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Hood's Winks – Fish not only thing hooked (Jan. 13, 2016 issue)

Here’s a true story from my favorite redneck aircraft mechanic, Claudie Drake, of Cullman, AL.
But first, let me tell you something about airplane mechanics (although the industry calls them “technicians” these days).
When you are a pilot, you actually trust the mechanic with your life. The mechanic tells you he found the problem with your airplane and fixed it. You get in and fly it. It doesn’t kill you. Every time that happens, you trust that mechanic just a little bit more.
Claudie was one that I trusted a whole lot, so, when he told me this story, I believed every word of it and still do.
Claudie had never been far from Alabama when he joined the Air Force, long before I knew him. Almost immediately he was shipped out to northern Alaska (heck, I didn’t know there was a southern Alaska) where they desperately needed aircraft mechanics.
As Claudie tells it, “After a few weeks we got to thinking we were experts on this cold weather stuff. Uh-huh. Then somebody come up with the idea that we should go ice fishing.
“Three of us decided we’d try it. There was me, another boy from Alabama and a boy from Georgia. You can tell we ain’t got no business ice fishing. The boy from Georgia, now, he was our expert ‘cause he was from about 40 miles north of Atlanta. He had at least seen some ice. Uh-huh.
“We all piled into my brand-new Ford pickup truck—I hadn’t even made the first payment yet—and we took off driving accrost this here big, frozen lake. We couldn’t be bothered with fishing near the bank. Naw, we had to go out to the middle of the lake where we figured the big fish was. Uh-huh.
“Once’t we got about a mile from shore, I got to wondering how thick that ice was. I asked our expert from Georgia, and he said, ‘Hell, I don’t know.’
“Just about then that ice commenced to creaking as we drove accrost it. Then it took to poppin’. Our eyes got big as saucers, and we scrunched our shoulders up tight. Then we opened both doors so we could jump if we fell through. Uh-huh.
“All of a sudden there was a big crash and the front tires fell down into the ice. We jumped out of that truck and took off. Didn’t even lock the doors. Left our equipment in the truck.
“We danged near froze to death tippy-toein’ accrost that lake, scared to death we was gonna fall in. We finally got to a ranger station, and the ranger said, ‘Well, there ain’t nothing we can do ‘til the ice thaws out come spring. I’ll give you a bunch of 55-gallon drums. Tie enough of ‘em to the truck and we’ll try to catch it when it floats by toward the end of April.’ Then he took pity on us. ‘Hell, boys, that ice is six feet thick. You just got the front wheels stuck in an air pocket.’ He took us back and pulled it out with his jeep, and I ain’t never been ice fishing again since that day.”