Dad gave us an ice skating surprise

Jerry Apps
Pond ready for skating.

As we moved into the depths of winter on the farm when I was a kid, the barn chores seemed never ending, as did snow shoveling. Walking to our country school when the temperature was minus twenty-five was no treat either. Nor was waking up in a frigid bedroom each morning.

On the plus side we did a lot of sliding down the hill just back of the school and having our choice of several hills at the farm. Same with skiing. We even skied to school on occasion.

One winter something special happened. Around mid-January the temperature rose above freezing for several days, creating a pond in the field just east of the farmhouse. Then winter returned and the pond froze.

On a Saturday morning at breakfast, Pa said, “You boys—I have younger twin brothers—should try ice skating on that pond." We knew nothing about ice skating, and had no skates, which we reminded Pa.

“Tell you what,” Pa said. “When we finish the barn chores, let’s drive down to Wild Rose. I think Hotz’s Hardware might have some skates.”

And they did. They had skates that fastened on the bottom of your shoes. Fifty cents a pair. Pa bought three pair. Not long after we returned home, we three boys, with our new skates were at the pond, attempting to ice skate.

Pa came along with us. We spent more time sprawled out on the ice than skating. We discovered that ice skating was a whole lot more difficult than sledding or even skiing.

After a few minutes of doing more falling than skating, Pa said, “Let me give it a try.”

I took off my skates, and he clamped them on his shoes. I was a bit worried that he might fall and hurt himself and then we’d have even more chores to do. But that didn’t happen. He sailed around the pond with nary a stumble.

“This is how you do it,” he said with a big smile on his face.

THE OLD TIMER SAYS: Never underestimate what your dad could do.

Jerry Apps

Jerry Apps, born and raised on a Wisconsin farm, is Professor Emeritus at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the author of more than 35 books, many of them on rural history and country life. For further information about Jerry's writing and TV work, go to