Friday, December 19, 2008

Breaking the Ice


This is a picture of our creek at a recent sunrise. There was a point in time when this creek would freeze so hard that you could walk across it, which is what this next story's about.

Once upon a time, back in the days when it used to snow, the Chesapeake Bay would freeze over and so would our creek.

The End.


No, silly, not The End, this is Chesapeake Bay Woman's opportunity to take a paragraph of a story and stretch it like salt-water taffy into a mind-numbing experience that you can't wait to escape from. From which you can't wait to escape. From.

Anyway, our creek used to freeze over so thick we could sometimes walk across it, and as kids we'd do just that. Left unattended while our mothers were watching Secret Storm and the Edge of Darkness, the neighborhood kids would get together and spend hours slipping and sliding on that ice.

Nobody had skates, they weren't necessary. Chesapeake Bay Woman really wished she were on an ice hockey team, though, and OH how she wished she had some ice skates because she wanted to fly instead of slip clumsily along in her mother's over sized work boots with her feet wrapped in bread bags for extra protection. (Anyone else do that? No? Never mind then, we didn't either. Let's move on.)

One day Middle Sister, Neighbor Friend, Neighbor's Sister and I (ages 10-13) were skating/sliding around the edge of the shoreline having a grand old time. We went way down the end of Miller's Cove, where Neighbor's Sister decided to venture to the end of a nearby dock.

Because this freeze wasn't entirely "walk across the creek" thick, Neighbor Friend and I watched Neighbor's Sister with some trepidation as she ventured further and further down the length of the dock. (Naturally we were in charge of the two youngsters, since our mothers were busy watching Search for Tomorrow as their children pranced across paper-thin ice barely covering a creek that can reach depths of 8 feet in some places. But this is neither here nor there...)

Of course you know what happened next. We heard the inevitable crack. Every one of us froze in our tracks and watched in horror as, in super slow-motion, the ice gave way and Neighbor's Little Sister's feet started disappearing. With the reflexes of a cat and the clutches of a koala bear with a side order of Velcro and Crazy Glue tossed in for good measure, she wrapped her entire body around the nearest dock pole, just as her feet started going under. She was clinging to the dock pole for dear life.

The rest of us clambered to shore and up the dock. Somehow or another we hoisted her up and out of the icy water. Our mothers never knew what happened.

Until last Friday night.

At the Neighborhood Christmas party, Neighbor's Little Sister made a surprise guest appearance. One of the very first things we talked about was the time she fell through the ice. It is permanently etched in our brains.

Our mothers, both in attendance, perked up and said, "What's this? Who fell through the ice? When did this happen? How come we didn't know?"

Neighbor and I just shook our heads. The answer lies somewhere in between Secret Storm, the Edge of Darkness, and the code of silence that exists among kids who have almost killed themselves.

We just laughed nervously and changed the subject. Much like we did the day the ice broke.

24 comments:

Grandma J said...

What a terrible experience for the neighbor kid! It's a good thing you were there to hoist her up and out.

I love the fact that these stories are news to your parents. I can only imagine the fun you guys had at the neigborhood gathering!

Anonymous said...

I too remember the thick ice, but being come here's we had skate's and remember skating at night with the dock lights on.

Ann Marie aka Carly said...

Down at Cow Creek.. yes it was really named cow creek I used to ice skate as a child as well... it was one of the greatest memories I have as a child.. that old creek freezing over and zipping around in plastic/rubber boots.. my mother had ice skates from when she was a kid and used those a time or two.. I never had a pair on until I was in my late 20's... those things HURT lol

big hair envy said...

The "Kids Code of Silence" is an incredible bond, and one which should never be entered into lightly. My sisters/cousins & I share many secrets that have never been revealed to the "grown-ups"!!!

We used to put bread bags on our boots as well (secured with rubberbands, of course). They usually had holes in them because they had been handed down for GENERATIONS!!!!

Anonymous said...

