Spiritual as they are, Bob and Tom followed the early church's example of "having all things in common," That is to say, the pair pooled their resources - no doubt a sensible, stewardship-based approach to angling. Bob provided the equipment. The ice shanty, tip-up (fisherman speak for ice fishing pole) - all Bob's. For his part, Tom supplied the lake. A private body of water, Tom has long had permission to fish this secret honey-hole (a point he was careful to bring up in the ensuing controversy). Bob drove the pair to the lake, but Tom bought the bait and selected the location for the hole, even drilling it through the thick February ice.
Tom baited the hook and dropped the line into the frozen abyss and the two settled back to tell the lies that fishermen tell while waiting for the bait to be taken. Which it was. By a monster pike. Bob was the first to see the tip-up flag, or so he claims.
For those of you that live in places where water is actually a liquid more than four months out of the year, when the bait is taken on an ice fishing pole, a spring loaded flag is tripped, alerting the fisherman that a fish is on the line. This serves a couple of purposes. First, it enables the fisherman to warm his hands by keeping them away from the pole, except when absolutely necessary. Gloves are preferable, but pockets will do. As will armpits. Your own, usually, although I have heard of husband/wife fishing partners that started out innocently trying to stay warm and ended up receiving frostbite treatment. But that is a story for another blog. Probably one that is blocked by your Internet filter.
The second purpose of the tip-up is to enable the fisherman to drill multiple holes in the ice and drop lines in each. This increases the possibility that a fish moving beneath the ice might swim onto food strangely and mysteriously hanging from the sky waiting to be devoured as though it were a gift from Poseidon himself. Of course, there is always the danger that one's tip-ups will flag simultaneously, leading to the sportsman's version of the circus plate-spinner. One unfortunate angler, Dwight Snerdherder, upon seeing multiple flags surrounding his shanty, began scurrying from hole to hole until he became dizzy and passed out. They found him there hours later, alive, surrounded by fish, his Carharts frozen to the ice.
Tom reached for the pole, set the hook (another distinction he was careful to make later) and began reeling in the line. Judging by the tug on the line, Tom knew that he had either hooked a "big 'un" as they say here in Michigan, or else the minnow that he was using for bait was sucked into the pond's open loop geo-thermal system. Turns out it was indeed a hoss.
As he was winding line, Tom peered into the hole and, seeing the monster swim past exclaimed, "Its a hog, Bob!" Springing into action, Bob laid hold of the pole and began to assist Tom in landing the whopper. Was it an innocent desire to help his friend or something more sinister? Perhaps Bob wanted to lay claim to a portion of this 35 1/2 inch wallhanger?
Long story short, they landed the lunker. Before the body was cold . . . er, um . . . I mean warm, the arguing began.
"It was my pole!"
"I bought the bait!"
"I spotted the flag first!"
Unfortunately the controversy spilled over into Sunday morning. Within minutes of completing my sermon on grace and mercy and other minor doctrinal issues of faith, Bob approached me. "Hypothetical," he began. "Let's say you're fishing with a friend, and you own the one pole that you're sharing, and you catch a fish together. Who does the fish belong to?" For his part, Tom kept quiet, though not for long.
Raising the I'll-take-my-lake-and-go-home defense, Tom later explained, "I invited Bob to go fishing on this private lake that only I have permission to fish on. If it wasn't for me, we wouldn't even have had the chance to fish there." When I asked him about Bob's proprietary tackle assertion, he dismissed it handily. "If I lend you my golf club and you hit a hole in one with my club, then is it my hole in one? No, its yours. Point. Set. Game. Match." (Mixed metaphor notwithstanding.)
Truth be told, we may never know to whom the fish belongs. The only ones that really know are Bob and Tom. And the fish. And he's not talking.
Oh . . . the spiritual part. Paul wrote about the perils of man-fishing in 1 Corinthians 1:
I beg you, brothers and sisters, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ that all of you agree with each other and not be split into groups. I beg that you be completely joined together by having the same kind of thinking and the same purpose. My brothers and sisters, some people from Chloe's family have told me quite plainly that there are quarrels among you. This is what I mean: One of you says, "I follow Paul"; another says, "I follow Apollos"; another says, "I follow Peter"; and another says, "I follow Christ." Christ has been divided up into different groups! Did Paul die on the cross for you? No! Were you baptized in the name of Paul? No!You get it. And, in case you're wondering, my good-natured friends Bob and Tom get it too.