The Sandman: More Farm Stories  by Willliam J. Hopkins

The Skating Story

dropcap image NCE upon a time there was a farm-house, and it was painted white and had green blinds; and it stood not far from the road. In the fence was a wide gate to let the wagons through to the barn. And the wagons, going through, had made a little track that led up past the kitchen door and past the shed and past the barn and past the orchard to the wheat-field.

One day, after the summer was all over and every thing was ready for the winter, it began to get cold. It got colder and colder, and the wind blew hard and blew the dust up from the road, and it was so cold and so windy that the cows didn't want to go to the pasture. So Uncle John let them stay in the cow-yard, where it was sunny and they could get where the cold wind wouldn't blow on them.

When Uncle John found how cold it was getting, he said to the little boys, "Boys, if it keeps on cold for another day and night, there will be some skating." And the little boys were glad, and they hoped it would stay cold, because they liked to go skating.

It did stay cold, and on the second morning after that, after breakfast, Uncle John called out, "Do any boys want to go skating?" And all the little boys called out, "I do." But little Sam didn't know how to skate, because he was too little.

So little Charles and little John ran up-stairs to get their skates that were put away in the attic, and Uncle John went to get his skates. And little Sam waited down-stairs and wished that he knew how to skate. Then the little boys and Uncle John came down with their skates. They were funny-looking skates. There was a wooden part that went against the sole of the shoe, to stand on, and near the back end of this wooden part was a screw that screwed right into a hole in the heel of the shoe. And there was a long strap to go around the ankle and hold up the back end, and a wider short strap to hold up the front end. The runners were fastened to the under side of the wooden part, and in front they curled high up over the boys' toes, and on the end of each runner was a little knob like an acorn.


When the little boys had got their skates, they put on their thick coats and their comforters and their caps and their mittens. And they buckled the long strap of one skate to the long strap of the other skate, and they put the straps over behind their necks, so that the skates hung down in front, one skate in front of each shoulder. And Uncle John had his skates the same way, and little Sam didn't have any skates, but he was all wrapped up. Then they all went out the kitchen door and down the little track that was all frozen hard, and out the wide gate and along the road until they came where the road went near the pond. There was a little place that Uncle Solomon called the harbour, where the water was not deep at all, so that if any little boy happened to break through the ice, the water wouldn't come any higher than his knees.

When they had reached this place, they all turned off the road, and stopped at the shore of the pond, and they saw that the pond was all frozen. The ice was so smooth and so clear that it looked black. Little Charles and little John sat on a log that was on the shore and took the skates off their necks and undid the straps. Then little Charles took his knife out of his pocket, and he put one foot up on the other knee, and he dug the dirt and the little stones out of the hole in the heel of his shoe, with his knife. Little John didn't have any knife, so Uncle John had to dig the stones and the dirt out of the holes in his heels.

When the holes were all clean, the little boys screwed the skates on, and they buckled the straps over the ankles and the wider straps over their toes. Then they were all ready, and they stood up and skated off over the black ice; for the log they were sitting on was close to the ice.


They stood up and skated off over the black ice.

Then Uncle John had his skates on and he skated off, too. But little Sam was afraid to go on that black ice, because it looked as if he would be going right into the water.

The two little boys couldn't skate so very well. All they could do was to skate right ahead, sort of scrambling. But Uncle John could skate better, and he could do some of the things that the boys thought were fancy. He could skate forward or backward, the regular kind, and he could do the kind the boys called piander, forward and backward, and he could do the Dutch roll and make figures that looked like an 8. So Uncle John did all these fancy things, and he made pretty figures on the smooth ice, and the little boys watched him and skated around after him, to try to learn how to do those fancy things. But when they tried to do the Dutch roll or to skate backward, they fell down, and that made them laugh. And when Uncle John and little Charles and little John had skated around for awhile, then the ice was covered with white marks where they had gone, and it didn't look so black. So little Sam wasn't afraid any longer, and he ran on the ice and slid. And when the little boys were tired of trying to do the fancy things, they made Uncle John play tag with them, and they all tried to catch him. In that game, the only way he could skate was backward, but the boys had hard work to catch him.

So they skated and played around on the ice for a long time. And after awhile, it began to snow. Little fine flakes came down, not fast, so that the boys didn't know that it was snowing at all until they saw that snow was on the black ice. It was just a little thin layer, and they thought it was fun to skate in it and make marks. And then it began to snow a little faster, and they had been there almost all the morning, and Uncle John said it was time to go home, to get ready for dinner. For it was Thanksgiving Day and all their uncles and aunts were coming, and they were going to have a big dinner, with a lot of good things to eat. So they sat down on the log again and scraped off the ice that was on the straps of the skates, and they took off their skates and buckled the long straps together and hung the skates around their necks.

Then they walked into the road and along the road to the farm-house, and in at the wide gate and up to the kitchen door. Aunt Deborah wasn't there to meet them, because she was so busy getting dinner ready. The boys had had a very good time, and they were glad it was almost dinner-time, because they were very hungry.

And that's all.