The recent dramatic weather swings brought back memories as a kid in winter when there would be a rainstorm followed by a hard freeze. The creek running through our farm would overflow its banks and flood the bottom land shown in blue on the above aerial map of our farm. Then the sudden dip in temperature would freeze the water creating a wonderful, albeit temporary, lake for us to skate on.
The following print reminded me of helping my little brother learn to skate for the first time on that frozen flood plain. Also, there was a nice hill adjacent to the bottom land that we’d take our sleds down and onto the ice, traveling a long way before coming to a stop. Great fun!
The water in the bottomland would be several feet deep right about where my sister is in the photo below. However, the depth of the water in the creek to the right of her would be about 20’ deep, so we’d steer clear of that area. It never froze over as the water was running too fast. Eventually the water would subside, leaving the ice all jagged and broken up in the bottomland. Sometimes the fragmented ice would stay there all winter until the spring thaws.
Invariably, the flooding would bring in carp that we could see swimming under the ice. I recall Dad shooting them with a .22 rifle right through the ice. He called them bottom-sucking trash fish, among other such terms of endearment!
The creek flooded frequently because it was getting silted up from upstream erosion that restricted the flow. So when I was about age 11 or so, the creek was dredged from one end to the other to improve flow and mitigate flooding. This allowed the farm land in the creek’s watershed to also drain more rapidly enhancing timely crop planting and harvesting. Seeing those big steam shovels and bull dozers in action was a real treat. After the operators would quit for the day, I’d climb up on to those big rigs and pretend to run them.
Dredging the creek had another advantage during winter in that I could ice skate all the way down to Newport after it was frozen. If you look closely on the map below, you’ll see the creek ran parallel to the old Miami-Erie canal that I had written about in this previous blogpost. During the time of the canal, the creek supplied water to two old canal feeders named Basinburg and Lickety Lakes. Lake Loramie served a similar purpose, as did Lake St. Marys. Basinburg Lake was about half way to Newport and Lickety Lake was right at the intersection of State Routes 66 and 47 in Newport. Legend has it that Lickety Lake was named after some skinny-dipping escapades, but who am I to know?
My first pair of skates were the old clip-on style that did not work too well and were a real pain to install. Finally, I saved enough allowance money @ $1.25 per week to buy some figure skates. Then later hockey skates.
Hockey was fun but the ice was always very ragged and had to also be cleared of snow. We made makeshift goals out of two-by-fours and always seemed to lose the puck and break our sticks. To this day, the whole rigamarole turned me off to ice hockey, and that’s even after living in the suburbs of Hockeytown for 43 years.
Next week, look for another post about winter sports memories.
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