VIRG FOSS: By The Shores Of Gitche Gumme — The Sioux Are Impressive On Ice, But The Car On My Lake Road Is Not

  As my favorite team (UND Fighting Sioux hockey) continues its impressive rise to the top, my grip on lake life is literally on the decline here in late January.
   It’s been an odd winter, no question.
   For one, the UND hockey team put together a strong first-half of the season to position itself in great shape for a strong run at league and national titles. That’s unusual for a Dave Hakstol-coached team, because UND normally sputters along in the first half of the season, then takes off after Christmas.
    What’s as unusual is that I’m clinging to cabin life as January comes to an end. Normally, the cabin is closed and I’m long gone by now, back to my digs in Grand Forks.
     Most years, my driveway into my cabin near Bemidji is snowed shut by now. Nearly every year, I close up when the snow arrives in force, and return when it is gone.
   But it is Jan. 20 as a I write this, and I can still get into my cabin.
   How wonderful is that? No place on earth I’d rather be than at my humble little cabin in the woods on Lake Beltrami. At age 74 now, the calendar days flip by fast enough. I try to slow them down and enjoy what I love as much as possible.
    It’s not a year-around cabin. It wasn’t designed to be, so I use it as it was meant to be, seasonal.
   Only this year, the season is extending into late January, and I feel blessed.
    It is so peaceful, so quiet here, looking out on the virginal white of the snow covering the lake. Some days, only the sound of oak crackling in the fireplace and the chirping of the nuthatches and chickadees at the feeders break the silence.
    And just to make it clear, I haven’t forgotten Sioux hockey. The schedule found them at home every weekend in January, so I’ve come back to Grand Forks every weekend.
    I write the home game stories now for the UNDsports website, a job I’ve done since I retired from newspapering in 2005.
   This winter has been a very rare combination of a heavy dose of hockey intertwined with a lovely, soul-soothing spoonful of winter life at the cabin.
    It’s had its scary moments, too.
    I mentioned earlier about my time left at the lake this winter being on the decline — and quite literally so.
   There’s a fairly steep hill halfway down Gryce Styne Road leading to my cabin turnoff, around some sharp, twisty bends.
    When I got to the hill a few weeks ago, I didn’t realize how icy it was until was near the top and found my car at a standstill.
    Then ever so slowly, it began to slide backward down the hill, gathering speed as it went. I was powerless to stop it.
   On one side was a ditch. On the other side was a ravine, neither very attractive options as I saw it. Visions of a wrecked car and a tow truck flashed through my mind.
   I somehow managed to ride the downhill rocket without going off the road. At the bottom, I turned around, went back down the road to gather more speed, and tried the hill again.
   Well, same thing. Near the top, down I went again, backward, picking up speed, praying I’d stay on the road.
    I did. The third time I made it up the hill, to the cabin. I said my prayers of thanks.
    Then I called the president of the our private road association and told him that the road needed sanding right now, or someone was going to get hurt.
    When I came to the cabin the other day, I found a car abandoned at that very hill, stuck in the ditch.
   Soon, three young women appeared. They were all UND students, they told me, spending the weekend at a family cabin. And now they were stuck.
    We combined forces, the old guy and the young gals. We pushed their car out of the ditch and got them headed back to UND. I told them of my adventures on that very hill, so maybe that made them feel better.
    That’s how life is going this winter for me.
    Sioux hockey on the rise, my car on the slippery slope toward disaster.

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