Tuesday, June 20, 2006

No Fear. . .

Some one asked "What was the most foolish thing you did as a child?"

One cold winter back in the seventies, I went out on the Ice in Port Jefferson Harbor. the wather was rarely cold enough to freeze the salt water, but this year there was an ice storm followed by a cold snap the trees were all covered with a glaze of glittering crystal and the ground was hard and smooth as glass. School was out for a week, so we all had fun sliding down the hills with no sleds and exploring the sparkling forests.
When we came to the shore, the ice continued from the woods, down the beach and out across the wide harbor. nearly everything was frozen except for a passage cleared for oil tankers to dock at the power plant.
My two friends, Lewis and Clarke and i went out to the center of the harbor, equipped with long poles, so that we could push the ice flows off from each other and jump from one frozen raft to another. As the day wore on, the ice floes seemed smaller and futher apart.. We must have been at least half a mile out when Lewis stepped off one peice of ice onto the larger one that I was poling. Clarke was left ar one end of the smaller raft, which tipped, sliding him into the water. For a bunch of stupid kids, we seemed to know exactly what to do. Since Clarke could not climb out himself, we had to pull him up, the problem was that two people at the edge of the ice would cause it to tip, spilling both of us into the water with our friend.
So we lay down, one of us at each end, holding one pole between us. Lewis reached out with the other stick so that Clarke could grab it and we managed to get him out in a matter of minutes. We did not realize that only ten minutes of exposure like that would have caused hypothermia and we would have lost him.
I suppose that i should thank my parents who raised me around boats and taught me how to handle myself on the water.
When we got back on dry land Lewis gave Clark his dry coat, the poor kid was turning blue!
I never told any one about that until recently. We obviously made a big mistake and managed to escape with our lives.
Still, the lesson was not entirely clear, In the midst of our stupidity, we also rescued our friend. We had reason to be proud and ashamed.

In another foolish adventure, while the science teacher was out of the room, I poured turpentine into a test tube full of iodine crystals. I thought i knew exactly what would happen: a small explosion and a puff of purple smoke. I even wore safety glasses. What I didn't think of was the fact the the plastic test tube would melt, spilling purplish black tar onto the floor. Luckily other kids helped me clean it up; and the smoke smelled more like pine sap than something burning.

Now these are foolish things, dangerous and done with knowlege of the risks.
Talking to a friend about this, she told me that there are also unconscious mistakes, like the day she went to school with two different color shoes. Those mistakes are easilly forgiven, but the others are more serious, and none of this foolishness compares to the things i've done as an adult!

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