Friday, February 10, 2012

Leland Stansfield ~~ An Icecapade to Remember

stilts.gifThere were six of us kids from the west part of town.  Ages ranged from twelve to fifteen, with John Anderson being the oldest of the group.  At that time (60 of 70 years ago), it was a common sight to see kids walking around on home-made stilts, and so it was with us.  Each one of us had made his own pair which consisted of three foot lengths of one by four material, with a block of wood of corresponding width nailed onto them.  Next a piece of strap was nailed to the block and then to the stilts, forming a stirrup in which to place the foot.  At the top was a strap with a belt buckle which, when buckled around the legs just below the knee, made it possible for anybody to walk around on them.

Stomping about on stilts was fun for awhile and then it got kind of boring, without much appeal for us anymore.  It was then that John came up with the bright idea of driving sixteen-penny nails into the bottom of the stilts and then with a hacksaw cutting off the heads of the nails, leaving three quarters of an inch exposed.  The nails would then be sharpened to a point with a file so anyone would be able to walk on ice.

The six of us each had altered stilts and were now eager to try them out, but we would have to wait until it rained or snowed with a night or two of cold weather following.  It was nearing the end of January when we got what we had hoped for.  A small hollow not far from where John lived had been filled by rain and soon we had a solid skiff of ice we could try walking on.  Hans Poulsen, Denzel Moss, James Jacobs, Reed Gunderson and I were eager to give it a try.

We arrived at the pond, waited for a couple of boys who were a bit late getting there, then with our stilts on, we were ready to see if it could be done.  As John was the instigator of the idea, it was decided he should be the first one.  He stepped out on the ice and proceeded to cross  and return to where we were standing.  Each of us in turn did the same thing.  After this bit of fun, we walked off the ice and held a conference.  To make this thing more exciting, we decided to issue a challenge to some of the kids from the west part of town.  It was at school recess time that the challenge was brought up.  We bet them we could walk on stilts on any ice pond they would choose and that we could do it and they couldn't.  The bet was readily accepted and the day was set when it would take place.

Ken Johansen, Burt Seely, Whitney Osborne, Clarence Ericksen, Oscar Olsen, Dean Larsen would be on the opposing side.

That day came - February sixteenth.  They had chosen a good solid ice pond near the depot; just west of the train tracks.  We showed up with our stilts but didn't show them to anyone.  They, the opposition , not knowing the trickery being played on them, naturally thought we would be using regular stilts the same as theirs.  We would go first.  Of course, we walked all over the ice with no mishaps at all.

It was agreed beforehand that we would then walk off the ice, go to the bobsled, hide our stilts under some straw, then return to watch the others slip and fall and just make utter fools of themselves.  But when Ken Johansen fell and received some black and blue marks on his body, it was no longer a laughing matter, and when some of the others fell, it was time to call a halt  to this nonsense, and for us to confess to the unfair trick we had played on them.

We apologized and said we were sorry for what we had done and that something like this would not happen again.  They took it all in good stride and even laughed about it.  They even conceded how dumb they must have been, not knowing that there was something rotten in Denmark.

We parted as good friends and have stayed that way as long as I can remember.  I still also fee a bit remorseful for what we did.

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