THE NEWS FROM ONEIDA LAKE
by Jim & Sue Kelly

Jim and Sue confess to really enjoy living on the lake--so much so, apparently, that they’ve begun a series of humorous articles featuring "the news from Oneida Lake”.

Patterned after Garrison Keillor’s “News from Lake Wobegone”, Jim and Sue's articles provide a witty and welcome addition to our website.  We’re privileged to have their permission to reprint their stories here, and we’ll keep them coming your way as long as Jim and Sue keep writing them.

SECOND WEEK OF JANUARY, 2001

Well, it’s been a quiet but busy week up here on Oneida Lake.   The holidays are over and things are returning to normal.  Robin Starling of Fantasy Florist had a friend, Chadd Dimple, from Palm Beach visit him over the holidays.  Instead of returning to Florida the week after New Year’s, he decided to stay and help Robin with the plowing.  Robin also does landscaping and during the winter, there’s not much landscaping work.  Robin puts snowplows on his landscaping trucks and does most of the driveways and parking lots for the local businesses.  Boy, it was a good thing Chadd stayed over because it started snowing the first week in December and snowed all week long.  Then the second week in December, it snowed all week long; same for the third and fourth weeks.  Finally, the first week of January, it snowed all week long.  It didn’t stop snowing until the tenth of January-- 690 inches in all.

It was predominantly lake effect snow.  The Great Lake Ontario does not freeze over in the winter.  The winds blowing down out of Canada pick up moisture as they pass over the open water and proceed to “dump” it in the form of snow on areas to the south and east of the great lake.  Big fluffy flakes, or  “Lake Flakes”, as the locals call it.  It has very low water content so it’s very light in weight.  So light that you can use a yard leaf blower to “plow” your walkway.  Also, so light that it is easily blown around by the wind.  It often snows sideways up here.  The blowing snow makes for some very large drifts.  Oneida Lake is covered with drifts--huge drifts.

Robin and Chadd had been out plowing almost every day.   Last Tuesday they stopped into The Eat-A-Lot Diner for lunch after a morning of plowing.  Chadd was mesmerizing everybody with his Florida tales of sand, surf, and palm trees.  That was until Flo asked Chadd what type of snowmobile he owned and Chadd said that he didn’t own a snowmobile.

Then everybody just sort of tuned him out.  Didn’t own a snowmobile!  What planet was this guy from?  Snowmobiles are very big up here.  Everybody owns one.  Even folks who don’t have a car have at least one snowmobile.  Lots of people have two or three.  It’s almost a snowmobile cult.  When people meet on the street their conversations start with “How’s your snowmobile running?”  But, you can’t just own a snowmobile; you have to get all the accoutrements that go with it.  You have to get the snowmobile boots and the snowmobile pants, and the snowmobile jacket, along with the helmet, gloves and goggles.  Of course, you have to have a snowmobile trailer, so you can haul your snowmobile around.

Then there’s all that stuff that people carry in the box underneath the seat:  extra gas, tools, a flash light or lantern, a large knife, ice fishing gear, tent, sleeping bag, etc.  Some people have so much stuff they have to pull a sled behind the snowmobile to carry it all.

Usually the lake is a major snowmobile thoroughfare, but because of the fluffy snow and drifts, not many people have ventured out.  Snowmobiles don’t run very well in fluffy snow.  If you get going fast enough, the snowmobile will “plane” out on top of the snow, sort of like a boat “planes” on top of the water at a high speed, but sinks back down when the boat slows down.  It’s pretty much the same on fluffy snow with a snowmobile.  Fast enough, and you’re up on top riding the snow--but it’s hard to get enough speed.  If it’s deep fluffy snow, your front runners have a tendency to plow into the snow, and if you’re going fast and slow down, you just sink down into the snow.

Stinky Williams was getting very impatient.  He wanted to be out running the lake.  Last Saturday, against everybody’s advice, he took off on his snowmobile out onto the lake.  When he hadn’t returned by sundown, people were very worried.  Pete Sokal, Tommy Migliori, and Robin and Chadd organized a search party and headed out onto the lake on their snowmobiles to find him.  As they passed Frenchman’s Island and were headed toward Pancake Shoal, they spied a huge snowdrift out in the middle of the lake.  Stinky’s tracks seemed to head right toward the drift.  As they got closer, there seemed to be a glow coming from the middle of the drift. They thought it was probably the headlight from Stinky’s snowmobile.  But as they got even closer, they could hear music playing and could smell fish frying.  They followed Stinky’s tracks up onto the drift until they disappeared into a big hole.  They stopped their snowmobiles and climbed up the drift and looked down into the hole.

There was Stinky sitting on his snowmobile eating a plate of fried fish and drinking a Molson’s with his Coleman lantern, stove, and radio sitting off to the side.  What had happened was that Stinky had driven up on top of the drift and stopped, and when he did, he sank down into the drift.   Instead of trying to get out, Stinky dug down further with the shovel he carried in his box under the seat until he hit the ice.  He chiseled a hole in the ice with his knife and decided to go fishing.  He also got out his Coleman lantern and stove and fired them up.  The heat from the lantern and stove had melted a large cavity in the drift where he was.  It was quite nice down in there.  He was down out of the wind and the heat from the lantern and stove made it very warm.  And, best of all, he was catching a lot of perch.  Using the Boy Scout Mess Kit he carried in his box, he had cooked up some of those perch he had caught.

When the search party saw this, they decided to join him instead of trying to rescue him.  They all went back to their snowmobiles and got their lanterns, fishing gear and whatnot, and then clambered down into the drift with Stinky.  Robin and Chadd volunteered to go back for some more beer as Stinky had already finished most of the six pack that he had with him.  Besides, Chadd thought there was a certain romance to riding a snowmobile out on the lake at night.  Well, the “party” went on until way past daybreak.  In all, they caught 47 perch.

I did want to tell you about a piece of gossip that’s been going around up here.  I’m sure you remember Edith Truax, from the Christian Ladies Fellowship over at the Rock of Ages Stone Church.  Well, word has it that she has been going around with Old Ladd, from up on Toad Harbor--you remember, the one who put “Bah Humbug” in lights on his barn for Christmas.   Edith had been in a minor collision up on the Interstate with a Canadian, who had lost control of his car during a “lake flake” squall.  Anyway, Sheriff Wysocki said that Old Ladd was in the car with her when he arrived on the scene.  They’ve also been seen together up at the Two Italian Guys Pizzeria, Barbecue, and Chinese Take Out Restaurant ordering take out Chow Mein. Viola DuFaux said that Edith had missed the last two Friday night hymn sings and the group was wondering where she might have been.  I’ll keep you posted ...

And that’s the news from Oneida Lake, where all the women, men and children are out shoveling snow.          

Copyright © 2001, J. W. Kelly.  All rights reserved.