Down in the comments yesterday, Sue, one of our resident Cheeseheads, made reference to northern pike as “foot-eaters.” It’s safe to say that seven years after being bitten by one of these freshwater barracudas, I finally feel vindicated.
Longtime readers have heard this story, so I’ll try to make it brief:
One summer day in 2001, Alan and I were at his family’s weekend cottage at Coldwater Lake. I’d just finished mowing the grass and was hot and sweaty, so I stowed the mower, walked down the lake, and plunged in for a little refreshment. I surfaced, shook the water out of my eyes, and was enjoying the cooldown when something with very sharp teeth grabbed my thigh, shook it once, and was gone.
“Something bit me!” I squealed. Some of our neighbors were sitting on the shoreline, and offered alternate theories; I’d rubbed against a submerged branch, or no, it was a turtle. If it was a branch, it had disappeared, and turtles don’t even have teeth. So I waded out, looked down, and saw this (minus the tape measure; that was part of my forensic evidence-gathering):
The guy who’d said it was a turtle gaped in astonishment. The bruise hadn’t formed yet, but the parentheses of the bite were clearly visible.
And so began my long quest to find someone to acknowledge this had happened.
Oh, the evidence was clear enough, which is why I took the picture. And certainly, within moments of seeing the bite, and making sure I was properly cleaning the abrasion, my husband had removed a fly rod from the rack and was casting a streamer off the dock, hoping Mr. Big Teeth hadn’t left the neighborhood. (In my romantic fantasy, he was after revenge.) We pegged the fish as a pike because it was the only possibility in that lake, and through the CSI-approved technique of taking a mounted one out of my neighbor’s attic and matching the gaping mouth to the mark on my leg — a perfect match (and a trophy-size fish). But even though everyone said, hmm, yes, well, obviously you were bitten by something, you could see the doubt in their eyes. The DNR officer I e-mailed the picture to said such an incident was unprecedented in his career. Longtime anglers had been bitten by pike when trying to remove hooks from the fish’s jaw, but no one had ever heard of a swimmer being attacked. One thing freshwater swimmers can count on in Midwestern lakes is: No sharks.
It being 2001, internet resources were limited, but nothing I could find said they were known to bite swimmers. (Although I learned the fun fact that their saltwater cousins had been known to hit coke spoons hanging from the necks of stupid Key West snorkelers.)
At the end of the day, the best single observation was my neighbor’s, who said, “I guess he knew well-marbled meat when he saw it.” Wiseass. Although dead-on, I’m sorry to say.
So, Sue, you helped make my day. Downstate pike and muskie might not be as big as the whoppers from the higher latitudes, but they have teeth, and they’re not afraid to use them.
Now I can retire that story for another seven years. But I’m never getting rid of the picture.
Since it’s Good Friday and half of you have the day off (and hence, won’t be wasting company time surfing the web), a few tech-related questions for the crowd today. Feel free to answer any you might know:
Why do those sneaky pop-unders cause my laptop’s fans to go crazy? I assume it’s because they’re making some part of the processor work extra-hard, but which one and why? At night, when I’m working and websurfing at mad-crazy speeds, I have to stop at least twice, hunt those damn things down, and close them all. It’s not unusual to find six to nine ads for Netflix and the Economist hiding under everything else. Bastids! When I’m hunting down news for my employer’s clients, I usually have two browsers running, with about five tabs in each. That’s nothing, however. I was talking to a colleague, one of our true Search ninjas, and he said there have been times when he’s covering breaking news for up to three of our biggest clients — essentially running a private wire service customized for their companies — and he has had up to 27 windows and tabs open simultaneously, hopping between them all. Which is to say, I know I’m working my CPU hard when I’m doing this stuff. But the fans all shut down when I eliminate the pop-unders.
Do iPhones or BlackBerrys make one’s life simpler, or more complicated? My friends with so-called smart phones say they’re the sort of technology that makes you wonder how you ever lived without it. Considering the increased cost, is the new world of possibilities worth it? Or is it just a pretty new leash? (Note: I lived without a cell phone until 2003, and think I could probably live without one nearly as easily. The bigger the city, however, the more essential they are. But my life is pretty simple now, and I never use even close to my minimum minutes.)
If you’ve given up your CD collection, how’s that working for you? I only know one household that’s fully committed to files on a hard drive for all their music needs. (It’s my tech-genius friend, J.C. Burns.) They have everything on a single multiply backed-up hard drive, and play music around the house by plugging their iPods into various amplifier devices. I’m envious of their shelf space, and their generosity, because once everything had been burned to the hard drive, they gave their entire CD collection away. And the longer I’m alive, the less crap I want cluttering up my house. This is terribly tempting. Discuss pros and cons.
And all the rest of you, have a good Easter. I’ll be shoveling snow, or so I’m told.