I have an image of country ice skating in my head that resembles a Norman Rockwell vision: a lovely oval pond frozen flat, a red scarf, perhaps a black velvet hat and gloves to match, a grey pea-coat, and hands clasped behind one’s back, floating quietly across the frozen water with a rhythmic schwoos-schwoos of the blades on the ice. As I entangled myself in a clump of grass forever memorialized in the frozen water, I realized I was not that vision. The kids were impressed that I didn’t go tumbling to the ground. I tried not to let on that I was kind of impressed, too.
It was the first time balancing on quarter inch metal blades for the kids and what a time we had. I felt that the skates were a mistake for the first five minutes and then they started to get a little braver and a little more balanced. The ice that is part of a tributary to Beauty Creek was not entirely smooth and had a few snowy spots and the afore-mentioned grass clumps to hang us up, but its lack of perfection led to a perfect hour. And how lucky are we that it is literally in our backyard? That the same water that gave us so much enjoyment with viewing waterfowl in the spring and summer could also provide entertainment in the winter months as well? That we had cows meandering by who stopped and watched us for quite a long period of time when it comes their preferences for humans?
We wrapped up our skating on that fine Saturday and Danish Cowboy rounded us up for some ice fishing on a reservoir a few miles to the west of our house. “Lots of perch,” he said. “Lots of perch.” It was unfortunate that we discovered on our phones a short while later that perch in the winter are active normally only in the morning. How they know it is morning from beneath the ice is a question I have yet to answer, but suffice it to say they proved the internet correct that night. We came home empty-handed but the memories of that late afternoon sitting on a remote bank along a brushy coulee only added to the perfection of the day.
As Danish Cowboy drilled the holes in the ice with his ice auger, we began to hear creaking and howling sounds coming from all along the 1/4 mile long reservoir. The coulee walls were causing it to echo and impressed/worried us with the sound. “It’s making ice.” he said. “It’s just making more ice.” I began to argue the scientific realities of it “making ice” just because it had a few holes drilled in it, but then I stopped. Some stories are better left as is. They add more dimension and wonder to life when you leave them alone. And maybe he's right. Maybe it was making more ice. So I retreated to the pick-up, turned on A Prairie Home Companion, watched the sun go down and wondered to myself once again about how lucky I was to have wound up in a landscape that suited me so.