A Kid who was a bit of a devil as his environment molded him.
| Home by Four
Saturdays were a special day to me; the possibilities of weekend recreation were limitless. Not having school was particularly satisfying as the reprieve from the daily badgering was always something I looked forward to.
This Saturday was a day of wonder, as I awoke I could view the snow falling through my window in the bedroom. The flakes of snow were extremely large and puffy and the way they hovered in the air it seemed that they would take forever to fall to the ground and accumulate with the other three feet of fresh snow that had fallen overnight. I stretched out and contemplated on what the activities would be for the day. Perhaps a day filled with sleigh riding down the old church hill or maybe a game of pick up hockey at the local outdoor skating rink. I looked out my window to see if my father had yet shoveled the driveway and to my dismay the drive way was filled with snow closing in all the walkways and the steps leading to the front door. I shuddered at the chore of cleaning out the driveway, as it was a relentless task that took much time and energy and interfered with my plans for fun.
I threw off the blankets and exposed my unwrapped feet to the cool morning air. The old house was very drafty and directly over my bed was the large trap door that led to the attic. Often at night I could hear the wind whistling through any cracks within the attic, when the weather turned extremely cold the old house seemed to take on a life of its own. Very strange noises always seemed to be coming from the attic, I’m sure the house was haunted as it had a long history of many families that had lived there before we did. I was certain that within these families spirits had remained behind and were searching for a boy like me that could be tormented into constant fright. When I asked my father about these strange noises he simply remarked that the house being old had the large timbers twisting due to the contraction of the beams in the cold and that the lumber moving caused these occurrences. I was far too young to understand the fact that anything as solid as a beam or large timbers making this house stand up, would ever be capable of moving. I therefore thought that my father made up these stories to pacify me and protect me from my fears.
I pulled myself out of bed and dressed warm for the day, I could tell by the frost covering the edges of the window that it was very cold outside. The sun was out but the crispness of the winter day was one of the pleasures that awaited me, I knew the ice and snow would be extremely good for winter activities. I pulled on my long johns and stretched the legs as far out as I could so that they covered my legs and ankles for warmth. A big pair of wool socks with large patches that had been lovingly darned my mother would certainly keep my feet warm. An oversized flannel shirt and a pair of blue jeans with patches on the knees and I was set for exploring the great outdoors. I slid down the banister railing and made the final jump off at the bottom, timed perfectly before the large wooden knob took its toll on my butt as it had done many times before. I often wondered why anyone would spoil the thrill of a great banister ride with the abrupt danger of the wooden knob at the bottom, must have been a sadistic adult ensuring kids didn’t have too much fun.
As I entered the kitchen I could see my Mom cooking over the stove, as usual she was preparing a typical Saturday morning breakfast of boiled eggs, toast with prune jelly and a fresh pot of steaming coffee. I unlike most of my friends was allowed to drink coffee with breakfast even at a very young age. My coffee was always mixed with half cream so as not to be too strong. My father sat at the kitchen table reading the paper and enjoying the solitude of the morning. He smiled and waited for my response as I entered the room. I was usually a bit grumpy in the mornings and when I failed to greet anyone he would tease me.
He would always ask me “what does a cow say when it comes into the barn?” I would always respond by saying “MOOOO” and he in turn would say “and a good morning to you as well”. The hidden message here was to always greet someone with a good morning or some other method of salutation in respect of his or her presence. The lectures were seldom but when required I would be reminded that decent people acknowledged one another when entering a room, this little antic of my fathers was just a small reminder of that expected protocol without being over bearing.
Boiled eggs for breakfast in our house were never taken out of the shell. Eggs were placed in eggcups, the tops cut off with the tip of the spoon and then a very small crystal bowl with salt was always on the table. After cutting the egg with the tip of the spoon the tip would then be dipped into the salt bowl and would have sufficient salt to an exacting standard for that spoonful of soft boiled egg. I never found this as a strange custom until in later years I found it was never practiced elsewhere except in our home.
