EPISODE 22

Part TWENTYTWO – continued from last week’s episode –

Almost immediately after leaving a message, before he could return the phone to his pocket, the ringer jumped to life. It was Buzz Fishbeard returning his call. “Thank god for old friends, always.” Rusty thought.

Within the next half-hour the roar of a snowmobile could be heard, quickly followed by a knock on the fish house door. The two men briefly embraced, and then in silence Buzz offered Rusty a Rothman cigarette.

“No thanks… But man… I owe you big time” were Rusty’s first words. “You have no idea what I’ve got myself into.”

With one long drag on his cig… Buzz exhaled and stated without pause, “You were for sure the last person I thought I’d be hearing from tonight.”

“I’ll explain everything when we get back to my place,” Rusty replied.

The two-up Polaris passenger sled hummed as the men boarded simultaneously and strapped up for the ride to shore. Even in the dark of night it didn’t take long before Rusty realized they were NOT heading in the direction of his lakefront cottage.

Buzz had his hand wrapped around the throttle as they flew across the snow-covered terrain taking the tops off the powder. At a wide-open speed (more than 100mph) Rusty did not dare remove a single gripped finger from the stationary bars that keep him in sync with the motion of the sled.

The best he could do (or think of doing) was to knock the front of his helmet against the back of Buzz’s… But not knowing the end result he grimaced and decided to ride this one out. There was no safe way to bail from the snowmobile at this high rate of speed.

It was a historically hot Fourth of July, the summer after their senior year of high school, when Rusty and Buzz left main street after the mid-morning parade. They planned to meet up with some classmates at Butterfield’s rock quarry for an afternoon of swimming and sunbathing.

Buzz’s interests were much more peaked as he was secretly crushing on Ellie Waylayer. She was the most “fit” of the senior class girls and the hair on his arms tingled with the vision of her in a two-piece bikini soaking sun on a lime shelf. Rusty would have preferred they skip the crowd, to instead go walleye fishing, but he appeased his friend and reluctantly trailed along.

The quarry water was quite refreshing as Rusty found himself swinging from the treetop high rope and launching himself outward toward the sparkling depths below. Cruising around he politely paddled about, resting on his back, and shooting mouthfuls of water upward toward the piercing sun.

Suddenly, there was an alarming tug at his swim shorts. What… A snapping turtle?! He momentarily panicked remembering the incident with Scoops finger wrapped as bait on a barbed hook.

No… It was Ellie Waylayer who surfaced, grinning and wiping back long flowing blonde hair from her forehead. Staring into her incredibly blue eyes, for a moment Rusty thought he would sink.

Treading water, the two exchanged niceties and Rusty couldn’t help but notice she seemed a slight bit tipsy. This thought was encouraged when she proceeded to wrap her arms around Rusty’s neck, pull herself uncomfortably near (her embrace made his teeth chatter), and then dunk him half heartedly as they both went underwater together.

Rusty was freaking out! Never once had he been promiscuously approached by a female classmate, other than to be made fun of. And now here he was, with lingering legs wrapped around him, frolicking with Ellie Waylayer!

Meanwhile… Buzz glared down from a nearby rock shelf and then retreated down the path to his car spitting railroad spikes along the way. It would be a week before he spoke to his friend Rusty.

When Sally heard the faint jingling of keys turning the lock, she quickly moved to the door and placed her shoulder against the outward swinging entrance. As soon as the lock was removed, she schemed to turn the knob and go full force to fight her way out of this prison.

The next noise from outside the door was the ring of a cell phone. It rang repeatedly without an answer. Then there was a brisk snap, as what she envisioned was a lock that had again been closed. The following silence retracted the lump in her throat. Her pulse rate of a thousand beats per second descended from the mountain top.

Seconds later, still at the door, she heard the familiar sound of a snowmobile revving to life and then accelerating toward a faraway distance.

-To be continued – 

JUNE 23

Hey Sportsfans – 
 
I think summer finally got the memo… this past week we have had temperatures in the mid 70s and if you can believe it, we even had a few calm days.
 
We are in the midst of prime walleye fishing on Lake of the Woods. What’s keeping the nets busy? 
 
– Rumor has it, the Little Traverse mud bite is starting to pick up. Do we believe this fisherman’s tale? The coolers coming in at the end of the day indicate that we should. 
 
– Last week the color to beat was RED.(Remember a red jig topped with a leech?) Keep those same jigs tied on… Many of the fish caught in the mud have been eating red worms and crayfish.
 
– As expected, the bug hatch is starting up in Big Traverse Bay. When that bite fires up, it’s a don’t want to miss kind of thing. 
 
– The water in the Rainy River is continuing to rise as we receive more rain. If you are boating in the river, keep a watchful eye for driftwood. 
 
– – –
 
We still have a few openings in August for lodging and guided walleye fishing packages. With only eight weeks left before back to school season, now is the time to plan your family’s trip to Ballard’s Resort. Spend the day walleye fishing, relaxing at the pool in the evenings, and enjoy a family meal on the patio… there is no better way to end the summer. 
 
That’s all for this week… #SETTHEHOOK
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EPISODE 21

Part TWENTYONE – continued from last week’s episode –

Buzz was the one who had held Rusty’s head off the ground along the sideline of the football game during the high school fainting / smelling salts incident. Neither of them ever touched the playing field throughout their less than stellar gridiron careers, but together they never missed a practice.

In junior high they had both agreed to give wrestling a try. During their first week of a haunting grappling session in the wrestling room (hotter than a sauna in hell) Rusty found himself performing an untitled move that awkwardly placed his private parts very near Buzz’s chin and mouth.

