There hangs on my wall a picture of an ice-fishing scene. I often look at it, as it holds great personal significance. It was a gift from my parishioners at a farewell party held for me when I left my pastorate in Labrador some years ago.
My friend, Jamie, whose name has been changed to protect the guilty, invited our family to join him and his family down at the lake for an overnight ice-fishing expedition. I’m not much of a fisherman, but I was determined to impress my family and friends with the biggest catch ever.
Out on the ice, a considerable distance from the cabin, Jamie and I made two holes. I stood over the hole I had made, my line dangling in the water, and patiently waited for a bite. What seemed like hours passed without a nibble. I felt discouraged.
Jamie walked over to me and helpfully suggested, “Leave the line in place and come back to the cabin for a mug-up.” Never one to ignore good advice and not thinking for a moment that his kind invitation had an ulterior motive, I jumped on his snowmobile with him and left my spot.
Throughout the meal, I said things like “I wonder if I got one yet. What if he’s so big that he breaks my line? What if he pulls it out of the hole and swims away?”
Unnoticed by me, Jamie left the cabin. Shortly after, I heard him shouting in the distance, “Tell Pastor Janes he caught a big one!”
I jumped up from the table and dashed from the cabin. Tearing across the ice to my fish hole, I yelled, “How big is he?”
“He’s some big, Pastor, b’y!”
When I reached my fishing hole, Jamie passed me the line, saying, “Be careful. He’s a big one. Don’t let him get away. Tug gently on the line.”
I tugged on the line – it was taut. This had to be my champion fish.
Stooping down, I peered into the hole. All I could see was the unmistakable colour of a fish, responding only grudgingly to my tugging on the line. Of course, I was screaming and gesticulating by now, to let everybody back at the cabin know I had hooked a monster of a fish.
When I figured I finally had the champion beat out, I slowly began to rein him in. But what resistance I encountered! Then the object came abreast of the hole, but would come up no further. This encouraged me to shout even louder. “Jamie,” I called in panic, “I can’t get the fish up through the hole. Help me, b’y.”
As quick as a flash, he grabbed the line and began tugging at it with determination. Moments later, though, he exclaimed, “Pastor, b’y, the brick is too big to come up through the hole!”
I stared at him in disbelief. When I turned toward the shore, there were all my family and friends, standing at the cabin window, laughing that Jamie had gotten me, but good.