Weekend breakfast was always a time for peaceful conversation and planning of the day ahead or reflecting upon the past week. This morning I planted the seed that I would be spending my day skating or perhaps sleigh riding. In my terms and understanding this usually meant that I would be gone for the day. Leaving early and returning home by dark, so if my parents didn’t see or hear of me they knew not to worry. My father peered out over his glasses and simply remarked “ I hope you have enough daylight left after the driveway is shoveled”! With this comment I could also see a slight grin, letting me know that if I persisted hard enough I could likely escape the chore of shoveling, which I did, claiming that I had neighborhood friends that were depending on my expertise to take them to a winning streak on the ice.
With the knowledge that timing was everything I moved away from the table abruptly so my parents would know the sense of urgency. I went into the basement and searched for my skates somewhere in the dark corner where I had thrown them the previous weekend.
The skates I had were very, very, very old but they worked as good or better than many of my opponents on the ice. Back upstairs I pulled on my snow suit bottoms, winter coat, knitted scarf, knitted mitts and my knitted toque, I slung my blades over my shoulder and headed out to greet the day. As I walked out of the kitchen I could feel the instantaneous frigid air hard on my skin and as I made my way through the porch I could see the huge mountains of snow that had just been freshly piled by the snowplows clearing the roads. To escape from the porch I had to use a lot of force to open the door that had been jammed closed with fresh fallen snow almost capturing me within my own home. Just as I thought I had escaped, the kitchen door opened and my mother yelled to me, “Come back here”! I thought I was in serious trouble and as I retreated back into the house I stood at the doorway awaiting some form of harshness from my mother or father. My mother quickly turned from the counter and handed me a brown paper bag explaining to me that a day filled with outdoor adventure could not be fueled by two boiled eggs and toast, so she had prepared me a sandwich with some slices of cheese. This would surely hold me over even for a few days if perhaps I was stranded and couldn’t make it back home. That thought quickly evaporated, as my mother demanded that I be home by four for dinner. I again made my way to the outside and looked within the bag my mother had just given me and also found a one dollar bill which had been tucked away within the bag but was contrasted by the wax paper used to wrap my sandwich. I removed the bill and scrunched the brown paper bag with contents and stuffed it within my jacket pocket, the dollar bill was put in my zippered pocket and secured.
Outside and free at last I wandered down the street to my friend Doug’s house. As I approached I could see that he was eagerly shoveling out his driveway with his older brother. My intention was to call on Doug and together make our way down to the local outdoor skating rink. Knowing his progress on the chore of shoveling was only in the beginning stages I bypassed his house and just yelled to him to meet me at the rink when he was done. The next house to Doug’s was my friend Dennis and I could see that his driveway and the pathways were freshly shoveled and that the task of burrowing out from the snowstorm was completed. This would likely mean that Dennis was free to enjoy the abandon of the winters day and he would be able to tag along and have some fun. Both Dennis and Doug went to the local Catholic school so they were true friends that never got wrapped up in the hostilities and challenges I endured at the public school. Dennis was a cool kid, freckle faced and tough as nails with a reddish tint to his messed up hair. For some reason Dennis’s father didn’t take a shine to me and often wouldn’t allow Dennis to hang around with me, I wasn’t quite sure why at the time. I later found out that although Dennis was only a year younger than I, his father felt that my reckless abandon kept his son away from home for long periods of time and he felt that discipline within my home did not meet his exacting standards. His parents were very strict, and always required that Dennis check in regularly every few hours, this would be impossible when we went on our excursions because from one side of the village to the other could take an hour in itself to walk. The village was fairly spread out and the good sleigh riding hills, the skating rink, and the bay were all at the far end of town. I would always lure Dennis and any of my friends to the far reaches of the village where real fun could be had, in my mind it was difficult to have fun so close to home, it just wasn’t an adventure. Because I had a substantial amount of freedom to come and go as I pleased and wander where I wanted to, my friends sometimes got into trouble if they were with me. Although most of our adventures were rather innocent they did require travel and this caused them to be late or to not report in as required by their parents. I was therefore seen as a child with no rules and a kid that would easily influence my friends into doing things that perhaps they should not. This by the way was very true.
