Through the Woods

In order to get there, you have to wind your way north off Highway 5, past the ski factory and the old Heutmaker property, across the old railroad tracks, and then through the woods to Stieger Lake, referred to as Lake Victoria by some of the old timers.

If you're on foot, you take baby steps because the downward trek is as slippery as all get-out.  If you're in a pickup truck or SUV, you ride the brake all the way to the shoreline and then poke forward onto the ice and find a parking spot on the perimeter of the rather circular event.

Loudspeakers blare names and prizes for two full hours, because of the continuous drawings, and hardly ever do they tell about the fish being caught, probably because it doesn't happen very often.

The aroma of burgers and grease hangs in the air along with pockets of conversation here and there.  People don't talk as much in the cold as they do in the heat.

You might call this group of men Victoria Oldtimers but that could get you in trouble and if we call them the Victoria Regulars, that might not be totally true, so let's call them by name without calling them names:  From the left, as usual, that's Bill Schneider, Chub Schmieg, Jim Schmieg, Roger Leuthner, Marvin Storms, John Heiland, and Ken Schmieg.

These two fishing buddies are Mike Wartman of Prior Lake, on the left, and Dale Carroll of Victoria.  Mike grew up in Victoria, as many of you know, and Dale is still growing up in Victoria, like the rest of us.

All of these gentlemen are from Excelsior/Tonka Bay and they declared in unison, "We're not friends -- we're family!"  The fishing family includes, hopefully in the right order, Richard Upgren, John Kohman, Dan Randall, Doug Keller, Bill Kohman, Jim Kohman,

Most of these Victoria guys probably went to school alone together.  Starting with the checkered jacket and moving in the camo direction, that's Dan Schneider, John Chapman, Tom Schrempp, Jeff Chapman, Mark Jesberg, Randy Schneider, and Mark Schneider.

It's never too cold for an ice cold beer.  That's Paul Hartman of Victoria in the middle and Peter Bren of Victoria on the right. 

Sleeping beauty?  Warm wonder?  Cool cucumber?  No complaints, no compliments, no conversation from this unidentified fisherman all wrapped tight and tucked in for a relaxing afternoon under the sun.  Peace is no small thing.

David Thun had a hole all to himself.

So did his wife, Mayor  Mary Thun.

Is that Dr. Becky with the hotdog?

Deep Baveja, owner of the Hi-Liquor and Convenience Store in Victoria, said he was familiar with his neighbors, the Victoria Firefighters, since they spend a lot of time at the Victoria Fire Station just across the highway.  But he first met Gregg Geske, on the left, Chief of the Chanhassen Fire Department, at this year's Victoria Ice Fishing Contest.  Gregg grew up in Victoria.  Deep grew up in north India.

One of the fishermen told me that I take the same pictures every year for the Gazette.  Not true.  I used to find Tony and Sally Kerber and Tony Aretz.  I used to find Vic Schneider and Florian Schneider.  I used to find John Notermann and Dave and Marlene Speltz and Darel Geske and Rod Groff and Marv Hartman.

.  I used to find Wayne Neubarth and Fred Plocher and Ruth Kroening and Euch Wartman.  I used to find Ray and Frannie Schmieg, too, so you must agree that my pictures vary quite remarkably from year to year. 

Victoria Firefighter Rick Leuthner, on the left, did a good job of waving everybody on and off Stieger Lake, pointing hundreds of cars and people in the right direction at the point of access.  That feller with the earlappers is Pat Henning of Victoria on his way home to Kirke Lachen after a good stint on the lake.

When the two hours of ice-time are up and you've burped and blown your nose a couple times, you then turn toward your vehicle and head up the hill through the woods with the heater turned on high and thoughts of spring just ahead.

Love, Sue