Sporting Classics Digital

March/April 2017

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Page 59 of 189

T ramping across the rock-strewn, snowy beach of Crane Island with two companions that bitter- cold winter morning, on his way to the rough shore ice and the lake-trout grounds beyond, Lewis Sweet had no warning of what grim fate the next seven days had in store for him, no intimation that before the week was up his name would be on the lips of people and the front pages of newspapers across the whole country. Nor did he guess that he was walking that Lake Michigan beach for the last time on two good feet. The date was Tuesday, January 22, 1929. There was nothing to hint that the day would be any different from the many others Sweet had spent fishing through the ice for lake trout, there on the submerged reefs off Crane Island. He'd walk out to his light-proof shanty, kindle a fire of dry cedar in the tiny stove, and sit and dangle a wooden decoy in the clear, green water beneath the ice, hoping to lure a prowling trout within reach of his heavy seven-tined spear. If he was lucky, he'd take four or five good fish by midafternoon. Then he'd go back to shore and drive the 30 miles to his home in the village of Alanson, Michigan, in time for supper. It would be just another day of winter fishing, pleasant but uneventful. The Crane Island fishing grounds lay west of Waugoshance Point, at the extreme northwest tip of Michigan's mitten- shaped Lower Peninsula. The point is a long, narrow tongue of sand, sparsely wooded, roadless, and wild, running out into the lake at the western end of the Straits of Mackinac, with Crane Island marking land's end. Both the island and the point are unpeopled. On the open ice of Lake Michigan, a mile 56 • S P O R T I N G C L A S S I C S Stranded on an ice floe in Lake Michigan, his feet and hands frozen and blistered from the shearing cold, Lewis Sweet never gave up in his amazing struggle to survive. By Ben east

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