Many older generation people learned to skate on natural ice. I wonder how many of our readers can identify with this experience.
Before television on the farms of the Okanagan Valley in B.C., winter sports were very high on the things to do list. While Kelowna had a wonderful indoor rink with artificial ice, the farm communities near it had ponds. We would wait patiently for the cold days of winter to come, for the first frost and fine dustings of snow. And then, we would act!
Near our particular farm, perched on the side of one of the big “benches” beside Lake Okanagan, was a farm with several ponds at its centre caused by a dip in the land. That is where our “rink” was located. If you have ever watched the wonderful television special about Kurt Browning on his Alberta ranch...that’s the kind of ice we had at Reid’s Farm. We did not, of course, have crews to clear away the snow. No, our parents worked right along with their children, clearing snow, errant bushes, old “cow pies”, etc., using large sheets of plywood that were kept from year to year for this express purpose.
Since there wasn’t much daylight left on a winter day after work or school, a bonfire would be lit at the centre of activity, while wieners, buns and marshmallows...and hot chocolate, magically appeared from all around and the fun began.
Unless you have experienced that crisp, cold air, the smell of apple wood burning, the aroma of wieners cooking, the sounds of laughter and singing, the scraping of blades on fresh nubbly ice...the sheer energy and joy of it, I can only wish that you had.
In the half dark, we would follow the winding paths around the pasture, often bumping off onto banks and laughing breathlessly every time. After a couple of hours of this, we would all bank down the fire, gather our stuff and tramp home, tired, happy and ready to repeat the entire ritual the next evening.