Would you like to take a walk with me? I’m at an age where I walk a little more slowly, but it’s all down hill to the pond where I have something I want to show you. We can sit and reminisce. It’s in the 40s today and the nighttime temperatures have been in the 20s. The sun feels warm on my skin and reminds me that in a couple of weeks the sap will start running in the trees. The Great Horned Owls are laying their eggs. From the angle of the sun we know the days are longer now and this is the signal for nature to be more active and less dormant. The ice on the pond looks thick and strong enough to walk on, but I have learned that what I am looking at is green ice, not all frozen solid, just partially frozen. I learned this by making a foolish and almost tragic mistake some years ago. The local Rotary Club put a car on a pond along the highway between Indianola and Des Moines. People wrote down on a lottery ticket the day and time they thought the car would sink. We wanted to put a clock in the car that would stop when the car sunk.
So, I got a clock, a friend and a rope. Our idea was to go back out to the car and break a window to put the clock inside. The car was sitting in the middle of the pond surrounded by a pool of water on top of the ice about 2-3 inches deep. I see a cloud is moving between us and the sun and the wind is picking up. I hope you’re still comfortable and enjoying our peaceful time together. Perhaps we could sit here by this tree as I try and figure out why I disregarded my friend E.G. Booth’s advice not to go near the car. He said we were on green ice. He said even though it looks solid we had every reason to believe it was weakening fast and it would be dangerous to approach the car. I foolishly tied the rope around my waist, walked to the car, and slid very quickly the last six feet to the car. My heartbeat doubled, and with my hands shaking I broke out a window and threw the clock inside the car. I realized I couldn’t walk back to the shore uphill because it was so slippery, so I screamed, “PULL ME OUT!” My friend pulled me back to solid ground. Eventually my body began to relax and I apologized to my friend for being such a pig-headed fool. Later that day the car sank and again I realized how lucky I had been.
I received an opportunity to pay back my good fortune some years ago right here at this pond less than 60 feet from where we are sitting. A few years ago I was sitting in this very same spot on a day much like today. The ice looked okay but I knew it was getting thin due to the warmer temperatures and the longer days. I knew it was green ice. Inu, the neighbor’s dog, a German Shepherd, had followed me down to the pond. All of a sudden I noticed she had walked out too far on the pond to be safe. Just as I screamed out to her, she fell through the ice. I watched in horror as she repeatedly tried to paw her way up and out of the hole of water and onto the ice. With each strike of the paw a piece of ice would break and she would fall back into the water. It became obvious to me that she wouldn’t be able to get out by herself. I had my lawn tractor by the pond, so I drove up quickly to the garage to get a 4×8 piece of plywood. As I was leaving on my tractor, Inu looked at me as if to say, “Why are you leaving me now – don’t you see that I need help?” I shouted to her, “I’ll be right back!”, as if she would understand what I was saying. After returning to the pond, I laid the plywood on the pond close to where Inu was, crawled onto it and laid down to spread out my weight on the board. I reached out to Inu, and with all my strength I grabbed the back of her neck and pulled as hard as I could. Up she came with a leap! My wife, Janna, had run down to the pond to help, but by the time she got there, Inu was shaking herself off and looked at me with an expression that said “Thank you, buddy” and trotted toward home. We were so relieved that it was over and she was safe. A little neighbor girl who had seen all the excitement said, “Arnie, you just saved that dog’s life!” That day I felt like a hero, if only for a few minutes.
Arnie Booher has spent time in the U.S. Navy, at the University of Iowa, as a high school teacher and as an insurance agent. He is married with three children.
Arnie is the instigator for the Warren County Outdoors project!