Silver blades and wobbly ankles

At least once each winter we would take a family trip to Wahnuhke. Most times our method of following the frozen channels was by walking, skiing, horse-drawn sleigh or, when there was almost no snow on the ice, on skates. It was before the days of scoots, snowmobiles or ATVs.

Most of we older members of the family were not good skaters. The exception was June, the eldest child, who when we lived in Ottawa during World War 2 had taken lessons at the renowned Minto Skating Club, of Barbara Ann Scott fame.

June was a natural athlete, especially on skates. I was not, but thought I could become better the harder I tried. Dad created a rink in our backyard for June to practice on, and me to work on my secret dream to skate like the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Years later it became clear that would never happen. Skaters don’t move on their ankles. I did, and always would. I just was not built for skates or most other sports but I loved skating and would do it whenever the chance arose (preferably without an audience).

So when we skated to Wahnuhke one winter, and I had all that ice to whirl around on, regardless of my weak ankles, it was a heaven-sent opportunity to do just that, and the clear ice off the boathouse was the perfect rink — sheltered, smooth, and mostly private.

Elsewhere, my skating was assisted if I had a hockey stick which seemed to help me stay upright. At the island there was no hockey stick, or anyone to see when my skates went out from under and I would slide great distances on my backside. Who cared?

That thought was dashed when around the point another teenage male, a total stranger, suddenly appeared, casually blading along like he was born on skates. His winter boots were slung over his shoulder for when he had to go ashore. Fortunately I wasn’t “on me arse” at that moment. I waved but got no respnse so I guess he wasn’t expecting to run into anyone else either and didn’t see me. Good thing too because that wave upset my balance and down I went.

In my mind’s eye I can still see him — with quite a bit of envy — as he skated along casually but expertly, heading back to Honey Harbour probably thinking only of the girl at Franceville that he had been likely visiting. (One of Wilf France‘s daughters. That was the nearest winter habitation to Wahnuhke.) If he was doing some courting, I’m sure he had a track worn on the ice right past our place and never gave it a glance.

Ottawa 1944: Think the Leafs will want him?

2 thoughts on “Silver blades and wobbly ankles

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