The Creek Hole
MaryAnn Faubion, age 8
by MaryAnn Faubion Kohl
Even before I woke up, I knew my winter wish had finally come true. The pond was frozen, I just knew it! I’d been waiting for weeks ever since receiving my new white figure skates for Christmas, and as I opened my eyes that dark cold winter Saturday morning, I saw thick frost swirls on my window. Heavy frost like that was a sure sign that it was freezing cold outside. Definitely, today would be the day! I was going to skate on Laurel Pond in my new white figure skates! I almost flew out of bed and dressed in my warmest wool socks, double lined jeans, and thick red sweater.
Mom called me for breakfast and I bounded down the stairs, sliding into the kitchen on my stocking feet like a gold medal winner.
“Well, well, well,” said my mom smiling. “What have we here?”
“Skating, Mom, figure skating! I’m sure the pond is finally frozen!”
“I think you’re right. It is really cold out, though, way below freezing. I’m afraid it’s too cold to play outside, Baby. I’m sorry.”
“Mom, noooooo! I’ve been waiting since Christmas! I promise I’ll bundle up. I promise I won’t stay out too long! Please, I promise! Oh, please, Mommy, please.”
“Oh, Baby. I don’t know. It’s only 16 degrees this morning!” Mom looked really sorry about the freezing weather. “Well, eat your French toast and peaches, and be sure to drink all your milk. Let me think about it. We’ll see if it’s going to be sunny today or not. The sun hasn’t even come up yet!”
I gobbled my breakfast, and by the time I was done, the sun was peeking low through the bare trees casting shadows so long you couldn’t see the beginning or end. This seemed like a good sign, but I knew Mom wasn’t convinced yet. I had to do some quick thinking.
I washed and dried my dishes and put them away, and got out the broom and began sweeping the entire kitchen. Mom looked sideways at me, and had a funny smile on her face, but she didn’t say anything. She just went back to putting away the eggs and milk carton and cleaning up the breakfast supplies.
I wanted her to have plenty of time to think about letting me go skating, so I said, “Here, Mom, let me do that, and you sit down and have a nice cup of coffee. Relax, enjoy yourself. Look out the window at the pretty sunrise!” Mom smiled that funny smile again, and then poured herself a hot cup of coffee with cream and sugar. She sat at the table leaning on both her elbows, watching me work. As she sipped her coffee, I wiped the counters, rinsed the cloth, and folded it carefully on the edge of the sink. Then I straightened the chairs and the placemats, and took a few moments to glance out the kitchen window. The sun was definitely up!
“Isn’t it a beautiful sunny morning, Mom? A perfect day for skating!”
“MaryAnn, I’ve thought it over, and you may go skating, but not until noon when the sun is warmest. And you can only stay out for one hour. I’ll drive and pick you up one hour later. You have to wear your mittens with the liners, which I know you hate, but that’s the way it’s going to be. Are we agreed?”
“Mommy!! I love you! We are agreed! And I’ll even wear extra mittens over my double mittens!”
We hugged and I headed off to prepare my skates and everything I would need for my first figure skating day at Laurel Pond. I packed a small bag with an old hand towel for drying my spring-loaded blade covers, put in my extra mittens, and threw in some extra socks and a scarf. I made sure the covers that protect the runners on the skates were snapped securely in place, and tied the laces of my skates together so I could carry them over my shoulder like the older girls at the pond do. Everything was ready! Now, all I had to do was wait for four more hours.
I made my bed and straightened up my toys. Only three hours and 30 minutes to wait! After watching Little Lulu cartoons followed by Casper the Friendly Ghost, I checked on my skates and made sure I had everything I needed. Now only two more hours to go! I decided to call my friend, Carol, whose mom was my mom’s best friend. I liked Carol because she was daring and fun, and she was a really good figure skater, so I thought maybe she would like to come skating with me. I dialed her number, LO 7-4547, and she answered. “You have reached the Senter residence, Carol speaking.”
“Hi, Carol. It’s MaryAnn. My mom says I can go skating at Laurel Pond at noon. She’s driving. Do you want to come?”
“Oh boy, I sure would! Let me check with my mom.”
I waited while Carol asked her mom. I could hear their voices talking back and forth, back and forth. I heard Carol say, “Oh, please, Mommy? Please? I promise I’ll wear double mittens! MaryAnn’s mom is letting HER go!” Then Carol came back to the phone and said, “I can go! But I can only stay out one hour.”
“Me too!” I exclaimed! “We’ll pick you up at noon. Dress in your warmest skating clothes! I’m bringing my new skates!”
Carol said, “I’ll bring a blanket for us to sit on while we lace up our skates! And maybe I can bring some cocoa too. Okay, I’ll see you soon. Bye.”
“Bye, see you!”
