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By Dan Beard

Small feet have tested the strength of the ice morning after morning, until at last the boys hail each other with the joyous cry of "The ice will bear! "

Old skates come rattling down from their perch on the top shelves of the closets, the dust is wiped off, and the sharpness of their runners tested by boyish fingers.

What a thrill used to run through the scholars in the little frame "Academy" at my "old Kentucky home," when some boy announced, "Licking will bear!" Which, being translated, meant that the muddy stream called the Licking River had frozen over and that the ice was thick enough to bear the weight of a boy.

When at last the Saturday holiday arrived, with what feverish baste we ate our breakfast, even begrudging the time taken to consume our food. Ah, those were glorious days! In imagination now I can hear the musical notes made by the vibrating ice under the weight of a crowd of merry boys as with glad shouts we glided over the glassy surface of the river.

Sometimes even the conservative and busy Ohio River would suspend all business and close its doors of ice. At such times the flat boats, barges, and steamboats would lie helpless and idle along the shores, their only use being that of a resting-place and shelter for skating parties. I then thought that when a person reached an age when he no longer cared to skate, it was time for him to die. This opinion, like many others of my boyhood, is being gradually modified.

Little Danger

While we older fellows look on the reader may stand on one foot and flinging out his other spin like a top. And if he falls little harm is done; his bones are not brittle and his body is light.

Fig. 406
Danger Ahead

Keep Your Hands Out of Your Pockets

The only dangerous falls come from skating over sticks, leaves, chips, bits of paper or similar objects which suddenly stop the swiftly gliding feet, bringing the upper part of the body down with a bang upon the ice. Even under these conditions serious results seldom follow a fall unless the skater has his hands in his pockets. The writer still bears scars that testify to the truth of this statement.

When to Begin

The boy should begin skating as soon as he can procure skates small enough to fit his little feet. In Friesland, Holland, the babies learn to skate as soon as they are able to toddle, and they are expert skaters by the time they are six or seven years old. Indeed, in America, small boys generally do begin when they can get a skate of any size.

The Old Wooden Skate

A hundred years ago the old skates that fell into the possession of the small boy were unique in pattern. Fastened to a bright red wooden foot-piece was a long, straight runner which ended in a spiral of steel that curved gracefully up over the toe and terminated in a beautiful brass acorn. The skates were fastened to the feet by heel-and toe-straps. The toe-straps crossed, sandal fashion, over the toe, ran across the instep through two iron rings in the heel-strap and back again to the buckle. A sharp spike held the shoe- heel in place. With one of these acorn skates bound on one foot, the straps tightened by sun dry chips and sticks thrust between them and the shoe, the small boy was happy as he glided down the frozen gutter on one foot.

Fig. 407.
The Old Brass Acorn Skate.

Christmas came and in the bulging stocking there was more than likely to be a pair of small skates with screw heels and broad toe-and heel-straps. These were usually about an inch or one-half of an inch longer than the foot, to allow for the boy's growth. On the screw-heels the boy learned plain forward skating sufficiently well to be able to play tag and shinny on the canal, river, or pond.

The third stage in his career was when his older brother, father, or uncle presented him with a beautiful pair of club skates, with no straps of any kind.

When the glittering club skates were locked on his feet his ambition began to grow and he was soon to be seen experimenting on the more difficult feats in skating. His efforts were now directed to Cutting a Circle.

Plain and Fancy Skating

Cutting a Circle

The Spread Eagle

The Bull Frog & The Grapevine Garland

The Danger of "Follow the Leader"

Ice Boats!








Additional Information:

Follow Leader ] Bull Frog ] Cutting a Circle ] Figure Skating ] Ice Boat ] Spread Eagle ]

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Winter Games ] Snowball Warfare ] Skate Sailing ] Woods in Winter ] Snowmen ] Snow Statuary ] Ice Fishing ] [ Skating ] Evening Entertainment ] Winter Projects ] Advancement ] Polar Bear Swim ] Snow & Ice ]

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Last modified: October 15, 2016.