December 30, 2022 daryl bauer

It is bowl season.  I love college football.  Of course the Huskers are my greatest love, but when bowl games are on, I will watch just about anyone, even Iowa.  Some games are between nameless teams in nameless places where they do not experience winter.  I suppose the break from snow and cold might be nice for some folks, but does anyone really want to get all that sweaty while playing a game?  In addition, there will be players go down in great pain, grabbing at their legs, suffering from muscle spasms or cramps.  Spasms caused by dehydration due to vigorous exercise in warm conditions and a lack of hydration.

Reminds me of a story. . . .

During my early years in college, I occasionally would make a weekend trip up to my cousin’s place.  Robin lived in an old farm house perched on the summit of a hill.  I say that because the kitchen of that old farm house sat at the peak, and the floors in all other rooms sloped down and away from there.  It was great to visit my cousin and his wife for a weekend and get away from dorm life.  While we were together you never knew what fun my cousin and I could get into.  Some of those adventures over the years already have been featured in my blog, some more will probably end up here.

On this particular trip it was decided that we needed to travel north to do some ice fishing.  Grove Lake was one of my cousin’s favorite spots to ice fish.  We could usually catch some panfish up there and maybe a few of the put & take rainbow trout.  The only problem was it was a bit of a drive from Robin’s place to Grove Lake, but that did not deter us.  Plans were laid for the next morning.  Robin’s brother-in-law, Don, would meet us at Robin’s place and we would pile into Robin’s pickup for the drive up to fish for the day.

Now this was back in the day when there weren’t any “extend cab” or “crew cab” pickups.  Pickups had one seat, a bench seat.  All of us riding in Robin’s pickup meant we would fill the bench seat from one door to the other.  It was warm and cozy especially with all of us wearing winter coats and boots.  Sure, I am sure we all fastened our seat belts.

The drive up and the fishing for the day was relatively uneventful.  Everything is relative.  There was a knife that got slid across the ice and disappeared down a hole–“Hey, throw me that knife.”  Toss, slide, “bloop”, gone.

During a lull in the action, which might have been most of the day, Don wandered over to talk to my cousin and I.  After several minutes of deep conversation, the conversation is always deep with Robin and I, he wandered back to his holes and asked Robin what he had done with his jigging pole?  Don was sure that somehow Robin had slipped over and hid one of his poles.  Not that Robin and I were above such shenanigans, but this time we had not touched his poles.  No, while Don was making social calls, some giant fish had taken his bait, hook, line, sinker, rod and reel, the whole nine yards!  It had to be a monstrous northern pike, or maybe it was just an athletic 7-inch bluegill or frisky trout?  We have never known.


I do not recall, but knowing us we fished as long as possible, probably until last light.  Then we piled back in the pickup and drove to Robin’s farm house.  There was nothing notable about the drive home, I remember nothing at all.  The only thing I recall is the incident that happened when we arrived back in the driveway at Robin’s place.

My cousin pulled up, put the pickup in park and turned off the motor.  I was riding the hump while Don had shotgun on the passenger side.  Don opened the door to get out and crumpled to the cold, snowy ground.  He was screaming in pain, clutching his leg, “CRAMP! CRAMP!”

Now, Don was my cousin’s brother-in-law.  I do not know if ole Donny frequently had cramps, but when he went down Robin sprung into action.  It was like this had happened before, like Robin had rehearsed what to do in case of emergency cramping.  Robin’s pickup door flew open and in a flash he was out the door, around the back of the pickup and on Don.

Yes, I said “on Don”.  Robin dove on Don and started grabbing for legs (he did not even know which one had the cramp).  Don continued to writhe on the hard, cold ground, moaning and screaming.  Robin tried to grab him and roll him onto his back and grab a leg.  Don kept screaming, Robin kept hollering at him to lay still.  It all looked and sounded something like a cat fight.  Thank goodness we were far, far out in the country.  Had we been anywhere near civilization I imagine some kind of authorities with flashing lights soon would have been called.

What Dr. Robin intended to do I have no idea.  I suppose some type of maneuver where the leg was grabbed and muscles were flexed was what he had in mind.  Little did I know my cousin was a physical therapist.  All I did know was Don was having nothing of it.  That did not keep Robin from trying.  They wrestled and rolled, sometimes Robin on top, sometimes Don, all the time snow and frozen grass flying with wailful moaning and hollering.

This all happened in an instant.  One second we were pulling up in the driveway, the next I was sitting in the middle of my cousin’s pickup witnessing some kind of assault happening on the ground just outside the passenger door.  Initially, I sat in wide wonder shocked at the spectacle unfolding next to the pickup.

Then I began to laugh.  The whole thing was absurd, but hilarious.  For the rest of the procedure I sat and laughed.  How long Don’s cramps lasted I do not remember, probably for only a minute or two.  It seemed like the two of them carried on for half an hour.  When the wrestling, moaning and hollering were finally over, the cramps were gone and my sides probably hurt more than Don’s leg.  Coats, gloves, and hats littered the ground.

I have since learned that the best cure for cramps is simply to not get them.  Eating bananas can help, but everyone knows bananas are bad luck on a fishing trip.  Of course we did not have bananas with us that day, nor have we since.

Likewise hydration is key.  I do not know how we missed that.  I am sure we drank plenty of caffeinated, carbonated soft drinks that day.  In fact, is there anything better than a can of pop on a day that is so cold that the contents have started to freeze?  My cousin and I call ’em slushies, and they are our very favorite drink on winter hunting and fishing trips.

I imagine pretty much everyone has experienced leg cramps at one time or another.  They hurt, a lot.  Once in a while, laying in bed I will flex my foot just so and my leg cramps up.  Believe me, when that happens I let out no more than a whimper.  No, it is not because I do not want to wake my wife sleeping next to me.  It is because I am afraid if I howl in pain my cousin will spring forth and pile on top of me.


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