Leather & Blades

I fear that one of America’s oldest forms of social recreation may be fading into the mist of history. I hope I’m wrong. In winter, fresh air is just as important to the body & mind as it is at any other time of the year. And, in this farmgirl’s opinion, we need to get out and breathe it in deeply … skates or no skates.

Not only do we need to breathe deeply the fresh air of winter, we need laughter in winter. Some things generate laughter as if by magic and ice skating is one of those things! Born of necessity in ancient times, ice skating made getting around easier in the winter. Making winter a little easier to cope with qualified the invention of ice skates as a stroke of genius. And, it happened very early in human history. The earliest skates discovered used not metal for blades, but oxen bone. No part of life was easy in early human history, but laughter has been as much a part of our make-up as struggle. Well, it should be anyway. It is good that we’ve been laughing at ourselves and each other for forever.

I gotta believe that ice skating, as a form of recreation, happened very early too … perhaps when some mangy old primitive was skating over a crusty pond on his crude bone skates and suddenly tripped over a twig which resulted in splattering him on the ice and scattering his armful of firewood. Certainly, his fur-clad clan members didn’t watch with straight faces. You know they were cracking up! Then, they helped him up and gathered his wood … we hope. I’ll bet while they were standing around the fire roasting some beast whole (early backyard BBQ) and drinking fermented God knows what, and after passing the grogg around awhile, they got a wild notion to strap on their bone skates and do what silly people do … play. Pretty soon, everyone wanted a pair of skates! They weren’t just for work anymore :o) Wild speculation on my part … but, someone invented getting silly on the ice and turned it into sport and it certainly wasn’t a serious soul. Next thing ya know, they were making skates to sell.

And sell they did. Civilized folks all over Europe discovered skating and went wild over it. Ice skating was a welcome social outing similar to summertime recreating in the parks and along scenic waterways.

They were skating in Russia at night, in Scotland on Duddington Loch, and on the Thames.

Currier & Ives created this charming glimpse of winter recreation in early America.

Folks were skating in Central Park long before the skyline was populated by tall buildings (below). But, after the tall buildings appeared, ice skating continued. Even today, you can ice skate in downtown New York City.

Another human trait came into play somewhere along the way in skating history. Those who are good at a thing, turn it into art … and we are mesmerized by the beauty of their expertise. They were gifted athletes that put blades on the bottoms of their ballet slippers. And, those who were more into speed than acrobatic skill, pursued speed skating. It was a no-brainer that men would go there. Fellas will race anything that can move. But, in all of it, the bottomline is the same … we’re just out to have some fun.

Beauty and sport go hand in hand, especially in ice-skating. Skates are magic! By ourselves, we’re humiliatingly awkward on the ice. On skates, however, we can glide with grace. It takes practice, to be sure, but it can be done and if it were exceedingly difficult the sport would never have become so popular. Almost anyone with enough ‘want to’ … can! This country, like every other country that is frozen over during the winter embraced ice-skating.

If you were an avid skater as a child, I bet you remember this: playing ‘whip’ – below. Everyone took their turn being at the end of the whip and getting popped off when the group got up to speed and turned sharply!

Sure, skating is fun, but in bygone days it was also important to be stylish! Grown-ups being what they are, care a lot about their appearance. If you can skate well, you sure want to look good doing it. And, if you can’t skate worth a darn, at least you can look spiffy. Nothing new about that either – the Victorians thought it was important to wear the right garments for every occasion – be it equestrian oriented or on the ice. After all, a skating party is a party and you dress for a party.

Around Christmas (this past), I tried in vain to hunt up and locate my old skates. Not to actually wear, but to decorate with … hang them on a wreath. I have such fond memories of skating. I think I would still like to skate, but as a result of my injury last year, I acquired a bolded respect for ice. When I fell on our icey driveway last February, every tendon that held my knee together exploded. Thank God I live in a time when such an injury can be completely repaired. But, I am just now walking without a limp and confident on my feet again. I watch where I step with keen attention. Ice skating? Ohhhhhhh, now that is a stretch! Maybe next winter. ‘Discretion is the better part of valor’. Here, below, is a collection of images of me at various times in my life on those silvery blades. The last photo is an idea for my safe return to gliding across the ice next winter.

As you can plainly see, I was a fearless hot-dog skater. I know those days are over, but I do love the feeling of tightening up your skates, gliding around the pond and giggling at the spills. Apre` skating is great too … oh yea, hot toddies that warm you down to your frigid toes.

