Like an wind from the North on a cold December day, I glided across a frozen pond in the woods behind DeForrest Ford’s estate. As an above ground skinny-dipper, dressed in swaddling clothing and a blue scarf knitted by my aunt Eva, I marked the crystal-clear, frozen surface of the pond with a pair of dull, white ice skates. Like a writer dancing on a new pen, I hit the ice for the first time in my life, fluttering clumsily at first, but soon picked up stride and felt the pond beneath my feet as a writer’s wrist moves softly upon paper as words progress and sentences grow upon smooth pages. I looked back and adored the white streaks my feet had made, yet was too nervous to attempt my first figure-eight.
The skates belonged to my mother. I found them in the basement and begged that she let me try them out on one of many ponds found in Three Springs. Bill, my older brother wanted to play ice hockey and insisted that he come along. He brought a Nerf football just in case there were any neighborhood kids out skating, who may wish to toss a sponge over the hardened ice, playing an improvised, slippy game of smear the queer, perhaps.
The Ford’s didn’t mind kids from town playing on their pond. The secluded playground was far out of view of any roadway and passing cars or even any houses. The closest residence was that of the Ford’s– a large white home with at least ten bedrooms inside, one might imagine. Besides, our step-father was good friends with DeForrest Ford and ice skating there was a far cry from trespassing.
The pond was fed by a small spring that bubbled up near a large pine tree. Water did not freeze near the tree or the water source, so we knew to stay clear from that part of the ice. There were several car tires stacked nearby and at the far end of the pond, the ice ended again, and water tricked out and ran down a small stream, all the way to the Ford farm where cattle obviously watered.
I took to that pond like a fish to a hook, falling just once before getting the knack of it. Spin, spin, spin…not afraid to fall, taking the hits as they came, almost hoping to crash.
Bill was forced to watch me skate– his feet too big to fit into mom’s skates. He sat atop his Nerf football, begging that I stop with the Dorothy Hammel game that I had invented– refusing to give me points from one to ten for my leaps and spins.
Bill was relieved that the Wible boys came out to skate. In no time we were playing hockey with a smashed beer can– Iron City Beer– and sticks. Then came the football across the ice and the gentle game of ‘tag’ we played where there were no tackles, but obviously, many hard falls by those who tried to out run others on the ice with a ball.
By late afternoon the Wible boys ignited one of the car tires stacked near the pond. Our feet were wet and cold. Our socks were held on sticks and we attempted to dry them over flames that sometimes turned blue. We watched as the perfect blue sky above turned black from the tire. Who knew there was so much smoke in one tire?
Back on the ice again. We were so tired. My stomach suddenly ached. I felt faint. Never since swimming in the summer had I never felt such hunger– a hunger out of nowhere– a stabbing pain for food– any kind of food. My sugar must have been low. When I mentioned my hunger, suddenly we were all famished.
We kicked the burning tire into the unfrozen part of the ice and watched as steam was unleashed into the needles of the pine tree above. We ran with skates in hand to the Wible’s house. Randy Wible went inside momentarily and returned with a large box full of chocolate covered cherries. Randy’s father worked for Wible’s trucking and the chocolates fell off one of the trucks.
We each ate at least three boxes of chocolates in our heated hunger. We wondered why when swimming and skating, a kid gets so hungry when playing in and on water. Eventually we grew tired of the chocolate and ate just the cherries– hundreds of them popping into our mouths like Nerf footballs over a pond.
That was the last chocolate covered cherry I ever ate and only wish that there were still frozen ponds in December to skate and play football upon.