There was quite a chill in the air that January afternoon. My friend David and I were dressed warm enough, with our snow pants and heavy coats. We were all geared up for an afternoon romp in the snow. We loved to get out into the snow, whether it was sledding, or a toboggan, or a snow ball fight. We spent hours outside at a time, best friends making the most of a winter day.
This day we headed out through the field across from his house. The field was covered with waist deep snow, and we trudged our way through it down to an old farm pond about 200 yards from the road. There was a big willow tree overhanging this pond and, being just 10, we didn’t realize what a picturesque place it was. A regular Currier and Ives setting. We were just out for a lark that day. Not really having anything in mind.
We ran around to the far side of the pond, and noticed there was a small opening in the ice about 100 feet from the shore. Being the great competitors we were, we decided to have a contest. There were a lot of small, medium and large rocks sitting around the shore from an old broken down stone wall, and we decided to see who could throw the most rocks into that hole. David went first, and he missed by a little bit, the rock he threw bouncing across the ice halfway to the other shore. My shot wasn’t any better as it skipped the same direction.
After several more attempts, we realized this game was harder than we thought it would be. So, I came up with a plan to make it easier. Why don’t we throw some of the bigger rocks out there and see if we can make the hole bigger, so we would have a bigger target? David liked that idea, and we started picking up the bigger rocks and heaving them out there. It was working great and the hole was getting bigger with every rock we threw. Soon it was about 6 feet across, and David said that’s good enough.
I disagreed. I was ready with one more big rock. I picked it up and started out on the ice to make sure I could get it close enough to heave it into that hole. I was about 10 feet from the hole when the ice cracked under me, and before I knew what happened, I was underwater. I let the rock go and struggled to the surface, my heavy wet clothes trying to drag me down. I put my arms up on the ice and tried to lift myself out, but the ice broke beneath me and I went back down into the frigid water.
David was frantic on the shore, and all I can do is give you his account of what he did. He saw me struggling and looked around to try and find a solution. He saw a big branch lying on the ground over by the tree, and as he watched me go down for the second time, he grabbed that branch. Struggling to get it as close to me as he could, he sprawled out on the ice in desperation, just hoping I would grab onto it when, and if, I came up again.
Then I broke the surface. I had struggled so hard to get up to the top again that I just reached out to try and pull myself on the ice once more, but the ice broke beneath me again. David moved that branch over so it hit my arm, and I felt it. Going down for the third time, I grabbed onto that branch with both hands. David had the other end secured and he started pulling me out. The strong branch held, and soon I was out of the water and onto the ice completely. I crawled to the edge of the pond, and we headed up to his house, 200 yards away.
It took forever, it seemed, to get there. The snow was waist deep and I was completely soaked. I was freezing. David went before me, trying to open up a trail through the snow. My body and my clothes felt like they were turning to ice as I moved. We got to the edge of the field and climbed over the fence, heading across the street. We got to his house and ran inside.
“Mom, Mom, Peter fell through the ice” David cried out.
His Mom came running out and quickly had my clothes off and a towel around me. Oh, that felt so good. I was blue all over my body, but quickly started to warm as David’s mom gave us hot chocolate and delicious hot-cross scones. It took a while, but finally I was warm enough to get dressed, and David gave me some of his clothes to wear. He took me back to my house and upon entering the house, my Mom’s first words were “Do you have David’s clothes on?”
I simply said “Yes, Mom. All of them.” And then we told her what had happened.
David and I are still best friends 55 years later. We talk almost every day, and are closer now than we have ever been. We reminisce a lot about that day and many of the other things that we have been through together. I am so thankful for his friendship and that God has kept us close, despite some very hard times between us. It’s a friendship that will last a lifetime.
My name is Pete Gardner, and I want to thank Roberta for giving me this opportunity to post on her site. I write Christian poetry and enjoy sharing what God gives me about the scriptures. I am a licensed minister and work as an evangelist when I have the opportunity. I have been married to the same wonderful woman for 38 years, and we have three daughters and five grandchildren.
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