On Thin Ice

So foolish was I, and ignorant:
I was as a beast before thee.
Nevertheless I am continually with thee:
Thou hast holden me by my right hand.
Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel,
And afterward receive me to glory.

— Psalm 73:22

 

A man fell through the ice and died one time near our town. An avid and experienced outdoorsman, he and two buddies had been ice fishing for three hours that afternoon. Just as they were getting ready to leave, he plunged through.

 

People ran to help. They threw out a 75-foot line; they made a human chain with their bodies. One person laid on an eight-foot stepladder to try to get closer, but then crashed through, too. One of those trying to save the fellow’s life was 94 years old.

 

I know, I know. It was a freak accident. Ice fishermen know exactly what they’re doing and how to stay safe.

 

Even so, I’d say walking on water, frozen or not, is a scary proposition, unless you live up in nor-dern Minny Sota, up by dee border, yeah, sure, you betcha.

 

When it comes to ice, I am ignorant to the max. I’m still trying to live down The Dipsy Doodle Crying Wolf False Alarm incident of a few years ago.

 

See, my dear friend Cindy and I were enjoying some late-winter sunshine on a walk around Lake Zorinsky in west Omaha. It was really warm out, but the lake was still frozen.

 

We came around a bend. There, ‘way off on the ice in the center of the lake, we could barely see three people ice-fishing.

 

Daredevils! Idiots! On such a warm day!

 

We tsk-tsked as we walked, squinting across the frozen lake at their little encampment.

 

Then, for a few minutes, our view was obscured by a wooded area. We walked along a long curve. When the open lake came back into sight, we looked out again.

 

AND I SWEAR, ONE HEAD WAS STICKING UP OUT OF THE WATER, AND THERE WERE TWO EMPTY CHAIRS!!!

 

TWO FISHERMEN MUST HAVE PLUNGED THROUGH THE ICE!

 

THE THIRD ONE WAS BARELY CLINGING TO LIFE!

 

NO DOUBT HE WAS WEAKLY CROAKING, “HELP! HELP ME!!! I MEAN YOU, CINDY AND SUSAN!!!”

 

We had nothing to throw out to them. We were terrified to go out there. We were too far away, anyway. Cindy couldn’t see quite as well as I could, and wasn’t as sure as I was. But I made her get out her cell phone and call 911.

 

The guy wasn’t moving. Why doesn’t he save himself? What’s taking so long?!? Two people drowned! And this guy was obviously losing hope!

 

Despondent! Oh, man, his toes had to be cold by now. Maybe he’s literally a (gulp) frozen stiff!!!

 

Just then, here came a screaming fire engine, responding to our emergency call. We were so relieved. A guy dashed to the water’s edge, making frantic hand signals out to the person whose head was sticking up out of the water.

 

But at that moment, we finally saw that he wasn’t, indeed, clinging desperately to life in the icy water.

 

He wasn’t in the water at all.

 

He was just hunched down low on his seat with his fishing pole in front of him. He stood up and waved back to the would-be rescuer, giving a thumb’s up signal and the A-OK sign.

 

Meanwhile, the two other fishermen, who we THOUGHT had sunk down to Davey Jones’ locker, came running out of the restroom on the bank to join the would-be rescuer.

 

They had an animated conversation, complete with gestures in our general direction. Cindy and I could “read” those gestures to mean that the men were exasperated with those two hysterical broads across the way . . .

 

. . . who had called in a false alarm!!!

 

They shook hands. The fire engine left. The two marched back across the ice to join their perfectly warm and dry friend, and resume fishing. We could see no evidence of any cracks or disturbance in the ice whatsoever.

 

Doo Dah! Doo Dah!

 

We felt like such fools. But I was sooooo sure those guys were drowning!

 

Boy, was my face red. And it wasn’t the wind.

 

Later – much later – we laughed ‘til we cried about the misunderstanding. We thought we were being heroes. We turned out to be the goats. Old goats!

 

Yeah, well, it was a reminder that you can be on thin ice in more ways than one. Sometimes, when you’re so sure you’re standing on solid ground . . . you’re all wet. †


By Susan Darst Williams | www.RadiantBeams.org | Great Moments in Dignity | © 2020