Another fact that didn’t go well with his parents was that I would seldom knock on the door and asked for Dennis. My preference was to wait outside by the large picture window in his living room and wait for Dennis to be in the near proximity and then tap on the window in an attempt to get his attention. Simple hand gestures let him know that I would wait outside so he could escape from the house and we could meet up. I knew Dennis enjoyed my company and we always had great fun whenever together, I knew this because when he spotted me through the window a huge smile would fill his face. Dennis knew that a day with me would not be boring and even though punishment from his parents may be the consequence it was likely worth it.
This day was no different; however I used a slightly different tactic to gain the attention of my friend Dennis, as the snow that had just fallen was perfect for making snowballs. A properly sized and constructed snowball, if packed just right, could be placed directly in the middle of that picture window and get his attention in one shot. I waited no more than probably three to four minutes when Dennis sauntered by the window. I was about twenty feet from the window and with a precisely executed throw that snowball landed perfectly dead center of the picture window. My aim, perfect! My velocity was much higher than required, and the window shuddered to the point that I could see the vibration as the window move back and forth under the force of my throw. To my joy the window did not break, but the noise not only got the attention of Dennis, as within seconds both his father and mother peered through the window. Needless to say the look I received was less than that of acceptance and I could see his father move quickly towards the closet to put on his winter jacket. This was definitely my signal to make a very abrupt escape. I ran down the drive and into the street and never looked back. I also knew that it was highly unlikely that Dennis would be hanging out with me that day.
Oh well, on to the next house of my friend Daryl, Daryl’s father worked at the same factory as my dad and actually had come over from Germany in or about the same time. They were friends so Daryl’s dad didn’t mind me coming over and actually calling on him. Being that Daryl’s dad was from Germany, Daryl had almost the same freedom as I did. I didn’t realize then that there were such differences in the upbringing of children, it seemed our parents were far more liberal and allowed kids to be kids. This worked out well when we hung around together but also worked against us if for some reason either Daryl or I got into any type of trouble, as we surely knew that if one of our fathers found out about any of our mischievous exploits that the other one would surely be made aware of it. Daryl and I often spent our time while walking home making sure we had our stories very accurate and very similar, regarding where we went, and what we did.
Daryl was already outside as I approached his house. His driveway as well was cleared out and almost to a manicured perfection. I asked Daryl if he had helped with the clearing of snow to which he responded no, his father enjoyed the exercise and the fresh air. I’m sure that was the reasoning behind my fathers’ decision to clear the drive way as well, I’m sure. Seeing my skates Daryl knew what the intentions were for the day. He quickly grabbed his skates along with his taped up hockey stick and together we made our way down the road heading into a day of adventure at the local outdoor skating rink.
As we turned the corner we headed in the general direction of my house, as we came close my heart began to pound as I could see the father of Dennis parked outside my house. With the car still running he was talking to my father, and being able to understand hand gestures quite well I knew that he likely was explaining my pitching abilities to my father in a frantic manner. My father seemed somewhat subdued as he leaned on his shovel and listened intently. With Dennis’s fathers back towards me I knew he couldn’t see me, but I did know that my father had very good eyesight and that he indeed had a perfect line up of Daryl and I as we walked up the street. I stopped instantaneously and made eye contact with my father. Without bringing any attention to the subject he simply pointed his finger at me and made the gesture for me to take the path that lead through the bush bypassing my house. I understood perfectly that this is what he meant, we veered off the road into the bush and trudged through three feet of freshly fallen snow following a path that used to be there. I knew there would be consequences when I got home, but for now I wasn’t about to let it spoil the day.
The bush path we took eventually led to the pine forest and as we approached the adjoining path to the pine forest it was amazing that the trails could still be made out.