Finally it was time to load up the car and pick Carol up. I was bouncing on the back seat as we drove the two blocks to Carol’s house. She was already outside waiting. The sun was shining, it was freezing cold, and we were ready to go! Carol had a thermos of hot cocoa, a blanket, her bag of extra clothes, a big wool hat that almost covered her eyes, and her figure skates slung over her shoulder. She was ready! Her mom waved and smiled at us from their kitchen window as we loaded up and drove off.
Laurel Pond wasn’t very far from our houses, so it was just a few minutes until we pulled in to the parking area near the pond. There were only a few cars and not very many people skating. It was so cold, I guess the temperature was keeping people away. “More room for us to skate,” I shouted. “Let’s go!”
We spread Carol’s blanket on a log and sat down, lacing up our skates. The ice penetrated even that wool blanket. As we worked, my mom took a few minutes to lay out the rules. “Ok, girls, this is how it’s going to be. You have to follow my rules. Are you listening?” We both nodded our heads and looked into my mom’s eyes. She was serious about rules.
1.) Do not talk to strangers.
2.) Keep your mittens on at all times.
3.) Do not go near the end of the pond where the creek comes in. It looks like the creek has made a hole in the ice. The ice is much thinner there. Do not go near the creek hole!
4.) Stay together at all times. If someone has to go to the bathroom or anything, you’ll just have to wait until I pick you up in one hour. OK?”
These were familiar rules, and we agreed to all of them. The only new rule was the one about the creek hole and the thin ice made by where the creek filled the pond. But, it made sense, and I couldn’t see why anyone would go near thin ice anyway.
“Great! Have fun and try some fancy skating tricks! I’ll be back in one hour. If you get cold, wrap up in the blanket and drink your cocoa. I’ll be back at one.”
“Thank you, Mrs. Faubion.”
Mom climbed into her warm car and drove off to the grocery store, waving as she went.
Carol and I looked at each other and both said at the very same time, “Ready? Set? Go!” And go we did. We laughed as we wobbled across the frozen frosty yellow grass right up to the edge of the pond. Only a few others were skating, so we weren’t worried about the ice being too thin. Even so, we looked down into the pond to see if we could see how thick it was, and it was well over four inches, the thickness everyone knew was safe. We smiled. Then we headed out onto the ice.
I knew how to skate, but I’d never had my own figure skates before. Carol was a really good skater; she’d had her skates for two years. As she started doing turns and little jumps, I took my time getting to know my ability. It wasn’t long before I was skating backwards, and in just a little bit, I tried my first spin. Down I went, hitting my bottom hard on the ice. “Ouch, that hurt!” I knew I would be sore later, but up I jumped and tried it again. After several tries, I could spin! Round and round and round, until, wham! I found myself skidding across the ice on my stomach. What happened?
As I came to a stop, I looked back and saw Roger Steenburgen, an older boy who liked to play hockey on the pond with the other big boys. He was laughing. In fact, I was now sure he had pushed me. “Hey, little girl,” he laughed, “get off of my pond, or else. I want to play hockey. Go home, you big baby,” he shouted. “Why don’t you cry to your mommy?”
Carol skated over to me. “Are you ok?” I was okay, but the tears were starting even though I knew I shouldn’t cry. “I don’t have to do what you say, Roger Steenburgen,” I shouted. “It’s a free country. I can skate all I want and you can’t stop me.”
“Oh, I can’t stop you, huh?” Then he skated over to where I was now standing, and pushed me again. He pushed me hard with both hands jabbing into my shoulders. I fell on my backside with my feet in the air, falling so hard my teeth rattled in my head and I saw little stars.
Carol said, “Stop that, Roger Steenburgen, or I’m going to tell my mother.”
That made Roger start laughing so hard that he almost fell over, and then he had to wipe his drippy red nose on his jacket sleeve. “You babies get out of here. I’m playing hockey and you are in my way. Now get going or I’ll push you in the creek hole.”
The creek hole? THE creek hole that my mom had warned us about? I was scared. That was rule number 3, “Stay away from the creek hole!” Carol and I looked at each other and decided to move ourselves out of Roger’s range. We skated over to the edge of the pond and sat on the log, wrapping up in Carol’s blanket until we could figure things out. It was really really cold and we had a long time to wait before my mom was going to pick us up. My toes and fingers felt like they were little blocks of ice.
Roger started up a hockey game with some other big boys, taking up the whole pond. They were loud and rough as they knocked the little black hockey puck around, chasing after it, hitting it again. They were all over the ice. There was no way Carol and I could skate.
“Should we walk home?” asked Carol.
“No, I don’t think so. My mom might come and she would be worried if we’re not here.”
“What are we going to do? I’m cold!” said Carol.
“I’m not sure. Let’s drink some cocoa and think.”
