Lake Fausse Point, Louisiana

November 22nd, 2004

Real Men and Girlie-Boys

Well, the fishing season is close to winding down around here, so what shall we talk about for the winter?

It's possible the weather will cooperate more than I expect. Last year, I was catching fish on New Year's Day. But cooler weather has come early this year, and high winds have muddied most of the water around these parts. There may be more trips in the future, but I think they may be few.

Sure, I know you can catch fish in cold water. I know it rarely snows and never does it ice-over here, this is south Louisiana, for cryin' out loud. But this lil' Indian just can't tolerate cold weather. I can sweat out summers with little to no problem, though it's getting a tad more difficult as I grow older. Cold just makes me miserable. So you won't find me out fly-casting in the forties temperature-wise.

But if the weather is halfway tolerable, I hope to get some work done on the skiff I'm building. It's in the back of the house, though, and the back of the house catches the north wind. So that may be out, too.

In fact, if I were able, I'd probably just shut myself up in the house and not come out again until spring. How you folks north of Interstate 10 live up there, I'll never understand. Snow is pretty and all. I saw it twice. It snowed during a Boy Scout camping trip I was on in 1976. It snowed again in about 1988. You understand, saying "it snowed" in Louisiana means it was fifty percent sleet, and got perhaps two inches thick at most. We had to collect nearly every ounce of snow-sleet from three or four yards to make one dwarf snowman on the Rez. It lasted about two days, too, at which point everything became a muddy mess.

There's nothing like a warm, cozy house in the winter. Much preferrable to a frigid breeze on an open lake, I can tell you. I take my fishing seriously, and go as often as I can. But to forsake a toasty seventy-eight degrees minimum house for a forty-degree boat ride to a lake to fruitlessly cast for bluegill or bass in water the color of well-milked coffee, well, you can have it, guys.

My girl is a fan of winter. She hates hot weather, loves it cold. One winter a couple years ago we were sitting around the house and she suggested we go out.

"You mean out there?" I said, indicating the door with a nod of my chin.

"Yes," she said. "'Out there' is pretty much the definition of 'going out.'"

"It's forty degrees 'out there'," I said.

"Wait until it gets cold!" she pointed out.

I could be a bear, and hibernate for the winter, but for some reason I still can't comprehend, my employer refuses to allow it. What's the problem? Who's going to the paper box to get the paper in the winter anyway? Do people really do that? I seriously doubt it. I love my job, but trust me, before I'd get out of the house to go get a newspaper from the paper box or the yard, I'd stick a baby bottle nipple on a fifth of scotch and watch CNN for my news.

"You ought to start hunting," some folks tell me. "It passes the time between fishing seasons."

My father was not a hunter, so I guess that's why I never got into it. Early on, though, I knew why he never hunted, and I never would. The idea of sitting in a duck blind or deer stand, with the possibility of rain freezing rain! holding onto a cold steel gun barrel or walnut stock just makes me want to go start a raging bonfire.

Last weekend, the temperatures were just in the mid-fifties. The wind was up, giving a considerable wind-chill factor. I went out and stared at the boat three times Saturday, wearing fleece socks under my boots, jeans, a flannel shirt and lined jacket. As I stood there thinking about going fishing, teeth-chattering, I realized what a pansy I am. What's a little cold? I told myself. It's not cold. Mid-fifties? Ha. That's a heat wave in some places. Be a man, go catch a mess o'bluegill for supper, make the women-folk proud of you, you dashing, brave, valiant fly angler!

Instead, I went into the house to watch movies all weekend.

Who thought of this whole wind chill thing, anyway? It's not enough to be stinking, miserably cold, they have to let you know that it's really colder than you think it is, when you factor in the wind chill. I didn't need to know that. I measure cold by the amount of dental work necessary after winter is done.

It's like a heat index, but in reverse. Heat indexes and wind chill are stupid. It's cold, or it's hot, why are we splitting hairs about it? Step out onto the porch, if your teeth start chattering, it's cold. In summer, if you break out in a sweat just looking out the window, it's hot. Wind chill and heat index. Gimme a break.

"How do you think your ancestors did in winter?" some people ask me. "They didn't have central heating and fleece socks."

This kind of thinking always irritates me. I am a pansy. My ancestors were not pansies. They were not accustomed to central heating, so they tolerated cold better than I can. Besides, when it got really cold, they could snuggle up with the missus under some buffalo hides (yes, my people did hunt buffalo each year in North Texas) or, if the missus were feeling ornery, stack three or four dogs around you and you're snug as a bug in a rug. My ancestors were real men. I am a girlie-boy when it comes to winter.

But the Old Man's not here yet, so perhaps there's a few more fishing trips in store. Cross your fingers. Otherwise, it's going to be a loooonnggg winter coming up with column ideas. ~ Roger


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