Winters In My Teens

My favorite winter activity has always been reading, but if we got enough snow I liked to sled down Monk’s Mound or let my Samoyed pull me. Huppy, given that name by my then two-year-old nephew, Roger, loved nothing more than pulling me. Huppy died while I was in the Army from a fatal penicillin reaction, an allergy which I share.

When I was in High School I learned to ice-skate. I had traded something (as I did for many of my acquisitions) for a pair of hockey skates that my pal, Bennie, had inherited from an older brother. Snow never lasted long, but sometimes ice would.

In my neighborhood, we didn’t have access to a rink, but on those days when the St. Louis area was cold enough for long enough that one of the local ponds froze solid enough to hold us, we skated. Those of us with skates would maneuver around those who were merely slip-sliding in their shoes and those who were belly-flopping on sleds. A stomped tin can and an assortment of sticks gleaned from dormant trees were our hockey equipment. Of course, bumps and bruises usually resulted, but we had great fun while it lasted and rarely did anyone break through the ice.

Our games were always fun, but one walk home definitely was not. We had a habit of leaving our shoes on a log lying near the shore of the pond, close to a small fire where we could periodically warm our hands. On that afternoon I had parked my sneakers at the end of the log. As the sky darkened and we ended our game, I found that the fire had spread close enough to the log that the rubber toes of my low-tops had melted.

Fortunately my skates came with blade guards, but the long walk home not only made my ankles sore, but my conscience was in agony, dreading telling Mom I needed to buy another pair of shoes. She was not happy either.

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