Maybe because I can feel fall in the air; maybe because schools are starting up next week; maybe it is because I know that winter will not be far behind; or maybe just maybe it is seeing all these people dump buckets of ice over their heads for the ALS challenge that I am thinking about my day with the icy pond.
Back when I was a little kid we lived on a major 5 lane road. Because of this I mostly played in the backyard of the house; we had three acres so it wasn’t like I was deprived of play space. I shared my back yard with my father’s quarter acre garden, a swamp, a raspberry patch, several good climbing trees and several ditches.
I don’t remember if I was born yet but there was some sort of trouble with a drain being busted and the result was our property would flood. To keep our property from flooding beyond the swamp my father dug ditches and ran some sort of pumping mechanism so that he had land for the garden and we had an area to play baseball or badminton or volleyball in. In the winter he would turn off the pumps and let that area flood so that we had a place to ice skate.
Leading down to that area was a hill that we used for sledding in the winter. My older brother and my father would make the snow on the hill down to the ice pond into a “chute” which they then covered with water to create an ice chute for our sledding enjoyment.
We had a metal sled that because of it’s shape was called “the boat sled” as it looked like a slightly pudgy round cornered boat. Put the boat sled at the top of the chute, kick your feet into the snow on either side to get going, tuck your body – feet and all – into the sled and hang on for the ride of your life.
On this particular day I was outside playing by myself and decided to go sledding. I got the boat sled out of the garage and dragged it to the top of the hill, settled myself mostly in and kicked off. And I sat!! The sled was stuck in some snow that had melted a bit and messed up our smooth ice. I got out of the sled and moved it a little bit farther down the chute to find a place where I could take off from.
Finding the right place, I put the sled on the chute and climbed in ready for a fast ride.
And what a ride it was!! I flew through puddles on that chute, laughing as I got icy splashes to my face and hanging on tight as that sled seemed to just fly down that hill.
Now, no one had ever told me that when Michigan gets that thaw mid-winter that you stay off of ice covered ponds and lakes till someone older and responsible checks it out for you; at least till not after the fact.
So there I was flying down the hill on that boat sled, picking up speed and enjoying the rush that only hurtling down a hill can give you. I was even wondering just how far out on the ice pond I would go and I couldn’t wait to tell everyone at dinner that I had gone farther than anyone else had.
Got to the end of the chute and I was actually hurtling through the air like being on some whacky magic metal flying carpet!! I was enjoying this immensely!!
Then I hit the ice pond, slid a little bit and promptly sank into water up to my armpits. Being a bit on the tall side for a child of that age, the water came up to just my arm pits but I was still about 20 feet from any edge of the pond and I was outside alone!!
What to do?? What to do?? Well, I wasn’t about to lose the sled; especially if we were going to freeze over again before spring. So I grabbed that sled and held it over my head and tried to walk out of that pond. Should be easy, right?
I couldn’t go very far with the drag from my boots and holding that sled over my head made making headway all but impossible for me to do. I remembered my cousin’s advice about what to do when you fall in a lake from a boat and figured it applied in this situation. I lowered the sled and found that it would stay on top of the icy slush as long as I didn’t put any of my weight on it. I figured out a way to remove my boots and put them on the sled. Then it was time for me to try to finish wading toward the shore.
It took awhile and I had to break some ice a few times to get to the shore. Yelling for help did no good as no one was close enough to hear me and with it being winter, no one had any windows open either. By the time I reached the shore it was all I could do to pull my boots on and make my way to the house.
I got inside and after explaining, to whichever of my siblings was supposed to be watching me, through chattering teeth I got out of my wet clothes, put into a warm bath, then into dry pajamas and put into bed with a heating pad or two. I fell asleep and slept right through till breakfast, which I ate with gusto, just happy to be alive and already planning my next adventure in the back yard.