Post practice on the walk home, neither boy could make eye contact as they discussed a “way out” of this Greek aged sport of grappling. Was this how black bears battled over a jar of honey? Together, it was conjured that tomorrow’s practice (and the finality of their season) would end before it began.

Rusty needed a season ending injury and he needed it now. Buzz’s performance would require more savvy. The two boys had concocted a way to honorably get off the wrestling mat.

To activate their ingenious plan, they stopped at Rusty’s cousins Skip and Scoop and intervened in their shoveling of pig poop. The cousins were more than happy to cinch a noose around Rusty’s ankle and then attach the loose end of the rope to a 50# sack of cut corn dangling over a pulley at the top of the hay barn. Seemed like a good idea at the time (third of many times being falsely encouraged by Skip and Scoop).

When the sack of feed that Skip pushed out of the mow neared the ground and the rope went taught, so loud was the scream that all the pigs in the barnyard railed against the fence and broke out of the lot. It was perfect!

The cousins were ecstatic with the impending result and immediately put pen to paper for the second portion of the plan. They needed to construct a doctor’s note (tapeworm) for Buzz. No payment necessary. The immediate swelling of Rusty’s ankle and pain level noted in the bulging of his eyes was money in the bank. At least enough to forgo the previously determined payment in kind of 50-cents each for the swollen ankle and fake physician’s letter.

Next day in the coach’s office… Their wrestling seasons and careers as Greek gods ended simultaneously. In a few weeks… When the swelling subsided and the tapeworm miraculously disappeared… Basketball would be their new winter sport!

Standing outside the fish house with only one bar for a signal Rusty made his second phone call. It was Buzz he was attempting to reach. On the third ring it went straight to voicemail. Short of chucking his phone in a fuming rage, he paced in the snow and left a brief message. This could be a long night stranded on a frozen sheet of ice.

Sally Squatsnfishes remained isolated from the external world. Even with her hands now free, the perp had confiscated her cell phone before placing her in confinement. The haunting seconds (tic-tic-tic-tic) in her mind seemingly stretched into hours. Her thoughts ran in circles like kids putting a merry go round into full motion. Suddenly, outside she could hear a key turning the lock! Inside it remained cold and dark…

– To be continued – 

EPISODE 20

Walleye fishing Ballards Resort Lake of the Woods, MN
Walleye fishing Ballards Resort Lake of the Woods, MN

Part TWENTY – continued from last week’s episode –

With his skivvies back on and britches hiked up Rusty exited the shack expecting to see the key to his snowmobile gone. Ah, for once he had been correct about something, even if it was miserably upsetting.

For the number of times he had dropped a cell phone into a lake, he reached into his pants pocket and withdrew a cased waterproof cell phone. With this he attempted to ring Sally. The call went straight to voicemail.

More options… It was a ten-mile hike to the mainland, potentially meeting someone (police or foe) he did not want to see. The other option was to scroll his contacts and drag one more person into this nightmare of an escapade. He chose the latter…

Antoine Fishbeard aka Buzz was an old classmate of Rusty’s that lived near the south shore where the Harvest River flowed north and entered the lake. They had not spoken in years, but in their shared past he had always been a do anything for anyone saint.

At this moment Rusty felt he was the kind of guy you could not talk to for ten years (which it had been)… Pick up the phone one day… Call him… And start right up where you left off.

Buzz was a shirt-tailed relative of Professor Scale. During their senior year of high school, he had provided Rusty with insight per the Fisheries University in East Jesus, Indiana. His connection laid the groundwork for the continuance of Rusty’s education.

Post high school graduation, Rusty and Buzz had drifted in opposite directions. Rusty became modestly successful in his studies, while it was rumored Buzz had difficulty holding a job and was more apt to be found occupying a stool at the local Thirsty Trout. His German descent made him proficient in downing repeated, white-topped mugs of beer and he honed his hustling talents at the pool table to turn a fancy buck with the seasonal tourists.

During Rusty’s college years, when returning home over breaks or holidays, the two might bump into one another and plan to meet up later. But more times than not it never came to fruition. He would pass by the Thirsty Trout on his way to the public library, see Buzz’s blaze red Firebird parked out back, and continue to the solitude of his studies.

Whether it was social awkwardness or simply Rusty’s humble mindset… He was unsure if a commonality still existed between them. In his mind nothing had really changed between him and Buzz. Except for the fact that Buzz chose to stay in his hometown (Rusty chose college) and Rusty was perfectly fine with that decision. In retrospect, he should have pulled into the parking lot of the tavern.

And now… In this dire strait instance… Here he was about to make a phone call. Rusty and Buzz had hometown history and there had never been a rift between the two. Quite the opposite… Best buds from way back.

Cold… Snowy… Windy… Rusty and Buzz had cut class on more than one occasion when first ice walleyes were biting. They rode double on a four-wheeler to a wood paneled shanty that contained a boxed metal wood burner to provide comfort.

When the bite was on it was not uncommon to limit out before Noon. Walleyes and sauger provided plentiful action… Of which the limit at the time was a blustery 20-per-person. It would take them longer to process the fish for the freezer than to catch them. When it was good, it was really good!

Providing more entertainment would be the possibility that cousins Skip and Scoop paid a visit. More times than not they were present exclusively to create havoc. Doing fly-bys on their four-wheelers… Spinning cookies and throwing snow toward the door of the ice shack… And every now and again losing control and bashing head on into the side of the fish house.

Sally worked loose from bound hands. The cut marks on her wrists from the rope burned insanely and the pain elevated her anger pushing her red line upward toward revenge.

– To be continued –