Sunday, January 25, 2009

Why I Don't Skate Well

Mt. Cheam, Chilliwack

Hi Kerri! Welcome to my weird on-line world.

Bryan and I were in the lower mainland, attending the motorcycle show (our January tradition this weekend. We spent Friday night with niece Jolene and her partner Russ who live in Burnaby; Saturday night with long-time friends (note carefully, I didn't say 'old') Allen and Barb, who have a dairy farm just east of Chilliwack. Allen and I were at Olds College together onct 'pon a time just after the last glacier receded.

The sky was clear and blue all day today, the sun shining warm and bright. Not warm enough, though, because those clear, cloudless skies have let the cold air drop down upon us, and a savage wind from the east is making outside an uncomfortable place to be.

As we drove past Monte Lake we noticed many ice fisherman out trying their luck. There was also evidence of ice racing (motorcycles with studded tires I'm thinking from the look of the 'track') and a large hockey area with nets still set up on either end although no players on the ice. Other ponds and farm lakes had home-made rinks cleared of snow. Coming in to Falkland, I saw a full complement of players on the outside rink beside the curling rink, having fun despite the bitter cold wind.

Thursday night as I went into the curling rink for our regular game, I saw a group of kids playing pickup hockey under the lights. Lots of memories flooded back, of a time when Airdrie's only rink was an outdoor one, a sometimes-heated building at one end to change into your skates and lights for evening games and play. Things got pretty sloppy when a Chinook blew through, and in the spring the slush was perfect for broomball (using sawn-off straw curling brooms worn out at the end of the season). Remember, Cheryl?

justpedalmore flickr photo of a Calgary rink

We didn't go into town to skate very often. Mom would sometimes take us down to one of the sloughs on our ranch and we'd play on the ice there. My nemesis was figure skates- or more to the point (you should pardon the pun) the picks on figure skates.

Girls did not wear hockey skates when I was a girl. Why, I don't know. Somehow there was a total taboo on that. Girls didn't even play hockey. Figure skates were too narrow for my broad, short feet so they were always tight and made my insteps ache.

Those picks, though. Anyone who's ever skated on a lake or pond or slough knows that not only is the ice not level, it's also riddled with cracks and heaves. I'd get a nice glide going and then the picks on my gliding foot would snag a crack and I'd go flying. Mom wasn't too sympathetic: "Tip your toes up so the picks are down." Oh yeah? Skate on my heels? Great idea.

I think Dad finally ground off the picks with the grinder in his shop but by then I was turned off skating.

garrymoore flickr photo

Scott, do you remember when Buzz Klein trapped 'mushrats' (he couldn't say 'muskrat') on our sloughs in the winter? He had a Ski-doo, a lumbering old beast compared to today's sleek speed machines. One time we were on the ice with Mom, and Buzz towed us behind his sled on our skates. I was surely toes-up that time! but what fun.

I also learned later in life that I have hyper-extended knees, something I was evidently born with. Both son Marlon and daughter Rebecca also have the condition. Our knees are always 'locked' when we stand, and are unsupported when bent. It makes going down stairs or inclines difficult, skiing a challenge and skating a highly entertaining event for those watching us. No wonder it was so much work for me!

Bryan is a very good skater, or was. He used to play a lot of shinny hockey, lost a front tooth to a flying puck. With his arthritic spine, it perhaps wouldn't be a recommended activity anymore. He could probably glide fine; possible falls (and with his recent history...!) would be ugly.

Pond hockey is a long Canadian tradition. Some of the best hockey players got their start skating on backyard rinks or farm dugouts. When we lived on the farm up north and the kids were small, one of our favorite winter activities was skating outside at night under a full moon in a clear sky. It was often very, very cold, in the -20C range but the magic of skating in moonlight is irresistible.

I was thinking of Simon and Quinton Bailey today, Kiwi lads who've never even seen a frozen lake to say nothing of skating on one. They'd have had a great time out there with the local kids - or at least they would once their blood thickened and they developed strong ankles.

Post comment updates:

Lynnette, when it warms up, come on over for a scanner tutorial. Be forewarned, however, that it's an addictive activity.

As for the yarn stashes - I wish weaving was on the immediate horizon but it would be best to get the basement finished first, or at least that's what I'm told! I'm giving serious consideration to digging out my double-ended needles for knitting-in-the-round and trying AGAIN to make socks. There's a very active and talented support group in Falkland for knitting addicts, who claim they can teach anyone to turn a heel. I may well be their first failure.

Oh, and Gerry (SHMC President and Dictator for Life) curling is about to become the drinking game that you fondly (or not) recall because in a moment of weakness and/or temporary insanity, I signed up for the Tuff Spiel Feb 6-7 or (8, or when all the participants die). It's one-on-one curling, no sweepers, four ends and six rocks per end. That definitely speaks 'whiskey' in my ear loud and clear.

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