Within the forest it hardly seemed that any snow had fallen for the ground did not exhibit nearly the same amount of snow as outside the forest . When we looked up at the huge pine trees that shot up to the sky we could see that they were heavily laden with fresh fallen snow. The way the snow clung to the branches made them bow down towards the ground and surely almost to the point of breaking. Inside the pine forest the wind whistled through the trees and not another soul was in sight, it was an eerie feeling. Daryl and I looked at each other in pure astonishment; these were perfect conditions for “Tree Avalanches”. A tree avalanche occurs when fresh powder snow lays on the pine trees and with wind or any significant movement the vast amounts of snow are released and fall quickly to the ground covering whatever lies under the tree by sometimes as much as four or five feet of snow within a huge pile. Both Daryl and I knew that if we found a perfectly sized limb and if we were to hit the pine tree with a good amount of force that we could circumvent nature and we could manually cause the snow to fall, and if we were standing under the tree huge amounts of snow would fall upon us almost burying us , if the tree was big enough maybe up to our chest. The forest was ripe for this activity and no one else had yet been in the forest to experience this very special treat.
Daryl and I searched for the perfect club that could be used to strike the tree trunk with such force that on a single blow the shockwave sent up the tree would vibrate to the outside branches and release the snow clinging to them. It didn’t take long for each of us to find what would be suitable as we were impatient and wanting to begin tree clubbing immediately. We agreed that I would do the first clubbing while Daryl would stand under the tree and the shower of snow would cover Daryl as he was directly under the tree. We chose the tree that seemed to have the most amount of snow on it and Daryl positioned himself under the tree. He turned his back to the tree and stood tight against the trunk while I positioned my self on the opposite side of the tree. Both of us now being in position, the moment was soon upon us where vast amounts of snow would thump down on us and sometimes the snow would lodge you in so tight that it was very difficult to move or get out of the snow pile.
I pulled back the club and took a dry run swing much the same as a batter would do in the pro baseball league, my swing caused a very audible “Swoooooosh” and I knew that a precisely located impact zone would cause that tree to relent every last flake of snow it had upon it.
Daryl stood perfectly still with his eyes closed, back tight to the tree, and his head resting tightly against the trunk. My impact zone on the tree was approximately where Daryls shoulders were on the opposite side, this was far enough up the trunk to shake the entire tree. My swing was perfectly accurate and the velocity caused a swoosh to that resembling and air fighter jet.
After impact I moved back slightly waiting for the snow to fall upon Daryl, one would normally think to move in towards the tree and enjoy the experience as well, however with only two of us here it was essential that one of us remain free in the event the other needed assistance in burrowing out of the snow. Directly following the impact I moved back and I could see Daryls head slump down slightly and then his shoulders sagged and he fell to the ground like a sack of sand. The first sound I heard was that of Daryl heavily hitting the ground and then the sound as tons of snow fell from the tree and landed on top of Daryl completely covering him to where he was no longer visible. The snow laid about four feet over top of Daryl and I waited for only a few seconds to see if there was any movement under the pile of snow.
My initial reaction was that this was a perfect strike and precisely located causing the exact effect of what we were trying to accomplish. There was however no movement and I realized that something was drastically wrong. I yelled repeatedly at Daryl but got absolutely no reaction, my initial feeling of accomplishment now turned into fright.
