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Whittling Away: Ice skating


By Dick Brooks

For Capital Region Independent Media

Headshot of a man named Dick Brooks.

Last weekend, during a quiet time, I found myself with a few minutes to enjoy my favorite form of exercise. It involves sitting in my favorite recliner, tilting back, lifting the remote control to a level position, pointing it at the television set and pushing the ON button. 

As if this weren’t enough activity, I then click through my favorite channels with the practiced speed of a teenager text messaging. Feeling the need for even more stimulation, I settled on a men’s ice skating competition.

I watched these graceful young men gliding effortlessly to the refrains of classical music as they performed some very athletic jumps and spins. Being one who has always been gifted with the grace and coordination of a pink bulldozer, I was in awe. These performances were the results of years of training and hours and hours of daily practice from a very early age. 

I wondered how they got started. I decided they must have been city or at least suburban kids. Maybe I too could have been out there effortlessly floating across the ice if I hadn’t grown up on a farm way out in the country. We enjoyed being on the ice but it meant we had to shovel off the small pond that formed in the corn field in the low spot over near the woods. We mainly just ran over the snow gathering speed until we hit the ice when we’d slam on the brakes and see how far we could slide. 

I don’t remember any of my friends suggesting that we run home, get dressed in spandex with sparkly designs, run a half a mile of extension cords, plug in a record player and practice jumps and twirls until milking time. 

Our ice activity of choice was hockey. The lack of equipment never entered our minds.  The goals were usually a couple of hats laid on the ice. Sticks were really sticks, some of them with branches still attached, our summer softball, wrapped in black electrical tape, was pressed into winter duty as the puck. 

We saw no necessity for pads since we had most of our available wardrobe on our skinny little bodies to ward off frostbite. A hunter-plaid wool cap with earflaps made a good helmet and most of us had skulls thicker than the ice we were on anyway.

Even the fact that most of us didn’t have skates didn’t slow us down. Snow packs and galoshes with buckles flapping provided more traction than those skinny blades anyway.  Wild Bill used his older sister’s figure skates, white high tops with teeth on the front of the blades. They were too tight and he didn’t know how to skate anyway so they gave him no great advantage.

We spent many a winter afternoon slipping around, yelling, hollering, arguing, tripping over the cut-off corn stalks that stuck up through the ice, crashing into each other and onto the ice. 

The game usually ended when the tips of someone’s ears started turning white or someone got a bloody nose. We’d yell our goodbyes and head for our distant homes and a hot mug of cocoa. 

The weekend hockey game would be replayed each day on the bus ride to school and plans would be made for the spectacular plays we’d make next weekend.

None of the gang went on to play professional hockey, most of us never learned to skate and not one ever was involved in a figure skating competition. Not one of us had the opportunity, the ability or the desire to spend hours practicing jumps and spins. No one ever got to wear sparkly spandex and very few developed a taste for classical music

I turned off the television, smiled to myself and went to get a snack. Enough exercise for one day.

Thought for the day — Friends come and go; enemies accumulate.

Until next week, may you and yours be happy and well.

Reach columnist Dick Brooks at

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