On Ice with no Skates
Hans Brinker and the Silver Skates was required reading for fifth graders in Van Hook schools. It is a story about a poor boy in Holland who is a good skater but only has wooden skates.
Someone in Van Hook pushed snow into a large rectangle and put in enough water to make a skating rink. Neither Michael Fitzpatrick nor I had skates. We thought of our shoes as wooden skates and figured we could learn to skate on them. We watched kids who had boot or clamp-on skates to learn the motions. It was hard to get a grip on the ice with flat shoes but we tried. We did manage to make ourselves move but not very gracefully.
Michael and I decided to just run and slide after a number of attempts at shoe skating. I got myself going faster by running on the snow at the edge of the rink so I could slide farther. It worked great and soon Michael and I were competing to slide the farthest.
I needed to be home at dusk and Michael was sure to be on the brink of being in trouble with his mom again so we decided to take our last run and slide for the win. Michael went first and slid farther than he or I had before. I got a good run along the bank and used the resting bench as a spring board for greater acceleration. I was in the air a good distance before I hit the ice.
The instant I was in the air I knew I was going to win – my feet were flying. But, I had no control in the air and even less once my feet hit the ice. My feet slid fast but gravity took over and – crack – I landed on the back of my head. It hurt as much or even more than when I got beaned with the baseball.
Mother told me when I was older that I was awake but confused when one of the men brought me home. She told me that she had kept me home from school for three days and the weekend because I was sick and ‘out of it’. All I remember is the nearly continuous dizziness and regurgitation. I probably had a serious concussion but in those days kids only went to the doctor if their arm was cut off.
The next winter I had a pair of used clamp-on skates that were designed to fit on boots or very sturdy shoes. The first time I tried to put them on over my overshoes the clamps cut through the rubber and the overshoes leaked the rest of the winter.
Perhaps wooden skates would not have been so bad.