I quickly started digging Daryl out of the snow and once I found the general vicinity of where he layed I cleared snow away from his head and face area so that he would be able to breathe. Within seconds I had Daryls face exposed and brushed the remaining snow away from his face and could see that he was breathing but still not moving. I slapped Daryl on the face repeatedly and tried to revive him, he stirred slightly and moaned so I knew that he was at least alive. I continued removing snow and as I freed him from the heavily laden snow pile I could sense that he was in extreme pain. Daryl simply commented that his head was sore. I quickly figured out that with Daryl having his head resting on the back of the tree that the impact from the club transferred through the tree and caused such a force to be transferred through the trunk that it was almost the same impact being made to the back of his head. After several minutes Daryl was free from the pile of snow that now lay to both sides of him. He remained on the ground for a few minutes and wasn’t quick to get up. As he sat up I saw that his eyes were extremely glassy and he was very sullen, not saying much or in any type of condition to continue our exploits. As he got up he stumbled slightly and fell back down only feet away from his original position. Again attempting to rise I could see he was very disoriented and it somewhat resembled the occurrence of when a person is continually spun in a circle until they are very dizzy, and then try to walk. Once Daryl was a bit more stable he simply stared at me through glazed eyes and commented that he felt sick and was going home. I stood silently in the pine forest and watched Daryl saunter down the path swaying from side to side ever so slightly as he made his way home. The day was still very young and knowing that if I returned home that I likely would be confined to indoor activities for the rest of the day I decided no to.
I picked up my skates and proceeded down the winding path toward the schoolyard and out into the field where another path not yet cleared from the snow could barely be made out, this path would lead me down towards the skating rink. The walk along what barely resembled a path was a long arduous journey, the snow being at least three to four feet deep and in some areas where wind had caused drifts it was even higher. The snow continued to fall and the sun was very bright, I looked forward to skating and playing hockey and soon the plight of my friend Daryl was far out of my mind, I was sure he would be alright.
As I approached the skating rink I could first hear the screams and yells of the kids on the ice and knew that there were many people enjoying the activities of a winters day. The skating rink was bustling with activity and shortly before the rink was a small parcel of land covered in trees and shrubs. I diverted slightly off the path and made my way into the cover of the small trees and looked intently upon the rink and the general vicinity to see if there were any of my adversaries that were on or about the rink and if there were, how many, and what was their grouping or clans. I knew well by now that certain groups with informal leaders were more of a potential hazard as the courage of certain individuals tended to increase depending on the company they kept. I could see Robert and Ken as they were normally there. They only lived a half mile from the rink so this was almost home turf to them. They seldom if ever traveled as far as I did for any type of adventure, I know because on occasion I would hike through the trails to their neighborhood and watch their activities under the cover of the pine forest. There activities were typical small village kid stuff and actually quite boring.
On the property of the local rink was a large shed that was used for shelter, warmth and it had a large cast iron buck stove that threw off ample heat and a bit of smoke when fully stoked. This shack had benches inside with coat hooks so you could sit and exchange boots for skates and leave any jackets or scarves that weren’t required for hockey or skating. On the outside of the shack were benches that could also be used in the event the shack was overfilled with people. Before and after games the shack was packed with people, adults and children alike. To the back of the shack was a large window with hinges on the top that when it was extremely hot or smoky you could open the window to the outside and fasten a rope to a nail to keep it open and allow smoke and heat to escape and fresh air to enter. On the front of the shack was a solid wood plank door discolored from multiple layers of paint and the speckled finish that was caused through numerous hits with skate blades and hockey sticks. The door would be tightly locked after the skating day was done with a large padlock that was secured through a hasp, the hasp occasionally became secured if the door was slammed shut and the plate would swing over and engage in position over the hasp, locking in the inhabitants until someone from the outside repositioned the hasp and freed them, this was often intentionally done causing much havoc to those locked inside.
I waited in the bushes for a while so people exiting and entering the shack might give me some visibility as to see what other people may be inside. Much traffic in and out of the shack made it obvious that the shack had a fair amount of people within it although I really couldn’t tell who they were. I decided to walk into the lot and take my chances as I could see some kids that I knew and those kids usually left me alone. As I approached I could see Ken and Robert, neither of which were wearing skates nor did I ever observe either on of them actually skating, they often just slid around the ice surface in their boots even if they were playing hockey, I doubted that either one knew how to skate. As I came closer I could see Robert talking with Ken and pointing towards me as I approached knowing very well that something of a devious nature was being planned within their pea brains, that when combined may actually equate to one. I held my head high and walked briskly towards the shack, I could see Ken making a direct line for the shack and he arrived at the shack prior to me, he opened the door poked his head inside and made the general announcement to those inside simple yelling “ the kraut is coming” and with that returned to the ice and the safety of his friend Robert. I glared at Ken with the thought in my mind that no one not even he could ruin my day and that I intended on skating and playing hockey, I concentrated so hard on this thought that I was sure he could tell exactly what my thoughts were.
