A thin layer of ice crusts the water of a melting slough or river. As the sun climbs overhead, surrounded by fluffy clouds, ice and snow melts causing astounding sights of rushing water. We hear from the big old house, those crashing, cracking booms like thunder. Drawn to the sight we clamor across the melting snowbanks to watch the spectacular scene of water showing its’ awesome power. The coulee, normally a trickle of water has become a raging river of broken ice and jammed chunks. The water is relentless in its’ push for freedom.
This is a dangerous time of year – we are all taught this. Beneath piled, melting snow could be slough or dip, now filled and deep. The ice, so thick all winter, can crack beneath the weight of a child.
We often tempted this advice. We would skate on ice sometimes because it was smooth and not rippled by the wind. We didn’t have to shovel off piles of snow to make a rink. Once my foot fell through and went right up my leg. I wasn’t touching bottom. I was stuck. My two older brothers carefully got me out and reprimanded me for going to that area – they told me to stay away from. But instead of letting me go to the house to dry out, they ordered me to sit on the grass and dry out. I was so young – I didn’t know – it would be they, not me, who would have gotten the brunt of punishment. I just knew I didn’t ever tattle on my brothers without consequences.
Both the snow and the ice are deceptive at hiding dangers. We can sink down into a snowbank that was once as tall as a telephone post. This is the time of the year we ride a horse to go to school. The cutter can sink down as well as a horse and even though a horse may be strong, he can’t get himself and the cutter out if it’s all jammed up.
But I love this time of year. The air is still crisp, but so much warmer. And I get to ride a horse to school. Some of us love riding, some of us hate it. My sister who is two years older than me – appears to be terrified of horses. Being quick of mind, I pick on this very fast and very young. I make the mistake of teasing her. It is a mistake I pay for. I, superior being that I am, get to ride in the front, controlling the horse. I deliberately set him galloping, even though she begs me not to. It is fun to hear my sister scream and cling to me. That is, until she slides from the horses back, bringing me with her.
The horse we are riding is very tall. To a child he is gigantic. We have no saddle or often no place to crawl up and back onto his back. My sister then sweetly asks me to boost her up first – which I do. Terrified of horses or not, she is still bigger than I am. After I boost her up is when I realize I have no where to mount. My sister enjoys the comfortable walk over a mile home, while I struggle, leading the horse at a leisurely pace. I am exhausted when I get home.
My sister is always my champion, protecting me against others, but she is afraid of so much I am not. But after a time – I learn to respect her for who she is and discover she gives me the same respect in return. I learn it is not fun or even wise to mock another’s fears.
It became a lesson somewhat like ‘cutting off your nose to spite your face’ for often – making fun of others can backfire. My family had a phrase or saying for nearly every aspect of life. I am still amazed at how accurate they can be.