My breath steamed before me as I gazed down the hill at the frozen pond. Loren, Craig, Keith, Shane, Scott and I were at Oak Grove Park in Kansas City. February's chill brought snow and hopefully a solid place to play hockey with sticks and a can.
"Do you think it's solid enough to walk on?" I asked, looking down the three foot embankment. Loren was never one for many words at that age. Instead, he preferred a more direct approach to problems.
"Why don't you jump and find out!" he yelled. No sooner did the words leave his mouth than he shoved me hard in the back. Suddenly, I was plummeting towards the ice. To my surprise, I landed on my feet.
"Yep, it's solid!" I called, ignoring the fact that had the ice been thinner, I would have been Popsicle.
"Cool," shouted Keith as they all ran around to the easier entrance. "We need some goals." This was an interesting problem. In football season, we would just chuck our coats on the ground for goal lines, but it was too cold for that.
"How about those tables?" said Shane, pointing to some picnic tables near the pond. To thirteen year olds, this seemed like a perfect fix. We'd simply drag them onto the ice, flip them over, and have perfect goals.
"Great," replied Craig, "let's do it!"
Although the big municipal tables were heavy, there were enough of us to get them onto the ice. Flipping them over was another matter. The metal legs on the table were rounded and we couldn't get enough traction to turn them over. I had the brilliant idea of holding the bottom with my foot, but, instead of stopping, the table simply ran my foot over.
"Just leave them like that," said Keith. His twin brother, who looked nothing like him, concurred.
"Fine," I said, limping back to the others.
We smashed an old Coke can and began our game. Every time the can went under the table, it was a goal. Since we had odd numbers, we played three on two with the odd man playing all time defense. Of course, I was the odd man. For over and hour, we knocked the can all over the ice with our twig hockey sticks. It was great fun until we heard the roaring of an engine.
"Look, it's the parks people!" shouted Loren as he raced from the ice. He promptly slipped on the ice.
I did not know if we were doing anything wrong, but when a roaring Parks and Recreation truck is speeding towards you and a friend yells "run," then you run, right?
I dashed towards the opposite side of the pond and ran as quickly as I could through the snow covered grass. Keith and Craig stampeded though the trees just north of me, while Scott ran like a jackrabbit a few yards ahead of them. I flew the six blocks to my house and burst through the door to the garage. Panting, I looked through the window. There were no park people on my tail, whew! For the next hour, I sat tensely in the living room with one eye on the television and one looking out the window. I was sure we were going to be caught, my parents would ground me, and life as a care-free eighth grader would be over.
What I did not know until later was that when Loren fell, he thought he might get caught alone, so he tackled Shane. The park workers got out of the truck and approached the boys as they lay in the snow.
"Those benches will fall through the ice when it thaws. Help me get them off, boys," said the old man who drove the truck. Loren and Shane looked at each other in disbelief. None of us were actually in trouble.