter from this delicacy trickled slowly down your arms. They nodded their heads in approval and in a flash, I had more than enough help fixing my plate for my first taste of what has since become a tradition that is now being passed on to the next generation.

Everyone at the table watched, as I tentatively tasted the fish, which was rolled up in a piece of lefse and accompanied by some potatoes topped off with lots of melted butter and salt and pepper. I had acquired the knack of not breathing through my nose when eating something that had a smell that I didn’t quite cherish and I put this skill to use when opening my mouth for my first bite of the fish. I didn’t overload on the fish that night, but I did eat some and spent the rest of that Christmas Eve basking in the accolades of the family circle of fish eaters of which I was now a proud member.

I knew from this moment on there would be no turning back. With the passing years, I have actually grown to look forward to this time of the year and at times, I think my mouth actually starts to water in anticipation of that first bite of fish. I have since tried to lure my sons into the tradition in hopes of getting them “hooked” just like I did. I do have a 50 percent success ratio and am still working on the other 50 percent which, deep down, I know is a lost cause.

When I reflect back at those joyous times of Christmas past I can still see my dad and my uncles, Oliver, Ben and Lloyd, sitting at the table enjoying the lutefisk. All but Uncle Lloyd, who had an ulcer that prevented him from eating the sacred fish. I often wondered why his ulcer always seemed to flare up at Christmas time just before the big meal.

Those were fun times, times to enjoy family and celebrate the real reason for Christmas. Although most of those faces that sat at the table, eating that great meal while laughing, talking and wiping butter from their chins are long since gone, their memories are with me and if I close my eyes I can still hear the laughter and chatter as if it were yesterday.

As the years pass, our family is making new memories for those future lefse and fish eaters.


Boat hosts needed for the Governor’s Fishing Opener

Until next time, I would like to encourage anyone who is a registered boat owner and would like to participate in the Governor’s Fishing Opener by being a boat host to sign up online. The easiest way to do that is by going to www.governorsopener.com look for the search box and type in boat host, click on search glass and it will take you to the page. Select boat host information and follow the instructions.

This is our chance to showcase this great community we choose to live in and one that we are proud to call home.

Please remember to keep our troops in your thoughts and prayers, because they are the reason we are able to enjoy all the wonderful freedoms we enjoy today.