14, Number 81, October/November 2011 Ice Crossing by Anneli Purchase
“Yippee! We’re going for a ride!”
“In you go, kids.” Their mother held
the door for them. Lynn’s older
brother, John, had his driver’s licence
and proudly announced that he would
treat them to a Sunday outing in his
new 1959 VW Beetle. Lynn piled into
the back along with her younger
brother and two little sisters.
“Don’t go too fast now,” Mother
admonished John. “You have precious
“Na-a-a-h. Stop worrying.” John
waved her off. Like all eighteen-year olds,
he knew everything.
He drove north on the Rolla Road for
about half an hour from Dawson
Creek and stopped where the road
ended at the banks of the Peace River.
An old wooden sign nailed to a tree
read: Alberta border 12 miles. Below
it, on the same tree, another sign read:
Clayhurst Crossing. Use at your own
“That’s the end of the road,” Lynn
said, as she stared across the frozen
river. “Guess we have to turn around
now. We didn’t bring our skates.”
“Are you kidding?” John said. “We’re
just getting started. We’re going to the
other side. This is an adventure.”
“Other side?” Their mother’s voice
conveyed enough fear for all of them.
“The barge doesn’t run in winter.”
“The ice will hold us.”
“No-o-o!” the kids all screamed at
“John, it says, ‘Use at your own risk’.”
Lynn’s voice was an octave higher
“Look’it. The big oil tanker trucks
cross here all the time, so my little
Beetle can cross.” He inched out onto
the frozen Peace River and everyone
Their mother whispered frantically to
John, “Do you know what you’re
doing? Maybe we should turn
“We’ll be fine. I know what I’m
The kids stared across the wide stretch
of ice, their faces reflecting a mixture
of fear and wonder.
Lynn remembered seeing the Peace
River earlier that year, its muddy
waters rushing past as she stood on the
bank. She imagined that same water
flowing beneath the ice now. Her
insides tightened into a knot.
She was surprised that the car didn’t
slide around on the ice. It rolled along
just as easily as it did on the snowpacked
road they had just driven.
About halfway across, she noticed a
crack shooting along the ice from
under the car. Several car lengths
farther on, another crack shot out like
a lightning bolt. And another, and
another. Near the other side, the
cracks stopped appearing and at last
the car rolled onto terra firma.
“I’m not going back with you,” Lynn
said, her voice raised in anger and
fear. “I just won’t. I’ll walk.” She
fought back tears. “If we’d gone
through the ice, we’d all be dead - the
whole family -and Dad wouldn’t even
know where we were.”
John’s face was pale in the rearview
“Don’t worry,” he said. “We’ll take
the back road to Fort St. John and
come home the long way, over the
“What are you talking about? You
know the bridge collapsed.”
“Not the suspension bridge. I mean
the train bridge.”
“No!” the children wailed in unison.
“Don’t be such wimps,” John said.
“Everyone’s using it till the new
bridge is finished. It’s perfectly safe...
as long as no train comes along.”