Granny's Notes - the writing of Sue Gerard

Because we lived on a farm, ice skating on...

Because we lived on a farm, ice skating on ponds was one of our favorite sports. Each year our feet were too big for the skates we wore the year before. They all clamped on to our regular shoes. Boys’ skates clamped with a lever and cost less than a dollar unless they were nickel plated. Girls’ skates had leather at the back and fit the toe of our shoes by adjusting them with a skate key.

Our dads reported on the thickness of pond ice, after cutting holes for the cattle and horses to drink. “Don’t get out over the deep part of the big pond but you could skate in the shallow end,” he’d say. He’d go along and sometimes skate with us. I bought cheap skates in summer and loaned them to young people in winter -- two bushel baskets full.

Then came Uncle Manuel’s estate sale. He, too, had bought cheap skates in summer and sold them for profit. The auction was in August and no one bid on his skates. Without intending to buy, I started the bidding at $5 and no one else spoke. I owned 180 pairs for $5! Several winters I gave skates to friends, strangers, 4-H clubs and, at the suggestion of “Cookie” -- a recreational professional -- sent several pairs to her friends in the Amish community. These beautiful people choose a simple life, which includes skating on farm ponds.

Recently, I was at the Amish bakery on Route Y, and Anna said, “You’re the one who sent the skates, aren’t you?” Yes. “Oh, I can’t tell you how the children enjoyed them. They’re all worn out or outgrown now, of course.”

“I have a few pairs left,” I said, “would you want them?” Her face lit up with a great smile. I promised to bring some before the next cold spell.

Scrounging around in the carport I found skates on shelves, in bags and cardboard boxes -- 20 pairs! Chub and I took the larger ones to Anna’s family and then went to Ezra Miller’s harness shop. Chub and I have known Ezra and Edna for many years. They were our guests for the day one time. He and I were once partners in a business deal. I had bought, for $6, two complete sets of harness to fit those big draft horses Amish farmers use in their fields. As with skates in summer, no one even started a bid on the harness. I offered to give them to Ezra, who once could put more than 20 horses in harness at the same time. He said, “You take them home and soak them in your swimming pool to soften the leather. Partially dry the leather and then bring them back. I’ll oil and repair them and find a buyer. Then we’ll split the profit.” We were both happy with the deal.

He’s retired, but was helping his son in the harness shop when we arrived several days ago. “Would you like some ice skates?” I asked. Remembering our harness deal of several years back, he thought I meant that the skates were for sale. “No, they’re free. They’re for your grandchildren. How many grandchildren do you have?” I asked.

“A hundred,” he said proudly. I thought he was kidding. “The 100th grandchild was born on December the 14th.” He wasn’t kidding! “Ninety-seven of them are living. Forty-eight girls and 49 boys.” Then he added, sadly, that “three little fellows didn’t make it.”

As we unloaded the skates I said, “You and Edna aren’t old enough to have ~great-grandchildren, are you?”

“Yes, 39 of ’em,” he said proudly. “And I’ll be 73 years old tomorrow.” He’s a happy and successful man. “HAPPY BIRTHDAY, EZRA MILLER!”

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