I remember this incident. We were lucky. But, I almost spit my coffee out when I read that you were slipping around "in my mother's over-sized work boots." Now, if I recall our parents had huge, matching work boots and one of us would wear Daddy's and the other would wear Mamma's. Is that correct? They were HUGE! Why did Mamma have work boots? Was this a Christmas present from Daddy? I'm still laughing.....

-Middle Sis

Anonymous said...

I can remember a time at Davis Creek when I was a child with another girl who shall remain nameless when with both wore hip boot of nameless girls grandparents to go on only partially frozen creek only to get yelled at for being half frozen and ruining said hip boots of the colonel and his wife.

Anonymous said...

Below is a story that I wanted to send to CBW so that she might share it with everyone, but given the topic of today's blog it seems appropriate to share it now.

I grew up on Stutt's Creek, which is, as the crow flies, two to four miles from Queens Creek. As a teenager, I had an 8N Ford tractor - Dad always had a car for me to drive, so I bought a tractor. In the late 70's Stutt's Creek froze hard enough one winter for us to take the tractor out on the ice. We tied ski ropes to the back and pulled skaters, sledders and an otherwise wide assortment of young and not-so-young fun loving idiots. It was an exhilarating experience for those who were brave enough to try it; if the tractor ran along at 15 miles per hour, the skaters and sledders were traveling considerably faster as they swung wide during the turns.

Just turning the tractor alone at top speed was unnerving. Most tractors have a separate break pedal for each of the back wheels; on land, a tractor can "turn on a dime". Not so on the ice; at top speed the turning "radius" was forty or fifty feet, or more. For every degree the tractor turned, it slid a few inches - at 180 degrees the inches add-up. In order to turn safely, especially with a couple skaters in tow, one had to turn at a wide part of the creek and there was little shared confidence that the tractor or those in tow were going to make it.

Perhaps the most nerve wracking challenge of all though, was driving the tractor onto the creek for the first time. The ice around the shoreline was not as thick as it was over the deeper water; but the water around the shoreline is not very deep either, so Dad and I, both men of questionable sanity, rationalized that if the ice didn't hold we'd tow the tractor out with my Dad's wrecker. Happily, after a crunch here and a crack there, we got the tractor, without incident, onto the creek. In fact, we left it there for more than a week - maybe two.

The skaters and sledders had their share of fun, too. Sledding was relatively easy, though stopping before slamming into the back of the tractor was a challenge. Skating behind the tractor, however, was tricky, especially if you hit a rough spot. By my count we had one separated shoulder, an endless tumble beautifully executed by one of my high school classmates that miraculously did not result in any broken bones, a few probable concussions, and a hell'uva lot of bumps, bruises and minor scrapes. In the end, most folks left with a smile...

For those who live in Minnesota, Canada or other points north of the Mason-Dixon Line, I'm sure this story seems commonplace. For those live in the Sahara and points between the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn, you probably think I'm lying through my teeth. Nonetheless, it's all true; in fact, it was documented with a picture that appeared in the Gazette Journal approximately 30 years ago.

Happy sledding!

MMM

Phyl said...

Bread Bag Socks! I loved that you brought back that memory. Enjoying your blog very, very much.

Meg @ Soup Is Not A Finger Food said...

We did bread bags, too... and used to play pond hockey on the neighbors' ponds. It used to snow and get cold enough for water to freeze in central PA, too, but not anymore.

Ice hockey, you say? You're never too old to learn. My husband is living proof. Took it up 4 years ago, right before our youngest was born, and he (husband) was 39. or 40. I forget. He's still playing, too.

my name is gramma said...

i was glad to read on and see that there was a happy ending. did you ever get those hockey skates? i just asked for a new pair of skates from santa, the ones i have are over 30 years old, i think it's time to trade them in, new to your blog, enjoyed your story, merry christmas!!!
p.s. beautiful picture!!

Mental P Mama said...

Yikes. I think you need to write a movie script. I can just see it now!

Mental P Mama said...

Oh, and my mother was watching The Doctors when we did our mischief.

