This time of the year we in the Northland tend to start looking for benchmarks that let us realize that, beyond the frozen horizon, Spring is still on the way. A couple of days ago Sally mentioned her hostas under the snow - obviously grasping at straws to maintain her sanity. Robins and crocuses are fine, but they are still two pages down the calender. One of our first harbingers is the ice houses, or lack of them. They are off the ice, by law I suspect, because they seemed to vanish overnight.
For you people living in more reasonable climes, these shacks in the picture are on the lake. Don't let the tracks laid down by pickups mislead you. When it freezes hard you can drive all over the lakes. Ice houses, or fish houses, are clustered around the lake, usually in groups in front of the "better" homes. They have floors with cutouts for the holes that are chiseled through a foot or more of ice, to allow a fishing line to be dangled down into the water, at east theoretically. In actuality it's a place where men go to drink beer, scratch, spit and fart without being "corrected". It is an example of how far society would slide and deteriorate without women to maintain certain minimal standards. There are no frilly curtains, no "cute" window boxes - just a minimal shack painted with a mixture of the old paint from the top shelf. Both my grandfather and father had ice houses. I don't, and I'm probably the poorer for it.