_____It was a good thing dad was there, too. If he hadn't been, I probably would have gone home without doing any fishing, because the top of the ice showed long cracks and there was a distinct "pop" when I stepped onto the pond. That's . . . . not a good sound, but it turned out to be nothing. It seems the snow on top of the ice had been melting down the day before, then refrozen during the night, and was now melting again. So what we were walking on was actually a sandwich of frozen layers. The top was the crust of refrozen snow, maybe half an inch to an inch thick. Below that was 2-3 inches of slushy, grainy frozen stuff about halfway between ice and snow. None of that would have held me for a moment! But below those layers was a solid crust of ice almost 8 inches thick. It was perfectly safe and solid footing as long as we stayed away from brush sticking up through the ice. Dad went as far as to stop and drill a hole to check the ice, which convinced me . . . but not Donovan, who remained convinced for some time that we were about to go through the ice at any moment. For my part, if dad says it's safe, that's good enough for me. The man is an ice expert.
_____We were fishing a huge pond surrounded by wooden hills, a place owned by a distant relative out west of town. Things started out slowly, but soon we were pulling fish out of the dark, watery holes every few minutes. Kane loves ice fishing, and he's good at it, which makes sense; he struggles with casting, but on the ice, there's no casting to be done. He has a hard time seeing his line or a bobber out on the water, but on the ice, he can just lower his baited jig straight down over a brushpile or a small rock reef and wait for the bite. Donovan had a much harder time; he was just not setting the hook, and he was soon convinced that he had never caught a fish and never would. The poor kid was just looking for an excuse to be depressed. Dad came to the rescue again in the end, just as he often does; he hooked a bluegill and handed the pole to Donovan to reel him in. This he did without a smile or any indication that he was happy to be doing it, but he did it, so when I next found myself with a small bass on my hook, I called Donovan over and let him reel mine in, too. We did this a few times, and it was almost as if Donovan had only needed the practice. Maybe that was it, after all--maybe he just needed to get used to the feel of a live fish on the line. Whatever the reason, he perked up, started setting the hook with more authority, and began to catch fish. By the time we were ready to leave, he had a respectable pile of bluegill and crappie at his feet and a smile on his face.
_____By about 3:00 we were ready to go. We were nearly out of hot chocolate, the sun had gone back into hiding, the temperature was dropping, and we intended to follow Rule 6: Always get off the pond early enough to clean and fry the fish for dinner! This we did with alacrity and aplomb, and a fine dinner was had by all.