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One Winter Night: Remembering Fire and Ice

Jeannetter Thomas

When I first began writing a column for the Dispatch, I was a little afraid that I was putting too much of my own story in the sketches of life in Rocky Ridge.

But then someone gave me an issue of a stamp-collecting magazine and right there on the front page, the editor said something like: "In sharing our hobbies, we also talk about our own lives. So you get to know us." So then I figured my approach was all right!

I have been away. Gettysburg, Randallstown, work and more work. Now I’m back in Rocky Ridge. I haven’t had a chance to see what is going on now in this small town. I thought I’d just reminisce a little.

It seems like lots of people in this area talk about how much colder and how much "worse" the winters were long ago, compared to now.

That is something I, too, seem to remember. And lately I’ve been remembering a vivid picture from childhood here in rural America. I don’t remember how old I was, but it was the first year my growing feet were big enough to fit my mother’s slender white ice skates. I was overjoyed! And they were so pretty!

My brothers had some old brown leather hockey skates my grandfather had given us, and they took me up to the old fire pond behind Mt. Tabor Church.

The pond was thick with ice, and I remember the thrill of setting out there on my own while my brothers played between themselves. I don’t remember having difficulty getting the hang of it–it seemed to come naturally. And I thrilled at the smooth gliding, and the bumps in the ice, and the heart-stopping when suddenly a cracking let loose in the silence.

But the time I remember best–and this plays like a silent movie in my psyche–and a treasured memory among them all–is one night when we went out to the pond.

We walked up through deep snow, following the trail in the field, and trekked through the square and down over the hill. I don’t remember first getting there. I just have the feeling of the sacred dark, and the stars, and being far out there on the ice, complete in my solitary dance.

And there on the shore, a bonfire. It seemed as if the whole town of Rocky Ridge was gathered around this climbing flame, laughing and talking, and their joy carried over the ice. I could feel the joy and the gaiety even though I was way too shy to approach the circle around the fire. Years later I was told that Bobby and Kenny Mumma got out their small yard tractors to clear the pond of snow for just such gatherings. And that it happened other times, as well.

I just remember that once–feeling far, far away–with the scritch, scritch of my blades in the night. And the fire on the shore. Warming my heart in the dark.

Read other stores by Jeanette Thomas

Have your own memories of life in Rocky Ridge?  
If so, send them to us at history@emmitsburg.net