This also, I’m entering the a latter phase of mid-life and there are a few pleasant things that come with it. Being a contented observer. I enjoy watching others enjoy themselves … more. We do some of that at every age, but I can see now that you get better at it after you’ve got more silver hair than colored hair. Ice-skating gets better with practice, but there are some things that get better with age. If I skate less and watch more, it’ll be ok. Do those of you close to my age feel that way too?

The thing is, never let go of the ability to enjoy. Having fun is something you can find at any age as long as you’re still looking.

On a little different note, but still having to do with ice, my horse and I had an adventure on the ice yesterday.

No, I didn’t skate with her, I rode her :o) I couldn’t resist the cheesy photoshop pic above, sorry. We ride very little in the winter, but our friends needed some help moving their cattle a short ways and then loading them onto semi- trucks so that the cattle could be hauled to better pasture. I rode very little this past year (due to the knee injury), thus I was eager to get out of the house. It was only 20 degrees at 7AM and I was dressed to look more like the Pillsbury Doughboy than a cowboy. There isn’t much snow this year, but what we lack in snow we more than make up for in ice. It is flat treacherous out there and a thin layer of new snow covered the ice. I had to talk myself into going. They could have gotten along without me, but that’s not the point. I wanted to be of help and I need to work on my fear of the ice. My horse, bless her heart, was sooo careful. She doesn’t want to fall either! The cattle walked slowly for the same reason. We all carefully pegged along and no one fell … escept for a few cows. And, I had fun!! Really. I think one of the reasons I stayed warm was because of something that I remember as a kid: when you’re having fun, you don’t seem to get chilled as easily. Remember??

So, although I’m not going to be skating this winter, I did get out and get some of that fresh air I spoke about earlier. Whatever it takes … get out and get yourself some – skates or no skates. As my Dad used to say to us kids when we got too rowdy in the house in the winter, “Go outside and blow the stink off!” That is my parting thought, ’nuff said ;o)

  1. Joyce Wiley says:

    I remember Ice Skating on the ranch in Wyoming, my big sisters leaving me behind as they skated on Rock Creek all the way to the bridge, and of course I was usually the one who fell through the thin ice!

  2. Karin says:

    Love this. Our weather in Missouri has been really mild unlike last year but I work from my home and sometimes feel trapped in my office. I love getting out and getting the "stink off". My Grandfather used to say that (We stayed with my grandparents when growing up). I go out every morning and feed dogs cats horses and donkeys but there is a need to sometimes just get out…. to get out of the routine truly getting the stink off. Of course those urges hit me when it is coldest outside. I love skating but our ranch only has creeks that are spring fed and do not freeze but sometimes the ground thaws enough it is slippery. Does that count? I have a healthy respect for the ice and need to work on that also. I prefer staying on my feet and last year spent enough time like an unpside down turtle in 2 feet of snow. (My bottom was my center of gravity if you can imagine, just arms and feet sticking out the snow). I thought I was a goner several times but that ol faithful dog was there for me to hold on to and get myself out. Thank you for such a great article.

  3. Debbie says:

    Hahahahah! Love your dad’s saying! I’ve never been good on roller skates, ice skates or skies. But, this post reminded me of the fresh air of the Sierra during our cross country skiing days! Now, that was fun and definitely created some giggling! I did used to fall quite a bit, but at least I wasn’t going too fast when I did it! Great images and I love the one of Ribbon wearing skates.. Perhaps it’s time for a long walk in the winter air!

    Thanks for another ( gem ) Shery!
    Stay warm!
    love and hugs,
    your beach blogging sister- friend!


    Thanks Deb :o)  I hafta tell you though that the horse in that photoshop pic isn’t mine. I found it on the http://www.  ~ shery j


  4. Grace~katmom says:

    Oh Shery,
    as a child I to would go with my girlfriends and skate (at skate parks where you had to pay) what fun we had. Then somewhere along the way, I grew up,,,,and had not been on a pair of skates for 10+ years…. After all my bragging my hubby brought me & another couple to a Indoor Skate Park… Ummmm well, let’s just say, my skating memories were a lot better then my actual skating abilities! lol!
    I do have a pair of ice skates that hang by the entrance door of our home (year round) and with each season I replace the flowers to reflect the season. I also have a pair of wood/metal ice skates that lay by the fireplace.
    I am a true believer that one does not have to limit ones self to only the current seasonal decorations… so yes in Summer I have ice skates hanging with flowers and in Winter I have have bird houses & sunflowers & flamingos!…. I am just quirkey that way!
    Speaking of bird houses, I just acquired a new bird house that looks like a trailer (on my blog)…. I am so ready for Summer & Glamping,,,how about you? Happy Trails!


