The other day I was standing alone on the ice, in the middle of a snow-covered lake, looking down a hole that local fish had agreed never to pass through, when I raised my head, felt the bitter sting of a howling wind and muttered, “I cannot imagine a more pathetic existence.”
But that’s only because most of my brain had partially frozen.
That’s also when I started mulling over one of the most important questions to plague humanity. Namely, how did the ice hut come to be?
There are many theories, but the one I favour is as follows:
I believe some time just after the first tool was accidentally invented, men started collecting them. Not for an honest day’s work, mind you – for that had, thankfully, not been yet invented. No, tools were first conceived for purely social reasons. For if a man had a tool, he could lend it to another man, and one day he could visit that man to remind him that he had not yet returned it.
This caught on and, eventually, men collected so many tools that their wives told them that they needed to find another place outside of the cave to store them.
Our tool-laden ancestors gave some thought to the idea and then they used mostly borrowed tools to build the first shed. At first, the shed was just a space where a man could put his tools and, afterwards, his lawn mower. But eventually, men came to realize that a shed was no place for a goat, so it reverted back to being just for tools.
That remained the case until the first marital spat was invented. This came shortly after the question, “Be honest. Do you think Grog’s sister is pretty?” was initially posed.
This led to that man sleeping in the shed for a few nights.
By now you are probably wondering what all this has to do with ice fishing.
Well, let me tell you.
About 400 BC, one of our angling ancestors found himself in a fairly prolonged argument with his wife, but only because he foolishly thought there was a chance he could win.
Worse still, that argument happened in the dead of winter and so he found himself sleeping in the shed with all his tools and his new fishing gear.
On the second day of the argument, she was still being unreasonable and insisting that the wall of the cave be adorned with petroglyphs depicting her mother and their wedding rather that several sets of tastefully arranged deer and moose antlers.
Still gullible enough to believe honesty is the best policy, he told her the reason for this was that old antlers were visually more appealing than those things.
This led to a lot more time living in the shed where, eventually, a clever thought occurred to him.
“If I’m going to be living here for the winter, why not drag the shed down to the lake where I can at least fish, while trying to think of a clever argument to convince her I was right?” he mused.
Other men, by necessity, discovered the wisdom in this too. And it worked.
Was a clever argument ever found?
Who knows? But ice huts have been on our lakes ever since.