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Over the years I’ve gotten more than a few e-mails from readers in and out of Maine who want to know if there are any cold-weather versions of Maine’s “summer complaint” stories. The latest of these e-mails got me to thinking, and I think I may have found one.
Up north around Greenville, on the southern shore of Moosehead Lake, they tell a story about an attractive local woman - Thelma Harris - who was being courted by two men, a local from Jackman named Tink Billings and a fellow from away named Jack Dawson. Thelma liked both men, but she realized she’d eventually have to choose one or the other before she lost them both. Thelma decided that a good old-fashioned Maine fishing contest was the answer. The man who could catch the most fish in a three-day period would become her husband. Since it was winter it would have to be an ice fishing contest.
Well, Tink and Jack agreed, the opening day was set and they began their preparations. On the first day of the competition, Tink, the Jackman man, returned with 12 beautiful fish, The man from away, Jack, returned with none.
The next day, the man from away was more determined than ever to return with a mess of fish and to win the contest so that he would win the hand of Thelma, the woman of his dreams. But when the sun set on Day Two, Jack once again returned empty handed while Tink returned with 10 fish that were larger and more beautiful than the fish he caught the first day.
Suspicious that his opponent was cheating, Jack sought advice from a local sportsman, Harold Dow, who had forgotten more about ice fishing than most people will ever know. At 97, Harold had forgotten a lot of other things not related to fishing, too, but I digress.
Anyway, Harold told his out-of-state friend that he should forget about fishing on the third day of the contest since he probably wouldn’t win now anyway. Instead of fishing, he said, Jack should spend the day spying on his opponent to see if he was in fact playing by the rules or cheating. If it turned out Tink wasn’t playing fair, Harold said, he’d be disqualified, Jack would then be declared the winner and the woman of his dreams would marry him.
Well, half-way through the third day, Jack returned to town with a big grin on his face. He went to Harold’s house and said Tink was indeed cheating and he now had pictures to prove it.
“Well there you are,” said Harold. “You caught him and now you have him cold, so to speak. So, what was he doing?”
“Cutting holes in the ice,” said Jack.
A few days later Thelma and Tink were married at the church there in Greenville.
John McDonald is a humorist and storyteller who performs regularly throughout New England. John’s e-mail address is mainestoryteller@yahoo.com.
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