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Monday, April 8, 2013

Fishing the Ice: 1980-81

I don't see the faces at first, only the steam from their expelled breath, huffing and puffing between the trees on the far side of the river. An hour earlier, before dawn, I could not have seen them at all, those sad, old fishermen too skitish to chance the ice. The change of season putting them out of their usual easy habits. They don't cut holes in the ice the way the eskomos do, but find the few open spaces where the water still laps the shore, dipping their lines in with the hope the fish will be as desperate eat as the fishermen are.
These people aren't supposed to eat the fish they catch here, but it's free food for their families after the food stamps have expired a week before the next batch are issued. I once asked one why he does it, and if he knew that polluted fish could kill him over time.
"What's the point of worrying about cancer next year if we starve tomorrow," he said.
A stillness pervades their act today, the land and city locked in an embrace of cold just as the river is. Few things move, like me, but these men don't, performing their duty, slender silver lines taunt against the sky as the men huff and puff and wait for the fish to bite -- despite the ice.

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