Ice Skating At Maple Grove
By Linda Steele
“I would like to play the saxophone!”
“Let’s go skating!” I suggested on a cold Sunday afternoon in January.
“Where? I don’t feel like skating at the park, bumping into all the Sunday skaters,” my older brother fussed.
“We don’t have to. We can skate up the creek like we did last year; see how far we can go.”
“When do you want to go?” our dad asked, naturally feeling welcome to be included in the adventure.
“Let’s go now!” I said, excited at the prospect of skating up the creek that ran through the middle of my grandfather’s farm. “Grandpa says the creek has been frozen for several weeks so the ice should be good for skating.”
“We had better leave Buddy here,” he advised. “He’ll want to go with us, but it’s pretty cold for that short coat of his. He’d be shivering before we got to the creek.”
The three of us gathered our gear and headed for the bottomland while our unhappy rat terrier barked and whined at our parting. As we walked through the frozen grass that crackled under our feet, it was hard to believe that, in just a few months, this would be a lake when the creek flooded over its banks with spring rains. The wind was bitter. The frozen trees cracked and groaned; otherwise, the world was silent. The only signs of life were of a few birds scratching in the snow, searching for seeds and whatever else they might find to eat.
When we reached the creek, my brother happily jumped up and down on the ice. “You were right, it’s solid.”
We sat on the homemade bridge that had to be rebuilt every few years when the spring rains washed it away. Having skates that clamped onto his shoes, our dad only had to remove his boots, but my brother and I had to remove our shoes and boots for our figure skates.
“Do you think it’s safe to leave our boots on the bridge?” I asked.
“It should be okay as long as a nosy old coon doesn’t decide to take one of them home with him,” Dad chortled.
“Do you really think that might happen?” I asked, suddenly concerned for the safety of my precious shoes and boots.
“I doubt it. It might happen if you left them here overnight, but I wouldn’t think even an ornery coon would have the brass to make off with them during the day.”
We were soon making our way north on the creek. There were wide spots where the pools were deep and narrow places that required us to take care not to trip on a large bunch of weeds or twigs frozen into the ice. Everything was quiet except for the continued cracking of the trees as the wind caught their frozen branches.
“When you think you are alone in the wilderness, look around,” Dad reminded us. “Most times you’ll see all sorts of eyes watching, wondering what you are doing, wondering if you have something good for them to eat.”
Before we had skated far, we saw a curious groundhog resting on his hind legs, watching us pass. He was quiet, probably thought we didn’t see him.
“Hey, Dad,” my brother called, “I thought groundhogs slept all winter. If that guy is up watching us, what’s all that business about Groundhog Day?”
Before our father could answer, a truly angry squirrel “chuck-chucked” at us. He must have been saying, “How dare you disturb my nice, cozy home.”
As Dad skated ahead of us, the ice cracked. I could see water moving beneath the ice. He called a warning, “Watch out here, the ice is thin. You’ll get a wet foot.”
My brother was in front of me and I was pulling up the rear. By the time I passed over the thin spot, my skate broke through, but since I was expecting such a possibility, I lifted up my foot and avoided getting wet.
We passed cattle trying to graze on the frozen grass, dodged a few fallen trees, hopped over twigs. With the creek bed enveloping us and protecting us from the wind, we were able to skate along for over an hour without noticing the cold, but finally Dad said, “Let’s build a little fire and warm up for a while.”
It wasn’t hard to gather twigs and a few larger pieces of wood to start our fire, and in minutes we had a nice blaze right by a fallen tree. The three of us sat on that old tree and quietly rested, each of us in our own compartment, thinking, planning, enjoying the companionship without feeling the need to say anything. Finally, I asked my dad, “If you could do anything you ever wanted to do, what would it be?”
He thought about it for a few minutes and then surprised me with his answer. “I would like to learn how to play the saxophone.”
“Really? You could take lessons. They rent musical instruments at Smith’s Music Store.”
“I’m too old. I can think of a dozen better ways to spend the money, but there’s nothing more beautiful than a good song played on a saxophone.”
“I want to be a nurse and save lives every day.” I told him dreamily and then I turned to my brother. “What about you? What do you want?”
He thought about it for a few minutes. “I guess I’d like to live in the forest, maybe be a forest ranger.”
Before long we were warm, and the sun was getting low in the west. Dad started scooping snow onto the fire to put it out. “We’d better be heading for the house. Your mom will have a pie baked and, if we hurry, we can eat it with a big scoop of ice cream while it’s still warm.”
In minutes we started back down the creek to find, at the end of our journey, our boots, intact, but freezing cold, still on the lonely old bridge. We were tired, but full of life that night as we sat down to a big piece of warm apple pie with lots of sugar and cinnamon and a generous scoop of vanilla ice cream on top.
For more information about Lake Chapala visit: www.chapala.com