In a northern prairie town, winter life is lived at the rink. The rink’s the hub; the rink is .. quite simply .. where it’s at.
As a child, our lunch time recesses took place at the rink .. we played endless games of crack the whip. We raced, we tagged, we giggled and we chased. We’d return to school sweaty-faced and tired. (Boy, those teachers were smart.)
We cheered at Thursday night Hockey games and curled in Saturday afternoon bonspiels. We practiced for figure skating carnivals, flirted at “all skate” nights and defrosted to the sounds of local farmers card playin’ conversations, their stubbled faces obscured by the smoky blue haze encircling their John Deere caps.
When hungry, we scarfed down homemade pies, puffed-wheat cake, tomato soup, hot chocolate, coffee and cheeseburgers, always with fried onions on top.
We cooled down with a Vico (chocolate milk), bottled Fresca or a Coke pulled from the murky water of the pop machine. We wiped our bottles “clean” with the towel, hanging there since 1968.
First stop for Poker tournaments … on snowmobiles.
Oh how many nights I worked that Rink Kitchen! Serving up flapper pie, playing cards, listening to stories, and helping little ones tie their skates.
In summer, the old rink took a break. It stood quiet. Oh sure … there was one glorious event in June … the 4-H Achievement day… but after that, it waited. It waited for winter and children and good cooks and old farmers to return.
I still have my skates and that rink still stands.
And even now, on a crisp winter’s day, I can still taste one of those burgers with fried onions on top, washed down with an ice cold Coca-Cola. I’d be delighted to indulge an old-timer’s wink for I wish … I’d wish I could take one more lap around that ice.
Crack the whip anyone?