I have wonderful memories of ice-skating all my growing up years. We always had a puzzle to work in the evening after we had frozen our toes skating on the creek (pronounced krik) ice. I will never forget the return of feelings in my toes and the resulting pain. It is a wonder we did not damage them for life! However, by concentrating on the puzzle we could endure until they began to feel like huge, warm lumps instead of wooden, dead things on the fronts of our feet.
The creek was within sight of the house across the pasture. We would carry our skates to the edge of where Dad had plowed it with the tractor blade and sit in the snow to put them on. No wonder our feet got so cold… we started out snowy. Once everyone was out there on the ice it would give a couple of good solid cracks and settle underfoot which was momentarily paralyzing to us until we’d see how deep that crack really was and remember Dad saying, “Good ice will crack now and then.” (That probably goes for river ice, only.) “He did have the tractor out here, too,” we would say to each other, comfortingly, as we whizzed about making the first scratches on the ice.
Besides, Grandpa Skrivseth always claimed that two inches of good ice would hold a team of horses. Dad regarded that statement with raised eyebrows, but you did not openly challenge what Grandpa said. So we have never found out if it is true or not with no teams of horses available. Besides, in Wisconsin the ice does not stop freezing at two inches. You would be hard pressed to find two inches of ice once the temperature drops. On the creek, we go from open water to skating ice in just a few days.
I remember skating with our cousins from Hayward. I think back now how we must have looked out there. We girls wore our warmest dresses and tights and a sweater under our coats with scarves well wrapped around our heads and necks. We had homemade mittens dangling half the time by their strings out of our coat sleeves. That horrid crocheted string would dig into my neck harder and harder as my mittens became wetter and heavier with melting snow. We would slide and circle most of the time on the space that Dad had plowed and he was fairly generous so that we would have racing space and room to play tag if we liked. Eventually we would look beyond the snow bank and see a potential skating for miles down river (miles being a few more hundred yards or so). Once you crossed the bank you were skating in a few inches of snow and the cold came creeping in through our thin cowhide so we soon turned back. Those were the best skating times.
However, times were changing. When I was in seventh grade, the school board created a small rink on the school grounds. Then we had to join the group games on skates or be satisfied with the bumpy edges. I did a little of both. There were always a few big boys who thought they had NASCAR skates so you just stayed out of danger’s way. They had enough power and speed for a whole football field of ice when all we had was a 500 square foot space at best. So those are not my best memories of skating although we all got pretty good on skates either from practice or out of sheer self-defense.
Finally, there came the days of skating with the young people. At the age of 16, we were considered old enough to go out of an evening without parents and join the other young people skating either on the river or on a local farmer’s pond. It was well after dark until our respective farm chores were done so we would bring along an old tire or two and light it on fire for lights. For all you greenies out there, I am confident that the warmth and light we received from the burning tires and the discussions we had around them were more important than any damages we might have incurred on the old ozone layer. Those were the days! We would play the regular group games, too. Now and then, the NASCAR guys would push a puck around, but they had learned by now that if they wanted the girls on the ice, too, they would have to give us a little granny-skating space. So again, it became fun to go skating with everybody happily enjoying it.
Now a days the children and youth like to use the public rinks to enjoy skating. I have to admit it is a lot less work to let others keep the skating rink maintained. But I am sure they do not have quite as much satisfaction and fun as we had.
The picture at the top is Elv and his dad, the late Herb Graber.