Ice Crossing

This post is in response to a blog by David Kanigan, who got my wheels turning. His post http://davidkanigan.com/2014/01/25/smwi-take-me-back/ caused me to re-blog this old post that few people saw anyway, almost three years ago. David’s post about skating on new ice on a lake made me wish I could feel good too. I love skating, and the ice in his video clip was so pure and glassy. But since childhood I’ve had a terror of being on ice-covered ponds, rivers, lakes, anything deeper than a few inches.

Here is why. In the following account I have fictionalized the characters, but you can guess that I’m Lynn. Except for the names, the rest of the story is absolutely true. Oh, and the VW bug was black. Here goes:

“Yippee! We’re going for a ride!” Lynn crowed.

“In you go, kids.” Their mother held the door for them. Lynn’s older brother, John, had his driver’s licence and proudly announced that he would treat them to a Sunday outing in his new 1959 VW Beetle. Lynn piled into the back along with her younger brother and two little sisters.

“Don’t go too fast now,” Mother admonished John. “You have precious cargo aboard.”

“Na-a-a-h, stop worrying.” John waved her off. Like all eighteen-year-olds, he knew everything.

He drove north on the Rolla Road for about half an hour from Dawson Creek and stopped where the road ended at the banks of the Peace River.  An old wooden sign nailed to a tree read: Alberta border 12 miles. Below it, on the same tree, another sign read: Clayhurst Crossing. Use at your own risk.

“That’s the end of the road,” Lynn said, as she stared across the frozen river. “Guess we have to turn around now. We didn’t bring our skates.”

“Are you kidding?” John said. “We’re just getting started. We’re going to the other side. This is an adventure.”

“Other side?” Their mother‘s voice conveyed enough fear for all of them. “The barge doesn’t run in winter.”

“The ice will hold us.”

“No-o-o!” the kids all screamed at once.

“John, it says, ‘Use at your own risk.’” Lynn’s voice was an octave higher than usual.

“Look’it. The big oil tanker trucks cross here all the time, so my little Beetle can cross.” He inched out onto the frozen Peace River and everyone went silent.

Their mother whispered frantically to John, “Do you know what you’re doing? Maybe we should turn around.”

“We’ll be fine. I know what I’m doing.”

The kids stared across the wide stretch of ice, their faces reflecting a mixture of fear and wonder.

Lynn remembered seeing the Peace River earlier that year, its muddy waters rushing past as she stood on the bank. She imagined that same water flowing beneath the ice now. Her insides tightened into a knot.

She was surprised that the car didn’t slide around on the ice. It rolled along just as easily as it did on the snow-packed road they had just driven. About halfway across, she noticed a crack shooting along the ice from under the car. Several car lengths farther on, another crack shot out like a lightning bolt. And another, and another. Near the other side, the cracks stopped appearing and at last the car rolled onto terra firma.

“I’m not going back with you,” Lynn said. “I just won’t. I’ll walk.” She fought back tears. “If we’d gone through the ice, we’d all be dead—the whole family—and Dad wouldn’t even know where we were.”

John’s face was pale in the rearview mirror.

“Don’t worry,” he said. “We’ll take the back road to Fort St. John and come home the long way, over the bridge.”

“What are you talking about? You know the bridge collapsed.”

“Not the suspension bridge. I mean the train bridge.”

“No-o-o!” the children wailed in unison.

“Don’t be such wimps! Everyone’s using it until the new bridge is finished. It’s perfectly safe…as long as no train comes along.”

24 thoughts on “Ice Crossing

  1. You leave us hanging by a thread. But you made it obviously. I would have been as afraid for it happened to me as well. I was only four but I remember the crack of the ice and water coming up. But fortunately, we lived to tell the tale. Eeeks!!!

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    • On a skating rink it’s fine. Then at least you only have to worry about broken hips and such, rather than drowning in icy water. As long as you’re up on the skates, it’s really fun. On solid ice without water under it.

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  2. You mention that the crack shot out like a lightning bolt. Was it accompanied by any sound? Dispersion of sound waves in ice sheets can produce quite ridiculous laser-like sounds.

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    • It’s quite possible, but I was inside the VW and only heard the car engine and the people inside talking. Just as well – the sound of these cracks might have been “the last straw” for my nerves.

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  3. The story that brought us together! It’s just as frightening as it was three years ago (is it really that long?). Clayhurst Crossing is so wide, too. Last time I was there, I had my feet in the little creek that comes in on the north side and the water was red. I wonder if that’s where your memory of red water comes from?

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    • No, the red was from one of of three lakes we visited. I thought it was Moonshine Lake, but it might have been Saskatoon Lake, or One Island Lake.
      And yes, I remember that you connected with me over this blog post! So glad we got in touch. I still can’t bear to think about that drive across the river. The brother who drove us across just died last Thursday, so I thought it was appropriate timing to re-post it. Maybe he can read it up in heaven if there is such a place.

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  4. It is an awesome story and one that was never shared by my dad to my mom or I. I am so glad you shared it with us. As scary as that was, It just shows him in such a different light. His 17 year old grandson found it quite amusing as well..lol…Just for the record I am, and have always been, terrified , like you, of all frozen natural sources of water.. I am not sure if I want to know if you actually drove over the train bridge but at least you all got home safe. Just a little traumatized. I look forward to some more of your childhood memories.<3

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