‘Peals of laughter infuriated me’

From our October 2012 issue

By Elinor (Acton) Relf – Chilliwack, B.C.

One of the marvels of spring on the prairies when I was growing up on a farm, 10 miles south of Lemberg, Sask., was ‘rubber ice’.

It didn’t happen every spring, as the temperature had to be just right. A warm sunny day would melt the ice, and then the night air had to be cold enough to freeze it to a rubbery consistency. It was like walking on a trampoline, with water swishing underneath

Duncan burst through the kitchen door. “Rubber ice! Hurry up!”

In a flash, five of us were putting on rubber boots and jackets as we followed him to the slough near the barn. Down the lane came the four Acton cousins ready for some Saturday morning fun.

With shouts of glee, the boys sprinted across the glossy surface. Like a flock of birds taking flight, they appeared airborne, their feet barely skimming the ice. The girls, a little more cautious, waited to see the results of the trial run, then with squeals of delight raced back and forth.

“Elinor,” I heard mother calling, “come in and try on your coat.” Reluctantly I left and returned to the house. The coat fit perfectly, the princess lines slenderizing my stocky 10-year-old frame. I caressed the new soft green material.

“Mother, can I show the kids how nice it looks?”

“No, that wouldn’t be a good idea. You might get it dirty,” was her reply

“Oh, please Mom, plee-ease. I promise I’ll be careful.” With misgivings, Mother watched her hours of meticulous workmanship vanish out the door.

Down to the barnyard I strutted. With my blond hair and new coat will they think I look like Lana Turner? I did make an impression. They knew I was showing off.

“Come on, Elinor. It’s your turn!” Duncan hollered. He knew the ice was getting dangerously thin.

“No, I can’t. I promised mother I wouldn’t get my coat dirty.”

“Chicken! It’s perfectly safe.” Feet barely touching the surface, he flew by. “Scaredy-cat!”

I’d show him. I’d sail across the ice as gracefully as Greta Garbo floated across the stage. Alas, my vision of loveliness faded quickly as I realized I probably looked more like a Clydesdale horse plodding across a muddy field. The form fitting lines and narrow mid-calf skirt made it impossible to take long smooth strides.

Crack! Panic willed my feet to greater speed. Crack! I heard it again. A burst of adrenalin propelled me forward. Then it happened. The ice gave way.

I sank waist deep into cold stinky water. Screaming and shrieking, I struggled to shore, breaking through the ice at each step. The peals of laughter infuriated me. Like a wet hen with muddy bedraggled feathers, I sloshed to the house, sobbing. What will mother say?!