A plan gone awry

It was just another Saturday in Avoca – what could possibly go wrong?

Those words are a joke between me and my husband, and generally spoken cheerfully by him in some form while he’s holding a torch or some implement of destruction or has a chain wrapped around a tree and a chainsaw in one hand. Quite often, several of our neighbors are involved. I’m usually standing by looking nervous or ready to grab the rescue rig.

This Saturday, however, those words were just a general description of us trying to do something simple. We wanted to go fishing.

After a harrowing drive home Friday night, I walked into the garage and told my husband I really needed to go fishing. Never one to look a fishing gift horse in the mouth, he readily agreed to spend the Saturday on the lake.

I know there’s the old saying out there about the best laid plans, but since I am neither a mouse nor a man, I didn’t think it would be a problem. Was I ever wrong.

The first issue was that there was a reason my drive home Friday night was harrowing. Blowing snow had visibility down to about a millimeter in front of my car in some spots. Which meant snow had also drifted around Avoca. And since the usual snowplow driver was out of town, a stand-by driver was called on to fill in. That would be my husband. We got a phone call Saturday morning requesting his services.

Since laundry was piling up and the kitchen desperately needed cleaning, I decided to jump in the truck with him. It’s kind of fun, people wave and smile, and the process goes faster with two people because the passenger can operate the buttons for the plow. The truck is a military surplus deuce and a half, and it is a heavy monster.

While we were moving snow, another Avoca resident, John, was using his military surplus ambulance with a plow to clear the snow from the landings around Lime Lake. It was fun to watch two old military rigs go to work on moving big piles of snow at a landing, and I jokingly told my husband Eric that word would get out and the ice fisherman would show up in droves.

Well, we finally got all the roads cleaned up, got the monster put away and were back at the house by 11:30 a.m. In a serious hurry because we were burning daylight, he headed in one direction to rustle up some minnows, while I headed to Slayton to buy fish house food. We met back at the house shortly after noon. I constructed some sandwiches while he got a few things together outside, but when I headed back outside, he said he wasn’t quite ready to go.

A few minutes later, he walked in the house, accompanied by a noise that sounded suspiciously like that of a Slinky toy. When I looked up, whatever he had in his hand looked suspiciously like a tangled up Slinky toy.

As it turns out, it was the recoil from his gas-powered ice auger. For the uninitiated, the recoil on a small engine is the doohickey that coils up the rope inside the engine after you pull it to start it up. When, for some reason, they decide not to coil back up and you take the cover off to see why, they uncoil with verve. Have you ever given a 3-year-old a Slinky? Same results.

Coiling one back up takes patience, skill, and as my husband discovered, help from your wife. Discovering a short time later that you coiled it in the housing backward and it needs to be removed and done over in the other direction? Well, that apparently requires swear words, then that same patience, skill and help.

An ice auger is a vital piece of equipment for ice fishing. Without one, there is no access to the fish, because between you and those wiley creatures is a thick layer of well, ice.

So we got the recoil, um, recoiled. It was a long, serious struggle, but finally Eric went back outside with the housing from the auger and got to work putting it back together and I started putting together the food supplies. Then I heard a noise and smiled. He had the auger running!

Shortly afterward, he walked in the house wearing a slightly sheepish, slightly angry expression.

“I got it running, but then the recoil broke again,” he announced. “So if we’re going to do this, we have to leave now.”

“With it running?” I asked.


We tossed everything in the truck, which was already hooked to the fish house, and drove through Avoca with the sound of the running ice auger drifting from the back of the truck. The blades weren’t turning, mind you, because the clutch wasn’t engaged. We approached the landing, took a moment to appreciate John’s handiwork, then headed across Lime Lake. Word had indeed gotten out that the landing was open, because there were several houses out.

There we were, creeping slowly across the lake, pulling our big house and carrying a running ice auger in the back of the truck. It was almost 3 p.m. by now. Remember what I said about the best laid plans?

But because nothing is ever easy, about halfway across the lake, the auger died. They really don’t like to run while lying down, as it turns out. As it started to sputter, Eric stopped the truck and was about to get out and try to save it, but it happened too fast.

He got back in the truck with a defeated look on his face. We had tried so hard to go fishing, but had been beaten by snow, plowing duties and a recoil with a mean streak.

Then, up ahead on the ice, we noticed a superhero, complete with magic powers and a big flowing cape. Well, not really, but another fellow Avoca resident, Arl, had set up his portable near the spot Eric had wanted to fish. Arl, as a matter of fact, had been the guy I had gone to for advice when I had chosen an ice auger as a gift for Eric a decade ago. (Don’t take that as a bad thing – after ten years, needing one little replacement part after drilling a bazillion holes is a pretty good record. Eric loves his auger. He’s already ordered the part to fix it. I’m told we’ll need to coil it again. Yippee.)

Arl was more than happy to let us use his auger to drill a few holes, and we were finally set up and fishing around 3:30 p.m. And when we left that day, we were making plans to head right back out the next morning.

You’ll all have to wait to see how that turned out. But seriously, it’s just a Sunday in Avoca. What could possibly go wrong?