Justin and Zeke stood at the edge of the frozen lake. “Do ya think it’s thick enough yet to go ice fishing?” was Zeke’s question to Justin, his friend for the ten years of their lives, all of which had been spent here along the pond. Everyone called it a pond, but actually it was a small Minnesota lake of over 150 acres. Justin said “I can’t wait to put out the ice shack and pull in some walleyes and northerns.”
He continued as he put one foot onto the ice to test its strength. The ice held, but he could swear he heard it give a sigh as he added his weight to it. He said, “Maybe we’d better wait another week.” Zeke said, “Take a walk on it Justin. Check it out. Don’t be chicken.” His response was, “I’m not chicken. Here goes nothing.” He then stepped onto the ice and his dog Max, the retriever, always his companion, followed and ran ahead about fifty feet.
Justin’s heart sank when he heard the crack of the ice breaking under Max’s feet. “Holy shit, Zeke, it’s an ice hole!” Justin shouted to Zeke. He was referring to the random places around the lake where the ice would always be thin, being above one of the sulfurous hot springs that fed the lake. These were the reason that the Ojibwas had named the lake “Ughnosa” which actually meant “Place Where the Fart God Dwells.” The more prudish whites over a century ago translated it as Stench Lake.
Residents alongside the lake included a high percentage of citizens who suffered from severe flatulence. They were attracted to the area because they were less likely to be blamed for any vile odors that wafted across their dinner table. The Olson family dining room wall, in typical Minnesota fashion held a moose head, deer head, and a muskie, all evidence of the family prowess in predation on the local fauna. Usually the source of the insult to the olfactory was from the lutefisk dish being served. Lutefisk, practically a staple among those of Scandinavian descent, was about as popular among those locals classified as “outsiders” as grits among Yankees. Max too, appreciated that, at least in the Olson household, such accusations were no longer ultimately blamed on the dog, but were now blamed on Lake Stench.
Max gave his “get my ass out of here bark.” Justin knew exactly what Max meant since he and the dog had a relationship rarely seen between man and canine. Max, who everyone thought was a golden retriever, was actually a Bavarian Brauhund. As such, he had the peculiar dietary habits of his breed. He would only eat his kibble if it was soaked in Lowenbrau, although, if it was not available he would sometimes settle for Spaten. He demanded sauerkraut and knockwurst as a main course during Oktoberfest.
But for all these peculiarities, he was a dog with a brilliant mind. He had a Grade Point Average of 3.99 out of four during his training in Obedience School as shown on his transcript. He had covered the seven years of courses in only one dog year. He would have had a solid 4.0 average except for the course “Slipper Fetching 101.” Dr. Phineas Dogbody, his professor had a deep prejudice against anything German, having lost his lower left leg to frostbite during the Battle of the Bulge.
He was suspicious from the outset due to the name Max, but his suspicions were confirmed that Oktoberfest when Max came to class wearing the darling lederhosen that Mrs. Olsen had tailored for him from deerskin. Max considered the embroidered edelweiss border on the shoulder straps to be a lovely additional touch.
When he ascertained that Max was Bavarian, he downgraded his grade to B+, the lowest he could without turning both cheeks of his bias. This was particularly unfair since Max had perfected slipper fetching to a science and would actually put the slippers on his master’s feet, after fetching them.
Max retaliated when at the graduation ceremony he peed on Dr. Dogbody’s good leg. He, having no time for a registration round, astutely “fired for maximum effect”, avoiding Dogbody’s prosthesis in favor of his good leg and nailing him on the gastrocnemius five centimeters below the patella. Dr. Dogbody did not respond immediately. He merely thought that his Depends had failed. He did however realize the next morning that Max was responsible for the severe rash that developed on his leg and the dissolved portion of the lower pants leg of his best Brooks Brothers suit. For, indeed, Max had used the same industrial strength caustic charge that had stripped the paint off all the fire hydrants within two kilometers of the Olson residence.
Justin had raised Max from puppyhood, and had spent long hours teaching him to communicate in American Sign Language. He was hampered by the fact that Max lacked an opposing thumb and long well defined fingers. Max’s signs therefore were abbreviated but he could readily understand what Justin signed. All of this made Justin’s job easier, as Max’s ears had become frosted over.
Justin’s mother could not know this as she watched from the kitchen window. She immediately called 911 and dashed to the barn to find a rope. The ladder was too short to do any good, and all she could find was Justin’s rod and reel, which still held his favorite large red and white lure. She grabbed it and ran to the lake edge. By this time Justin had signed Max to quit struggling and just hold on to the edge of his ice hole.
Lying down on the ice to spread his weight, he removed his trousers and slithered on his stomach toward Max. He stopped long enough to sign Max to grab one of the pants leg cuffs with his teeth and lay flat on the ice. He then he tossed one leg to Max while holding the cuff of the other leg. Max understood and did as directed. Then Justin tried to slide back to shore pulling Max, but couldn’t get enough traction. He heard an ominous loud crack indicating a possible massive break in the ice.
Meanwhile at the shore, Mrs. Olson was conferring with their ancient neighbor Mr. Svenson who was feeding the birds at the lakeside. “Do you have a long ladder?” She asked.
Cupping his hand to one ear he replied “Vot’s a wrong father?” he asked.
“Not a wrong father, a long ladder” she responded.
“Eh?” was the reply from Svenson, cupping both hands to his ears.
“Uff Da!” she said, “How about a long rope?” Svenson said “Vot do you vant vith a long robe now. Let’s get dem off de eis before vorrying how to keep dem varm”
Exasperated, Justin’s Mom took Justin’s fishing rod and checked the drag. She made a cast toward Justin and Max now struggling for traction in one place on the ice just as a large crack opened behind them. Unfortunately she was short by ten feet. Retrieving the line, she again opened the bail of the spinning reel and casted again and again. Finally, she struck home and nailed Justin’s left buttock with the lure. Justin gave a howl as she set the hooks firmly, but his mom persevered. Fortunately, Justin had 30 pound mono on the reel, being after large northern pike. Setting the drag to maximum, she gingerly played in Justin and Max using the same pumping action her husband had taught her to use when she caught the dining room muskie.
With each five foot advance the ice crack kept ominously following them closely toward shore.
Mr. Svenson contributed to the confusion by helpfully offering advice, shouting “Dot’s it Miz Olsen. Dot’s it. Play him, don’t yackass him and break the line. Gute! Gute! Is this vot dey mean whan dey say you’re ‘hauling ass’.” In this manner, she landed Justin and Max on the shore just as the 911 team arrived.
They immediately asked her to show a current fishing license, then measured and weighed Justin and declared him a record catch for Lake Stench. Justin’s yells could be heard as far away as downtown Minneapolis, as they excised the multiple treble hooks from his left gluteus maximus, stitched and bandaged it.
Two weeks later at dinner, Justin was still sitting on a pillow. To avoid any false accusations, Max prudently crept from the room, when the lutefisk arrived. On the wall, alongside the deer head (odocoileus virginianus), the moose head (alces alces), and the muskie (esox masquinongy), there is now prominently displayed the exact replica of Justin’s pink rear end with the red and white lure embedded that his mother had a taxidermist prepare. The name plate on the plaque reads (Homo Sapiens Justinius Sesquiculus). Max could be seen in the doorway to the dining room with an obvious smile on his face. For he had had aced Latin from CI through CCCII at Obedience School and knew that sesquiculus translated as “asshole and a half”.