North of Minnesota Nice

To hear the broadcast of this story, click the link below:
 
 
A carload of conniving faces made several slow passes up and down our block a few summers ago. They appeared transfixed on something in our neighbor’s yard across the street when our neighbor wasn’t home. Eventually, they crept to a stop, car doors opened and the pack stepped into broad daylight. The Georgia plates on the bumper belied the lone female passenger who spoke with the British accent. To watch them was to surmise furtive intent. Yet, something wasn’t right with the picture.
 
These were obviously novice hooligans. They were dressed all wrong: shorts, sandals, matching t-shirts from a nearby resort and especially self-conscious glances. They diddled street-side by a sign handwritten in plain English that said, “Free.” And they stood bepuzzled beside a used, but still serviceable fish house for when the lakes froze over.
 
Basically, they didn’t know what to do. The apparent ringleader took charge, giving the shell of the fish house a quick once-over. But no sooner had they begun trying to collapse it, than our neighbor screeched into his driveway and jumped from his truck seat toward them. “Ya interested?” he called out.
 
Indeed, they were.
 
Come to find they were counsellors at a local kids’ camp in summer. In winter, they were students at the community college up the road that specializes in natural resources. Having arrived from parts unfamiliar with frigid, they were captivated with the notion of ice fishing. It required no casting, trolling or 100-horse Evinrude. Just cut a hole in the ice and drop a line right through. This tent on a toboggan with a flap through the floor was quite a find for these adventurous spirits from elsewhere.
 
After a sales pitch and set-up instructions, our neighbor dug out tie-down rope from his garage. Then he supervised cramming the fish house into the car trunk and sent them off, waving good luck.
 
Later in fall, two other of their outdoor classmates from the sunny South came upon a power ice auger in similar curbside fashion. It needed some repair. By early November, our lake ice had begun setting up, but it wasn’t reliably safe, even for foot traffic. However, the sight of it added to their excitement of fishing in winter.
 
They took the auger to the local marine dealer for a quick looksee inside the motor. Their questions and exuberance percolated over the sales counter—Get that grinder going in a hurry. It caught the ear of the woman writing the service order.
 
Half a month went by. Whenever one of the students phoned the shop inquiring about the repairs, they were fed a litany of excuses: the technicians hadn’t gotten to it yet; it was still in pieces; parts were on backorder. The two wondered if it was because they weren’t locals and mentioned the continual runaround to their outdoor recreation instructor at the college. Finally, the instructor contacted the shop in their behalf about what was taking so long.
 
“Yes, it is because they’re not from around here,” the service writer said. “Bless their enthusiasm, but we don’t want them to have it too soon and they fall through the ice. Give it another two inches and we’ll put those parts back together.”

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