We poured two small cups of cocoa from the red plaid thermos, one in the beige thermos lid and one in the extra cup, and sipped the hot chocolate drink being careful not to burn our tongues or spill. The warm cups helped our frozen fingers feel better, and the rich cocoa warmed our tummies all the way to our toes. We watched the big boys romping and knocking each other down, powdered crystals of ice shavings flying everywhere like fairy dust, using their big wooden hockey sticks to slug the puck into the goal Roger had made with dry grass. They were having fun making up hockey rules and being rough, and they left no room for figure skating.
Just then, I saw Roger take off chasing the puck down the pond, skates scraping and ice chips flying. I could see that he wanted to catch that puck before it fell in the creek hole, and he was not going to give up that puck no matter what. The other boys stopped skating, but not Roger. Roger was headed for the creek hole! He was trying to save the puck!
“Oh, no,” I whispered.
Just as Roger reached the puck, flipping it back into the middle of the pond with his stick, something happened. The ice cracked making a sound as loud as gunfire, and then pinging sounds as the ice shot cracks in long zigzags across the pond. And then it cracked again and yet again. Then, to our shock, Roger fell through the thin ice into the freezing water that was deep and way over his head. Roger had fallen into the creek hole.
Carol and I didn’t know what to do. Roger was flailing his arms, but he was sinking, his clothes filling up with water pulling him down. The other boys were afraid to go near the thin ice. We were all scared. No one was doing anything; we just stood there and watched, afraid to move.
For some reason I’ll never completely understand, I made up my mind to break rule number 3. I headed cautiously to the creek hole, skating there slowly and deliberately without anyone else. I picked up Roger’s hockey stick on the way, and then laid down on the ice on my stomach, which felt safer. I started slowly and carefully wiggling and sliding across the cracked ice toward the creek hole and toward Roger who was struggling to keep his head above water.
As I reached the creek hole, I heard the ice crack and ping again. I felt it ping right through my double mittens, my lined jeans, my heavy jacket and my warm red sweater. I was so scared I almost started to cry, but I had made my decision and I had to move fast. I stuck out the hockey stick and said, “Roger, grab this. Now! Grab the hockey stick!” Roger reached out, and in one try, he grabbed the stick. The ice around the hole started breaking as I tried to pull him toward me, the hole growing larger, but he didn’t let go. I began maneuvering backwards, pulling him with me, and not letting go of the hockey stick. I pulled and pulled as I moved away from the creek hole with Roger hanging on and trying to climb out of the creek hole.
Finally, Roger was able to pull himself up onto the thicker ice and out of the creek hole. He let go of the stick, rolled over, and laid on the ice on his back. He was breathing hard and coughing, and tears were pouring down his red cheeks. The big boys skated over and pulled him to his feet. One boy ran and got Carol’s blanket and wrapped it around him.
Carol skated over to my side, but didn’t say a word.
I wasn’t sure what to do next. Then Roger through chattering teeth turned to me and said, “Hey, thanks. Thanks a lot. You saved my life.”
I knew it was true. The creek hole was deep and Roger was surely going to drown. I saved his life.
The big boys helped Roger to the edge of the pond, and at that moment, Carol and I smiled little frozen grins. We had the whole pond to ourselves! We started skating and no one pushed us or told us to go home. But most of the fun was over because now I was feeling kind of shaky and really cold. Just then, my mom drove up waving as she parked the car. She rolled down the window and said, “Come on, girls. Time to go home.”
Carol and I looked at each other and Carol whispered, “Should we tell your mom?”
I said, “Yes. But let me do it.”
We took off our skates and dried the sharp shiny blades. Then we slipped on the blade covers. We pulled on our boots. Next we packed up everything and headed to the car, skates slung over our shoulders on laces tied together.
My mom said, “Where Carol’s blanket?”
“I’ll tell you when we’re in the car,” I answered.
Once inside the warm car, I told my mom what had happened. At first she was very quiet. Then she said, “I don’t know if I should be angry with you or proud of you. What if you had fallen into the creek hole too? Who would have saved you, MaryAnn?”
I said, “Mommy, I don’t know, but I had to help Roger. He was in real trouble. He was going to drown.”
She was very quiet again. Then she said, “I’m proud of you.”
We drove Carol home, and then headed back to our house. She told my brother and dad about the wild day of skating, and about the dangerous story of Roger and the creek hole. My dad hugged me with tears in his eyes, and my brother said, “Wow, you saved Roger Steenburgen’s life!”
The next day was a little warmer, and Carol and I went skating again. Roger was there too. He was playing hockey with the big boys as usual. One of them yelled, “Hey, you little twerps, get off our pond.”
Roger said, “Ah, leave’m alone. They can skate as much as they want.”
We skated and skated and skated! We were full of skating after one hour, and ready to head home. When we sat down to unlace our skates and get ready to pack up, we found Carol’s blanket folded and on the log next to our skating bags.
Carol and I skated many days that winter, but none like the day Roger Steenburgen fell into the creek hole and I saved his life.