Thursday, February 16, 2006

Pack Ice

Driving over the Mississippi River (on a bridge) I noticed that the ice had been breaking up and drifting down in floes. That reminded me of a time, some forty years ago, when two of my classmates thought that a semi-frozen river was a good place to play.

Barry and Dan were down by the river at a spot called “Old Camden”, where the remains of a nineteenth-century shingle mill had been located. The weren’t any structures, just a few pieces of concrete here and there, and the sluiceway that fed the old mill. The boys had been poking around the shore and found a dead cat. In an act of idle curiousity they threw the cat on an ice floe that was circling in a back water. The cat and the floe continued in their oscillation. Feeling brave (or was it just stupid) the boys hopped on the floating berg. They too went round and round. Barry, as teen-aged boys are wont to do, grew tired of this activity and leapt on shore. The extra kick from his leap pushed the floe out into the mainstream. Dan was now the captain and crew of the USS Icecube, heading down the river.

Oh, did I mention the waterfall? But that’s getting ahead of the story.

Dan was adrift, and too far from shore to jump and, with the water being a cozy 33° F., swimming was not an inviting option either. Barry was on shore and was, as teen-aged boys are also wont to do, laughing. Dan was getting scared now. A passing motorist saw his plight and phoned police. The fire department brought out a boat to the nearest landing—about two miles downstream. Just before the waterfall. There was quite a crowd when they snatched Dan from what could have been a watery grave.

The next day, there on the front page of the newspaper, was Dan, drifting down the Mississippi on pack ice, in the middle of February. He became a local legend. No one else ever tried to copy that stunt, however.

Most teen-aged boys, thankfully, aren’t quite that dumb.

By Professor Batty


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