"Obsessive" is a word I hear often in my presence.
"Driven" would be another, and "passionate," too.
But I think the best word to sum up my outdoors enthusiasm is "compulsive."
My wife, Erin, once asked me something a true sportsman should never have to answer: "If you had to cut down on your hobbies (she said it like I have too many or something) and do only one, which would it be?"
Seriously? One hobby? Ask me which one of my future children is my favorite and I'd probably have an easier time answering. But my favorite hobby? That's like asking: "If you had to choose between your heart and your lungs, which would you keep?"
Hmmm...off the top of my head? My lungs, so that maybe I can squeeze out one more honk from my goose call before finally succumbing to cardiac arrest.
OK, that's a bit dramatic. I know I won't die if, for example, I have to pick duck hunting over walleye fishing. But being in the outdoors and experiencing all it has to offer is what makes me, me. If you cut out one part of it, a little piece of my soul goes, too.
And therein lies my compulsion. Blame it on the seasons and the Game and Fish department. If there's an opening date for some wild species to pursue, I've probably been planning and preparing for it since at least two months prior.
It can't be helped. Even now, as Old Man Winter has the northland in his firm grasp, I'm already dreaming about the spring flight of snow geese and the coinciding conservation hunting season.
Likewise, as the ice auger lays still thawing on my garage floor from the most recent excursion, I already am planning to carve new crank baits for some early-water walleyes.
Am I sick? Maybe this isn't a healthy condition, to be constantly jumping from hunting season to fishing season with nary a stop to catch a breath.
There's always the alternative, I suppose. Wash my hands of the whole business and start fresh. Maybe I can get into following professional football? Become a festering couch potato of a husband, gain 50 pounds and spend my time glaze-faced in front of our 42-inch plasma television.
Or I know: start working on muscle cars! Instead of putting my time and effort into bettering myself and filling the freezer, I can dump our funds into a rust-bucket of a vehicle in hopes that, some day, I can cruise downtown Fargo and rev my engine every time a good looking woman passes by.
Because you know what they say about guys with big engines...
To be fair, Erin realized all this long ago. She knows that hunting and fishing always will be a big part of my life - and that there are a lot worse things than being an avid outdoorsman. During our five years together, I've even gotten her to look forward to fishing season (and before you ask, yes, she outfishes me - more often than I care to admit).
But I, too, have come to an understanding. The outdoors, like anything in life, can not in itself define me. I must strive to be more than just my favorite pursuits and past-times; especially now that I am married and hope to have a family in the near future.
What kind of father will I be if the love for hunting and fishing outweighs the love for my children? Or what kind of husband to my wife?
As my grandpa Ray always says: everything in moderation.
This was put to the test last weekend when the "blizzard" - which I now sarcastically refer to as "The Big Icee" - saturated Fargo. With metrological reports that howling winds and upwards of a foot of snow would make travel unthinkable, a trip with my uncles to Lake of the Woods was canceled.
Drat: no more walleyes, no more fun and no more root beer schnapps.
Worse still, Erin was working nights at her job as a NICU nurse at MeritCare, and I was hoping to get out of the house so as not to wake her with my bumbling about.
It's not that I'm loud, but let's put it this way: Erin wakes up if I blink.
When the aftermath of "The Big Icee" proved nothing more than a solid soaking, the notion to travel to the Detroit Lakes area for some last-minute ice fishing Saturday sounded perfect.
With recent word that a hot crappie bite hit an area lake, I was chomping at the bit to smack some slabs and salvage what was left of the weekend.
When Erin heard my genius idea, she looked up with a slight frown on her face and rubbed the sleep from here eyes.
"I'm going to worry about you the whole time," she said, yawning. "You know that, right?"
It was fine, I told her. The roads were wet, sure, but I'd drive slowly. And if the lake didn't look safe or I had any doubts during the trip, the loyal Coralla would be heading back home faster than you can say "best husband in the world."
"But, I thought you were making supper?" she said, her lower lip sticking out, slightly.
There's plenty of leftovers, I reasoned.
She stared, puppy-dog eyed. I stared back, dumbly.
"OK, I'll stay," I said.
She smiled, hugged me and went back to bed.
As it was, my weekend was salvaged, but in a different way. It was nice to play caretaker and coddle over her, for once. I made supper before she went to work, and had breakfast on the table by the time she got home.
It also was nice knowing that, even though she was asleep, she was there. Sometimes, she would wake up, come out of the bedroom and curl next to me on the futon, placing her head on my shoulder and falling back to sleep. Other times, she'd stumble into the living room just to see how I was doing.
During her slumber, I took full advantage of the above-freezing temperatures and busied myself carving spearing decoys in the garage.
When the sawdust finally got the better of me, I watched television or read a book, which I've been working on finishing the past six months.
In the end, I didn't get to go fishing, but so what? I spent time with my wonderful wife, kept warm and dry, and got to watch the Minnesota Vikings choke one last time.
Besides, the lakes aren't going anywhere...and there's always next weekend.
Tyler Shoberg is Sports Editor of the Pioneer as well as an avid hunter and fisherman. He can be reached at 701-451-5707 or firstname.lastname@example.org