Because we lived on a farm, ice skating on ponds was one of our favorite
sports. Each year our feet were too big for the skates we wore the year
before. They all clamped on to our regular shoes. Boys’ skates clamped with a
lever and cost less than a dollar unless they were nickel plated. Girls’
skates had leather at the back and fit the toe of our shoes by adjusting them
with a skate key.
Our dads reported on the thickness of pond ice, after cutting holes for the
cattle and horses to drink. “Don’t get out over the deep part of the big pond
but you could skate in the shallow end,” he’d say. He’d go along and
sometimes skate with us. I bought cheap skates in summer and loaned them to
young people in winter -- two bushel baskets full.
Then came Uncle Manuel’s estate sale. He, too, had bought cheap skates in
summer and sold them for profit. The auction was in August and no one bid on
his skates. Without intending to buy, I started the bidding at $5 and no one
else spoke. I owned 180 pairs for $5! Several winters I gave skates to
friends, strangers, 4-H clubs and, at the suggestion of “Cookie” -- a
recreational professional -- sent several pairs to her friends in the Amish
community. These beautiful people choose a simple life, which includes skating
on farm ponds.
Recently, I was at the Amish bakery on Route Y, and Anna said, “You’re the
one who sent the skates, aren’t you?” Yes. “Oh, I can’t tell you how the
children enjoyed them. They’re all worn out or outgrown now, of course.”
“I have a few pairs left,” I said, “would you want them?” Her face lit up
with a great smile. I promised to bring some before the next cold spell.
Scrounging around in the carport I found skates on shelves, in bags and
cardboard boxes -- 20 pairs! Chub and I took the larger ones to Anna’s family
and then went to Ezra Miller’s harness shop. Chub and I have known Ezra and
Edna for many years. They were our guests for the day one time. He and I were
once partners in a business deal. I had bought, for $6, two complete sets of
harness to fit those big draft horses Amish farmers use in their fields. As
with skates in summer, no one even started a bid on the harness. I offered to
give them to Ezra, who once could put more than 20 horses in harness at the
same time. He said, “You take them home and soak them in your swimming pool
to soften the leather. Partially dry the leather and then bring them back.
I’ll oil and repair them and find a buyer. Then we’ll split the profit.” We
were both happy with the deal.
He’s retired, but was helping his son in the harness shop when we arrived
several days ago. “Would you like some ice skates?” I asked. Remembering our
harness deal of several years back, he thought I meant that the skates were
for sale. “No, they’re free. They’re for your grandchildren. How many
grandchildren do you have?” I asked.
“A hundred,” he said proudly. I thought he was kidding. “The 100th
grandchild was born on December the 14th.” He wasn’t kidding! “Ninety-seven
of them are living. Forty-eight girls and 49 boys.” Then he added, sadly,
that “three little fellows didn’t make it.”
As we unloaded the skates I said, “You and Edna aren’t old enough to have
~great-grandchildren, are you?”
“Yes, 39 of ’em,” he said proudly. “And I’ll be 73 years old tomorrow.”
He’s a happy and successful man. “HAPPY BIRTHDAY, EZRA MILLER!”