I approached the shack and swung open the door with much anticipation and anguish, as I really didn’t know who or what to expect. As I entered my worst fears became reality as inside were the twins Karl & Leonard. Karl was usually quiet when alone however his brother Leonard was a different type and he was the ringleader when it came to bullying and making my life miserable. Both the twins were slightly larger in frame than I, and Karl had curly black hair with thick-framed glasses, Leonard had curly red hair with a massive amount of freckles on his round face. Both of them were very athletic and excellent hockey players, they both played recreational hockey in the local league and they often wore full equipment even when playing pick up hockey. As they were protected they could play full contact and not have nearly the potential of injury that we did as amateurs and less skillful players. I often bore the full brunt of their on ice expertise as they would slam check me into the boards with much more force than any of the other kids playing. I did however learn to skate fast and learned the art of dodging on the ice and the invaluable lesson of keeping your head up and being alert. Karl and Leonard would often attempt to set me up on the ice whereby they would try to get me in a position where both of them could sandwich me between them and check me with extreme force, I knew this as I was being passed the puck because seldom would the puck be shuttled over for me to be in a play, I usually only got the puck if I stick checked or retrieved it on a pass. Being caught in this maneuver once was enough for me and on one occasion when I sensed the set up I quickly diverted from between them only to see them clash with such force that both of them fell to the ground and I’m sure they were shaken as it took some time to regain their composure. Being quite proud of my tactical maneuver the smirk on my face was something that couldn’t be hidden and this infuriated them even more. I often left games early as I was exhausted and beaten and always had the cuts and bruises to prove it the following day.
As I entered the shack the heat was extreme as the fire was freshly stoked with hard wood and the crackling of the fire was intense. I made my way to a clearing on the bench that was as far away from the twins as possible. Other kids continued to enter and exit the shack not paying any attention to my presence. As I began to take off my boots Leonard started his badgering on me, “ get out of the shack kraut, we don’t allow Nazis in here”! His voice was of a condescending nature and I could hear the snickers from some of the other kids in the shack, these kids showing acceptance of his tactics caused him to become even more vulgar. Karl soon joined in the antics as well standing up and saluting in German military style stating “Zeich Heil Adolf “ and “get out of our shack”! I ignored the twins and now had both boots off and was dumping the snow out of my skates, which melted immediately when landing on the floor. Leonard came over to where I was sitting and picked up both my boots and ripped the skates out of my hands, he then opened the door to the shack and threw my boots and skates into the deep snow that lay well outside the shack. I stood up immediately and confronted him but before being able to say a word he pulled my toque over my face grabbed me by the jacket and pushed me out of the shack as well. I landed on the ground and then picked myself up wearing only my darned wool socks on my feet that were now encrusted in snow. I searched through the deep snow for my skates and my boots and sat on the bench outside the shack listening to the laughter within the shack and the boasting of Karl and Leonard, my mood was very sullen and I was embarrassed that I couldn’t take on the whole shack and teach them a lesson. Knowing that both Karl and Leonard would be at the rink and that they were both suiting up in full hockey armor I decided that this day would not be a good one for skating and playing hockey, and that doing so would surely cause me injury although my initial thought was that perhaps I could get some licks into either one of them and maybe get a bit even. Pondering for a few seconds I decided otherwise and put on my boots and decided to go skating at the bay where the vast open expanses of ice would give me total solitude and much needed space. Just as I was ready to leave the outside bench Robert and Ken passed by me and as Robert was about to enter the shack he grabbed my toque and flung it as far into the lot as he could, he then quickly escaped into the shack to the protection of the other kids particularly Karl and Leonard. I could hear Roberts comments to the group, “You really showed that kraut didn’t you?” “He won’t be back around here for a while” and again laughter filled the shack.
