“A radar detector,” I replied.
“Must not work very well,” he said, smiling broadly, handing me a ticket for doing 88 in a 75.
As I pulled back onto I-35 north, doing my best not to spin the tires, I gave Doc a stare that would melt a hole in an A1-M1 tank. Twenty minutes earlier, he had complained that he was unable to take a nap because of all the beeping from the radar detector, and had shut it off.
“This ticket should have your name on it, Doc,” I steamed, reaching over, and jamming it in the glove compartment.
“I’ll pay half,” he said.
“And I’ll kick in a few bucks,” the attorney said from the back seat.
“Me, too,” the banker added.
“I appreciate that,” I said, “but money can’t fix the hollow space in my gut caused by the flashing lights.”
“Sure does make a guy feel empty,” the attorney said. “Been there, done that, too many times myself.”
“Yeah, well, my last ticket was in 1978.”
“Not much of a law breaker, huh?” Doc observed.
“I don’t make a habit of it, no,” I said.
“Wonder where the other guys are by now?” the banker said. The policeman and plant manager were in front of us in a pickup pulling a U-Haul trailer crammed with our fishing gear and food.
“Better get on the CB, Doc, and tell them to wait up,” I said.
Doc picked up the mike, then put it back down as we saw the rest of our party pulled over a half-mile ahead, busted by another vigilant Minnesota road cop.
“Not a good day on the asphalt,” the banker observed.
For 30 years we had made the drive from Des Moines to Sioux Lookout, Ontario, where we caught a floatplane out of Knobby’s. In all that time, we were so excited to get to there as fast as possible, we’d driven like Richard Petty in the lead lap. But, somehow, we’d avoided the long arm of the law. To get tagged twice on the same trip was especially discouraging.
The next morning, Knobby Clark, his daughter Donna, and son-in-law Dale, welcomed us to Paradise. I told Dale about the dual speeding tickets. He said the airborne RCMP officers were cracking down as well, and we’d better be sure always to carry our fishing licenses and safety kits, and carefully watch our limits in the boats.
“And another thing,” he said, “pretty soon all boat operators will have to prove they have taken a boat safety course.”
“Good idea,” I said. “Doc handles a boat like Aunt Lucy dances the Texas two step.”
“Mostly around in circles, and bumps into things.”
We climbed aboard a turboprop Cessna Caravan and zoomed north to Knobby’s brand new cabin on Kezik Lake. The Caravan was much faster than the old DeHavilland Beavers and Otters we’d flown in for almost 30 years. That meant we’d be on the water sooner, and I’d have my first fish five minutes later. I couldn’t wait.
Right off the starting line, within sight of the cabin, the Luhr-Jensen Hot Rods were sucking pike out of the weeds like one of those vacuum cleaners that can pick up a bowling ball. I don’t know why–maybe a combination of the design and the little red plastic flipper by the hooks–but, when cast into the shore and quickly retrieved, the Hot Rods produced better than any other spoons we tried.
“There’s another one!” Doc yelled, cranking in a healthy 4-pounder as it kicked, bucked, then water skied to the boat.
“Bored yet?” I asked.
“Ask me again in a month,” he replied.
The shoreline was changing from rock and trees to sand and reeds, so I gave the Hot Rod a rest, snapped on a blue and silver Rat-L-Trap, and began a medium-speed troll while Doc fired up a cigar the size of a small dachshund. If there’s anything that can foul cool, pine-scented air faster than one of Doc’s cigars, I don’t know what it is.
Wham! A pike hit the lure a glancing blow, and I saw a tail fin swirl as it turned for another charge. Bam! The second time it grabbed on tight, and I had to tighten the drag on my trusty 5500C3 to get it to the boat.
“Nice chunky northern,” Doc said. “What do you think it’ll go?”
“I’d guess this yard of fish is about 10 or 12 pounds.”
“Looks bigger than that,” he said, but I didn’t bother to weigh it, because I knew there’d be plenty more.
Although we spent considerable time lazily drifting jigs and telling lies, the week flew by, as always, and was gone well before we were ready to leave. We had a couple cold, rainy days that reduced our time on the water, but the weather did nothing to slow the pace of the super fishing.
We cleaned a limit to take home, packed them in dry ice at International Falls, spent the night enjoying a monstrous pizza feed at a motel in Cloquet, and headed south in the morning.
I was more than a little strung out from the action-packed days and short nights, so Doc took the wheel just below Minneapolis. We’d gone maybe 20 miles when my delicate snoring was interrupted by the sudden deceleration of the car. Next thing I knew, a friendly trooper was at the window, copying information from Doc’s driver’s license.
“What’s that thing?” the officer asked, pointing to the little black box on the visor.
“A radar detector,” Doc replied, dejectedly.
“Don’t they work better if they’re turned on?” the officer asked, rhetorically.
Doc did not respond.
We sat there on the side of the road until the tension wore off, and the jokers in the back stopped kicking the seat and cackling like drunks at a comedy club.
Then Doc looked my way and said, “Don’t you have anything smart to say? Like ‘I told you so’? Or maybe an expression of gratitude that I took the heat for you this time?”
I put his ticket in the glove compartment right next to mine, rolled up my jacket to use as a pillow against the window, got comfortable again, bit my lip so I wouldn’t laugh out loud, and said, “Thanks, Doc.”