Chesapeake Bay Woman said...

What a gift to come back here and see all these wonderful comments!

Middle Sis - YES there were two pairs of work boots that we inserted our bread-bag-bound feet into, and I USUALLY got stuck wearing Daddy's, although in my idyllic, idealized version of the story I elected to say they were Mamma's because they were closer to my size. WHO KNOWS WHY THEY HAD WORK BOOTS AND I WOULDN'T BE A BIT SUPRRISED IF DADDY DIDN'T GIVE THEM TO HER AS A BIRTHDAY PRESENT OR ANNIVERSARY GIFT OR SOMETHING.

Mathews Mountain Man - GREAT STORY!
I remember people driving cars out onto the ice during one particularly thick freeze. A tractor pulling sledders sounds like heaven on Earth to me. Even now! I'd do it in a minute...except nothing ever freezes anymore.

Thanks everyone!

tj said...

...Wow girl, you should really write children's books or something. Your gift of story telling is out of this world! :o)

...Yeah, isn't it funny that as you're telling this story of your childhood just think of the stories your children will tell when they're older and they'll be sayin', "yeah, remember the time while mom was blogging and we did..." lol ;o) (I know, I know, you're thinkin', "not funny tj, not funny") hee,hee...

...And omg, I remember the bread bags! lol... I do that now when we have snowy or muddy boots on and ya need to make a quick trip to the bathroom. Just throw on a couple of WalMart bags and it saves your floors and you don't have to go thru that whole rigamaro of removin' your boots and all... :o)

...Happy Friday CBW! Blessings too...

tj said...

...lol...Loved the story up there about the tractor out on the ice! What fun! The year we bought our house the following winter hit hard and the big lake down the hill froze over thick. We were in heaven! My husband and I, the dogs and even our ol' barn cat were out on the lake sliding around (not the cat so much but when you picked her up she'd nestle down inside your coat and slide along with you :o). We had our 4-wheeler out there and we would slide around like nobody's business...lol Sadly, the lake has never froze over again like that. Lookin' back I'm sure our neighbors thought "those people who moved into the ol' log house are NUTS!". lol...

...Thanks for the memories CBW!

Cool Breeze said...

How did we live through it?

Life with Kaishon said...

We used to do the same thing on our pond in the backyard! It was so much fun! My Dad would go out to the middle and jump one time before we were allowed on it. I definitely remember hearing cracks as the ice was starting to melt.

One time I told my sister I was going to teach her to be an olympic skater. I made her practice and practice. When she got tired I would tell her that she had to be serious about it so she could go all the way to the olympics.

I was so silly!

Anonymous said...

OH, yes and by the way, Baby Sis was an extra in the show that the guy who used to do Andy Griffith did in his later years....not Tom Sellick's show. I just read your old blog about houses. Baby Sis and I were living in Nags Head and that's where whats-his-name has a home and that's why she was able to be an extra. I was at work (lifeguarding) at the time.

-Middle Sis

Yolanda said...

This is such a beautiful photo.

Anonymous said...

Funny, not a single mention about how sweaty & smelly one's feet got when they were wrapped in plastic.

....just as it should be!

Robby said...

I remember the creeks freezing in either '77 or '78 and I have film of it, with tractors and go-carts out on the ice.

Charlcie said...

What a story! So glad I wandered over to your blog and caught it. :)

Thanks also for wandering to my blog to wish me well in my latest cancer fight. I SO appreciate your support! I'm gonna do it...again. I'm going to win...again!

Chesapeake Bay Woman said...

I thank each and every one of you for your comments.... first-timer Robby knows a thing or two about the Chesapeake Bay, he's an expert. Also, his Daddy and mine played in a band together "back in the day."

I have a small favor to ask of anyone still reading, and that is to please send positive, healing thoughts to Charlcie. She's fighting a fight and can use an extra boost.

I love hearing from you all, thank you for making my day.

Meg @ Soup Is Not A Finger Food said...

Thanks for the Charlcie shout-out, CBW! You're a peach!