I retrieved my toque from the snow and started to walk away from the shack and down the path of the lot that led behind the shack. The comments I heard inside continued to infuriate me and I began to think how this type of behavior could not go without some form of retaliation. As I approached the back of the shack I could see large planks propped up behind the shack, these were used to barricade the main entrance to the rink when they were flooding it, my mind worked quick as to what I could do with these planks, under the shed on the frozen ground I found a large spike, this too may come in handy so I put it in my pocket.
I put down my skates and began to quietly position the planks against the building in such a way that those inside the shed or those on the ice would not easily detect me. A four foot snow bank lay around the perimeter of the shack from snow that was shoveled off the roof on previous occasions and now frozen solid, this additional height with the plank was just right for giving me access to the roof. I climbed up the plank leaning against the building and made my way onto the roof. The height of the roof was no more than maybe ten feet and to the peak maybe another three feet. I used the back slope of the roof peak to ensure I was not spotted from the ice rink, and the snow covering the roof avoided any noise I may make to be heard inside the shack, it was highly unlikely that kids in the shack would hear me anyways as they were still enjoying their laughter at my expense. Once I was positioned on the roof it took all my stretching ability while lying on my stomach to reach the plank with my fingers. I maneuvered the plank to a position where I could hoist it up to the roof. Once I had the plank on the roof I carefully placed the plank over the chimney covering the opening in its entirety. I jumped down from the roof and rushed to the front of the shack where I closed the door, positioned the hasp in a locked position and slid the nail into the hasp so the door could not be opened from the inside.
Task completed I now scurried to the back, picked up my skates and ran down the path as far from the rink as I could but maintaining a view of the activities that would unfold within the shack. Through the large window I could see the shack starting to fill with smoke and could see Leonard peering out the window down the path where I was standing waving my middle finger salute for him to easily see. I waited patiently to ensure that those inside the shack would eventually be able to escape and as the large window opened to its fullest capacity I could see each person crawling out the window and landing on the ground. What was once laughter now turned to coughing and spattering as kids gasped for the clean fresh air that awaited them outside the shack. Knowing that they were all out safely, I quickly ran down the road and made my way towards the bay. Had there been any chance of someone not escaping I would have saved the day by returning to free up the hasp opening the door with undoubtedly a severe beating to follow if I couldn’t run away fast enough.
In the distance I could distinctly hear Karl, Leonard Robert and Ken yelling at me with extreme defamatory remarks stating clearly what would happen to me if I was to come back or if they were to catch me. This I’m sure would wait for another day as there was no chance today of them catching me. After a quick trot for a few hundred yards I knew I was safe and I slowed down to a leisurely stroll smiling all the way, content in knowing that I had made the point that actions such as these would not go unpunished, even though it was my method of punishment that I bestowed upon them.
As I came within view of the bay I was mesmerized by the vast open expanses of clear black ice. The snow, which had fallen over night, had been blown away and the section of bay within the harbor was perfect for skating. The harbor stretched out for at least five or six miles until it met the peninsula at the other side and this was by far the hugest skating rink in the world. The wind coming off the frozen bay was very gusty and when skating you definitely would want your back to the wind as facing it could cause severe frostbite. The wind however was also another opportunity if used properly to propel you across the harbor in a very short period of time. If you opened your jacket wide and let the wind catch it you could sail for miles and miles on the open ice, and once mastered you could tack back and forth and make your way back as well, but the trip back was always much longer and colder than getting to where you were going, even if it was no place in particular that you were going to. To me on this day that seemed a perfect situation, as getting nowhere fast was something I looked forward to doing.
