So near Tacoma is a lake I used to walk around in high school, nearly every day. It’s a small kettle lake, with a tree-lined paved road that has seen nearly no car traffic in 60 years. It’s a great place to watch nature and the seasons change. Last winter, with a long spell of very steady, very cold weather, the lake froze over.
In Western Washington we’re not much accustomed to freezing the way people are in, say, the midwest, so we’re usually not ready for it and we’re endlessly fascinated with it when it does show up. On one particular day, I noticed that not only was the lake frozen, it was frozen deep, like Lake Baikal solid, like drive a car across it and go ice fishing solid. So teenagers were there playing a form of “chicken.”
One kid took a chunk of log and shuffled as far as she dared, laid the log on the ice, then shuffled back. Another girl went out and moved the log out even farther. Some boys came by, and being boys, had to go push it even farther out. I went out and lost my nerve about half way so I pretended I was just enjoying the view, which I was. The boys and girls were considerably lighter than I am, but all the same, it seemed safe. It was oddly grounding to be standing on thick ice over water. There was not a creak, crack or groan in the ice at all. Were we naive in our inexperience with ice?
There were enough people around who could make a human rescue chain (I read about this in my brother’s Boy Scouts manual) if someone’s luck ran out. Suddenly, on this long-untouched old road, there was a deep rumble. Around the corner came a full blown county fire department ladder truck, some 20 tons or so, rolling slowly around the entire perimeter of the lake. The fire department guys were no doubt scoping out where they could send out a ladder, or how close they could get to the edge of the lake without cracking the ice, in case the game of Log Chicken went sour. They didn’t say anything, just scoped out the venue if needed, cruising slowly around the little lake twice. They may have been summoned by a concerned citizen tired of grumping at kids to get off the ice. I have to admit it was nice to know that the fire department was checking things out in our rare weather situation.
This story really has no point, except perhaps modest risks are fun and it’s also nice when the big boys show up to the rescue even when not needed.