    Oooooooooooo, a birdy trailer ? :o) Cuuuuuute! I’m gonna try and twist my farmgirl pal, Michele, into creating a junky trailer birdhouse. I can do the graph paper part…and hopefully she’ll agree to do the woodworkin’. Got your ears on Michele?   shery

  5. Ruth says:

    What wonderful memories this evoked! As I young person, I remember ‘living’ outdoors in the winter; skating, sledding, snowmobiling….anything just to be outside in the snow and cold!

    My uncle had a pond that became the neighborhood gathering spot for kids and adults (summer and winter). Many a game of ice hockey was played there as well as just plain zooming around like crazy people on the ice just for the fun of it!

    My uncle had built a cabin adjacent to the pond, complete with a big pot-belly, wood-burning stove. If we weren’t outside on the ice, we were inside warming our fingers and toes, guzzling hot chocolate, hot cider and every sweet treat imaginable from my Grandma who was a wonderful cook and loved feeding us!

    Thanks for allowing me a few moments to ‘be’ in that place again. Like you, I ‘observe’ more than I ‘do’ lately, but I still enjoy!

    Oh, how I miss those days….

  6. April says:

    This was a great post! I loved all the pictures too! We havent been skating this year as the temps have been so all over the place. It’s snowing today, so it definitely puts me in the mood to skate or sled!

  7. OH, I love to watch people ice skate. I’ve tried it myself and it’s always ended in failure…so far…but I still love it 😉 🙂 It’s fun to watch people glide on the ice. It’s like they’re flying and for a moment you aren’t bound by gravity 🙂 🙂 Love and hugs from the ocean shores of California, Heather 🙂

  8. KimberlyD says:

    I use to ice skate till I had my first back surgery for scoliosis when I was a 11 years old, my parents wouldn’t let me after that. I did continue to go sledding up till about 9 years ago I was still sliding down the hills on a sled! But not now, my back can’t take it anymore. In Michigan we haven’t had much snow, it comes and melts the same day or in a day or two. Which is fine for me for that means the roads aren’t messy and I hate driving in it. But loved it as a kid, playing in it and making forts and tunnels and snow angels, now if I make a snow angel it isn’t because I wanted to its because I fell…LOL!!!!

  9. Treese says:

    I grew up on a ranch in Colorado. We did a lot of snow skiing and roller skating, but no ice skating. I went to Harvard for my education. Boy, did I learn to ice skate! There are ice-rinks everywhere. I crashed and burned too many times to count, but finally got the hang of it.

    I am back on our cattle ranch in Colorado after many years of being away; and once again no ice skating rinks anywhere near where I live. I do miss the fun I had with my friends.

    We have had very little snow this year so far and a growing fear we are headed for another drought just like last year.

  10. Lacey says:

    We live in Saskatchewan and we have many Ice Rinks indoor and out, Plus we usually like to build one on the front lawn in the winter months. However this year has been unusually warm, so the ice has seemed to melt away 🙁 Some of the best times I had as a child were spent doing winter activities and I am truly enjoying teaching my son that winter can be just as fun as summer, when it comes to playing outdoors! This year we started working on an Igloo…contrary to popular belief we Canadians Do Not live in them! We used a plastic swimming pool as the roof and propped it up with a few pieces of scrap wood with a fabric curtain doorway, So even though we only have a few inches of snow we can still have a true winter hide out! And our dogs have been occupying it at night! Everyone is Happy! Enjoy your winter activities, for soon it will be Caving season….and we will be too busy to fully enjoy the snow! 🙂

  11. Sharon says:

    Great post Shery! Fun, inspirational pictures too!! I love ice skating and I am not the most active of adults. I really miss it this year. Our winter has been so mild in Maine that lakes and ponds haven’t frozen over enough yet. Just last week the state had to cancel it’s biggest ice fishing competition for safety reasons. Granted there are still ice rinks open, but if I’m going to make the effort I prefer to be outdoors in the fresh air and sunshine. Here’s hoping it’s cold enough some where for people to enjoy the sport the way it was meant to be.

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