I sat on the large government levy that jutted out into the harbor and put on my skates. I jumped off the levy onto the ice and tucked my boots under the boards so I could retrieve them later. The ice conditions were perfect, the level and smoothness of the ice was pristine and not a vibration or bump could be felt under the blades of your skates. The sun was still out in full force although it was getting late afternoon and I knew the time was approximately two o’clock by the position of the sun. Knowing I had to be home by four I needed to use caution when skating because on many occasions I could cross over to the peninsula within a very short period of time but returning could take hours. It didn’t take long for me to forget about all my ordeals of the current day, for the freedom of skating lifted my spirits and I knew that being here on the open bay was far better than skating within the confines of an enclosed outdoor rink. With my jacket wide open the wind swept me away and I soon picked up speed where maintaining my balance became a challenge. Veering slightly away from the wind I achieved a speed that was stable but very quick and the distance between myself and the levy became increasingly more with every second that passed. I traveled over the ice with little effort and reached into my pocket to find the brown paper bag my mother had given me earlier that morning. As I opened it the sandwich inside no longer represented anything that was remotely edible however the cheese although crumbled provide me with a bit of a snack that would fuel my energy for a tremendous afternoon of skating.
I looked back and found that the levy in the harbor was merely a small structure on the horizon and I realized that I had likely gone much further than I should have. Realizing that time was escaping me I knew I had to make the journey back and attempted to use the wind to any advantage in doing so. Tacking in the wind while skating is no different than that of sailing and the method requires you to make fairly long passes sometimes conflicting with the general direction you intend to travel in. I attempted to make my way back using all my experience but really didn’t seem to be making much progress. After what was at least and hour I now knew the daylight sun would soon be vanishing and returning now became an intense priority. When all else fails and the wind does not favor your returning route, its time to wrap the jacket tight put your head down into the wind and skate fast and hard to return, this was now my most suitable and preferred method of getting back to the levy. With my legs pumping and my arms swinging wildly from side to side I skated and skated for what seemed and eternity until the levy came upon me and when close I fell to the ice sliding thirty to forty feet coming to a rest and lying stretched out on the ice exhausted.
I lay on the ice for several minutes to regain my breath and eventually was able to remove my skates and put on my boots. Skates slung over my shoulder I began the journey home. The sun now setting low brought back on the bitter cold and the return home was long and cold. Through the village I kept a watchful eye for any foes that might be out searching for me as I had today confirmed unequivocally that I had made some enemies or reconfirmed their disdain for me. The last part of my journey home was up the large church hill that was the best hill in the village for sleigh riding, the climb was steep and didn’t usually seem as tiring as it did that day, most likely due to the fact that under normal circumstances your climb up the hill only meant you could sleigh down the hill sooner and that was something to look forward to.
About half way up the hill I heard a vehicle behind me in the distance and it seemed to be slowing down. As I turned I could see that it was Daryl’s father slowing down, likely offering me a ride, which was great as I was tired and likely to be late for dinner. He was alone in the car and was returning home as he was coming through the village, which only had one access point for entry and exit. He leaned over and opened the passenger door demanding that I get in. As I slumped in the seat beside him I could tell that he was very disturbed about something. I didn’t dare ask and just thanked him for giving me a ride. He glared at me and told me that he just returned from the hospital in the nearby town. He went on to further tell me how Daryl needed to be admitted to the hospital because they felt he might have a concussion and needed to be kept under observation. “Your activities with my son are dangerous and you could have killed him” he yelled. I felt terrible; as I had no intention of hurting Daryl, it was just a very unfortunate accident. I knew however that yet another story of my exploits would be reaching my father and that there may very well be consequences. As we pulled onto my street I could see the driveway and walkways were shoveled and I wondered if I had stayed home and helped if the days events might have been a little different.
I thanked Daryls father for the ride, I was tempted to ask him not to say anything to my father but I felt that it would be of little use. Before leaving the vehicle I asked if he knew the time. “Its exactly 4:00 PM” he stated angrily.
It was good to know that I had at least made it on time for dinner.