I followed him through the snow. Making my boots step exactly into the prints of his much larger snow boot footprints.
He put the key into the long padlock on the door and we entered. It was incredibly cold, but I was excited.
He reached up for the lantern and lit a match. I could see his reflection in hte light. His dark hair and sky blue eyes. His mouth set in a neither a frown or a smile… just simply there.
Suddenly the entire cabin was lit. The light from the lantern great enough to the light the tiny space perhaps eight feet by eight feet. I’m not exactly sure. He made work of turning to the tiny stove in the corner. Our source of heat for the next few hours.
I stood by the door without moving forward. A large plank covered the hole into the cold, dark water, but I never trusted it. He stood on it and walked on it without hesitation. Me… all I could envision was dropping down deep into the water and becoming trapped under the cabin unable to swim to the top. He had reassured me so many times that if I fell I would simply put my arms out and I would be stopped from falling over my head into the water. I trusted him with my life… but in the mind of a ten year old, you don’t really believe it.
The fire from the stove started to heat up our space. I made my way across the plank stretching my legs to make it to the other side. I sat on the wooden bench with a blanket that provided no warmth, but did provide a bit of comfort from the hard wooden surface.
When I was seated. He reached down and pulled the plank out of the center of the cabin. The blast of cold air from the water hit my face quickly startling me from the warmth we had just achieved. I looked down. All I saw was my reflection. I continued to hope that one day a fish would swim up to the surface and pop his little head out, but alas, I had watched too many cartoons.
“Tombes tes lignes dans l’eau,” my dad’s voice broke through my daydream. Yes, it was time to drop my lines into the water if I was going to catch anything.
The fishing line was held up by one nail right above my head and one nail over arm’s length away. I started to pull the line from the nail being careful not to stick my finger with a hook. Experience had taught me to watch the hook! I quickly unrolled the line until the small matchstick was about two feet above the water. Perfect eye height.
I made fast work to get my four lines down and watched as my father deftly pulled his down into the water.
We sat down beside each other… ready for a game of patience. The quiet allowed us to hear snowmobiles driving by us on occasion. He reached up and grabbed the small radio that hung on the wall and turned on some music. Not too loud to scare the fish, but loud enough to eliminate the almost too quiet silence.
We sat and watched and waited. With the patience of a ten year old, I started to play with my lines.
“Arret… ils mordont pas. Ils vont savoir,” he said calmly and without a lack of patience for his ten year old who was all too eager to catch fish. Stop, the fish won’t bite, they will know. Yes, of course they would know.
His large hands tapped on his line just slightly. The line started to pull moving towards the other line. I pointed. He watched. I pointed again certain that he had not seen. He continued to watch. HE WAS GOING TO LOSE IT. PULL! I yelled from inside my head. And with one quick move, he yanked the fishing line up out of the ice cold water. And there. On the hook. At the end of the line, was our first smelt. It was going to be a good night.