Kenmare ND - Upside Down Under

Real People. Real Jobs. Real Adventures.

Upside Down Under

By Marvin Baker, a new weekly column in The Kenmare News


You can't make this up...

Posted 1/07/20 (Tue)

It was sometime in January 1974 and we had a stretch of really nice weather, especially for that time of year.

In fact, there were several days in which the daytime highs were well above freezing, bringing us our January thaw that we supposedly get every year.

On one of those days, however, it rained and as the raindrops hit the ground, they froze because the ground was much colder than the air. So here we were, watching a rain shower in January in North Dakota. And because it was freezing as it hit, everything was quickly iced over, including North Dakota Highway 34.

As this event unfolded, the roadways turned to glare ice and hardly a vehicle was on the highway or the streets of nearby Hazelton because of this sheet of ice.

The ice became so thick that some friends and I decided we would lace up our skates and play a little hockey on N.D. Highway 34. I don’t remember how we quickly came together at my place, which was in the northeast part of town. We must have gathered there with our equipment earlier and were going to go to the community park and skate. I just don’t remember that detail.

Anyway, there we were; myself, Loren Haid, Randy Schuette and Elmer Klein, all on the highway, all wearing hockey skates, all skating around as if it was an ice sheet, which essentially it was and we even had a real NHL official puck that went flying around as we went flying around as if were in Schaumburg Arena in nearby Bismarck.

We even tried to play a game after our “warm up.” That didn’t work out so well. We didn’t have goals, we didn’t have boards and we didn’t have referees so anytime one of us took a shot, if our teammate wasn’t right there, the puck flew off into the ditch and one of us had to retrieve it.

As a result, we went back to just skating, from the intersection of two residences to our house and back, which was a little bit less than a city block.

We were having a lot of fun and somebody saw us, came out and took pictures of us and sent them to the Emmons County Record. One of the pictures had all four of us lined up, with our sticks and the puck on the ice, in a portrait style photograph, something you’d probably see in the Winnipeg Free Press, not the Emmons County Record.

As we skated, a couple of problems started to develop. No. 1, none of us were used to skating like the Fighting Sioux, so our ankles were getting really sore after about 20 minutes of this. No. 2, the blades of our skates were wearing strips in the “ice sheet” and when we started hitting pavement with our skates, we came to a screeching halt, lunging forward which wasn’t conducive to graceful skating.

We then made the decision to end our unusual adventure and go back to the real rink at the city park where we knew we weren’t going to cut through the ice.

It was just one of those really weird moments in time that we took full advantage of even though we knew if the Highway Patrol came along, we’d probably be cited for speeding.

Turns out, it wasn’t the HP, but a local gas truck, creeping along at a snail’s pace. As the truck slowly went by and we waited on the shoulder of the road, we got the same beep, beep, beep, as we did when we played baseball in the summer across town near U.S. Highway 83.

We didn’t have computers, we didn’t have jobs in the middle of winter and we didn’t have our own cars so there really wasn’t anything else distracting us from taking a serious look at lacing up our skates and going for a spin.

None of us had ever done anything like that before and I’m pretty sure none of us have done it since.

There have been plenty of times in which it’s rained in the winter and the water has frozen to the pavement or the ice melts and refreezes at night creating a sheet of ice. But nothing was ever like that day we skated on the highway. It was a “perfect storm,” so to speak. The ice was thick and smooth. You would have sworn Walter Gretzky just went by with his Zamboni.

It took a long time to forget that day, but I did, until I was cleaning my garage recently and found the newspaper clip. We got lost in that moment because I think we knew we would probably never do that a second time. It was fun and we had it right, including the one thing that Gino Gasparini drilled into his players heads over and over again, which is the same slogan Red Green ends his show with each week. “Keep your stick on the ice,” or, in our case, on the pavement!