Frigid Polar Plunge in Area Lake

Submitted by Art & Barb Straub,

As this writer is too embarrassed to relate the following tale, we’ve asked Frances the female Ford Focus to explain her master’s soaked pants and frozen lower torso. Faithful Frances is still chugging with laughter! Between giggles she relates, “We were on our morning cruise which takes us north on # 93 and thence to # 6. As we passed Bucks’ Lake, my passengers noted mallard ducks sporting in an open spot caused by underground springs with water seeping into the lake from a neighboring snow-glazed pasture. As we swept by the birds, we noted that the ducks were eating fish! That in itself put the brakes on the master’s former limited knowledge! Moving along, at the north end of the lake, next to the tarvia rests a placid small eddy fueled by spring water. which passes under #93 from the west side. A long stretch of mud, decaying plant life and slurry provides refuge and food for many critters much of the year. Over the spring fed water, sat and sailed, flew and fled, eight mature bald eagles and some twenty crows.

The master, fed by insatiable curiosity put my brakes on and pulled over to the curb. Out he feverishly flew, my sweet missus following with camera clutched tightly in her gifted hands. Master crept down to the eddy, and on the surface of the pond lay perhaps fifty small silvery fish. Figuring the Pisces to be ‘shiners,’ Master began clicking away, then gave the camera back to the missus, and he warily approached the small water body to get a closer look. Suddenly, the seemingly solid snow and ice gave way, plunging Mr. Curiousity into the icy H20 up to his waist. You’ve never seen a more startled humanoid pop out of the muck and slurry! It was Mr. Jack-in-box at his best! My motor rippled with laughter as I watched from the safety of highway 93. THAT should teach Mr. Nosey Explorer!!! The missus unfortunately missed a splendid opportunity to get the mister in a most embarrassing position. What a photo that would have made!” End of the Frances saga.

Minnesota has 1,023 species of fish we are told, but what species of fish are in that twenty by fifty-foot inlet feeding Bucks’ Lake? Further south on the frozen water body, many humanoid tracks indicate fisher people activity, and ‘rumor’ has it that fine crappies are being snagged. But what’s with the tiny shiny dying fish? Research gives us partial answers. The eddy is a shallow spot with a muddy bottom. On the water’s surface lay over fifty dying and dead fish; silvery deep bodies ending in a forked tail, three to five inches in length. A fish endowed with the name Gizzard Shad met the aforementioned description. Members of the herring family, they are considered a ‘bait fish,’ an important part of the food chain, food supply for many larger fish. They are common to living in brackish river back-waters such as Bucks’ Lake. Why ‘gizzard shad?’ Research shares that they eat muck and sand from lake bottoms in which is embedded other little creatures. The shad grind up the sand in gizzard-like stomachs, are eaten by larger species of fish, which end upon your table if you are a fisherperson. (These writers are trusting you’ve eaten before reading this excerpt.) A behavior that identifies them further; when startled, they leap out of the water, endowing them with the name, “Skipjack.” Thus, that’s where we’re at until someone has a better solution to the ‘silvery fishes of the eddy.’ Corrections are always welcome to this column.

Meanwhile, back on dry land, animals of the field and forest are spending their time eating, resting, and avoiding creatures which would invite them for lunch. Some humans fast during this period of time, animals fast and conserve precious fat and energy much of the winter months. Of special note are the squirrels. Food supplies buried in autumn are beginning to run short. Only the finest and fittest survive the winter. Consider the fox squirrel. Driving along country roads in February, where Amur Maples are planted as windbreaks and show cases, you’ll note this large red-orange squirrel high atop the spindly branches eating maple seeds! Yes, those beauties in September now have wee seeds that fox squirrels AND… where branches bend near to Mother Earth, deer browse the branch tips and seeds. Fox squirrel cousins, the brazen wily little red squirrels, having exhausted mast supplies, (acorns, and walnuts) enter home walls and attics, searching for stored yet forgotten foodstuffs, while keeping warm bowling with their treasures. Rent and tax paying humans are awakened at all hours of the night while raucous games are enjoyed in the attic by red furred mammals. (Hmm, wonder if they’ve discovered the hard cider stored in the attic?)

Highest count at the ‘robin roost’ this week was 76 orange breasted migratory birds. American bald eagles who nest to the far north may be viewed, eight and ten at a time, heading for high adventures, grappling as they go through the Minnesota River Valley. Best of all, Our Mr. Sun deigned to revisit us on February 2nd, Ground Hog Day, promising a good six weeks of winter ahead, or is it months? Shame on you, oh bold ball of sky fire! Moral of this week’s soaked story: ICE IS NOT ALWAYS SAFE!