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March 1, 2013

Taking the plunge is nothing new

The Daily Star

---- — A couple of people have asked me in the past few days why I didn’t participate in the Polar Bear Jump. After all, I’m always looking for something new and exciting to do.

Actually, I had thought about doing it. But all of a sudden, it was here. I’d missed it again.

It’s not that I’m afraid of jumping into water that’s about 33 degrees. I’ve been wet through the ice many times over the years, but none of them were intentional.

One spring when I was young, my friend Charlie and I decided to go out onto the ice that was floating on his pond. It had melted several feet from shore, but we sailed on some childhood adventure with the help of homemade paddles.

We used a plank to get out on the floating ice boat and then paddled it from one side to another. The trouble is that sometimes when you try to paddle, you get too close to the edge.

All of a sudden, there’s a crack and you’re waist deep in the water. The edge of our icy raft gave out.

Now a normal kid would have headed for the house to change clothes and warm up, but I climbed back onto the ice and played a little longer. After all, that frozen vessel might not be there tomorrow.

It was, but a stern warning from our parents kept us grounded for a while.

Over the years, I have spent many a winter day cutting holes in the ice to trap beaver. It was quite easy.

I’d chop a hole big enough to put a pole with some branches for bait and a conibear trap in under the ice near their den. The next day, I’d re-cut the hole and remove the animal. (Now you anti-trapping folks needn’t get all in a huff because it’s not going to do you any good to contact me.)

Anyway, I’d start chopping through the ice and find myself in the icy water more than once. I guess it was all part of the game.

When I lived up north many years ago, a friend of mine wanted to hunt late season mallards on Veteran’s Day.

Back then, we had real winter by the second week in November. The Kunjamuk River was still open, so we put a canoe into Duck Bay just south of Speculator and started paddling.

In almost every backwater, we’d flush some ducks and get a few shots. As we paddled farther upstream, we knew of a great section of flat water that curled around. That made it a good spot to get some ducks.

We eased toward the riverbank, where we planned on getting out. Just up over the steep bank was a major flock of mallards waiting for our arrival.

I stepped out of the canoe as we hit the icy shore, but there seemed to be no bottom. The water was far deeper than I thought. Instantly, I went head first into the river.

When I came back up, I didn’t have my shotgun. It took several dives back into the depths of the river before I retrieved my old Ithaca.

Trust me, the 2-mile paddle back to the truck was a cold one. With skim ice along the riverbanks, we knew it was cold, and I can surely attest to that fact.

Cold, icy water doesn’t bother me, which is good because I usually end up in it by accident. But now I’ve opened my big mouth and will have to live with it.

I’ve made a couple promises that I will jump into Goodyear Lake next year and help raise money for a very worthy cause. I hope you show up and join me.

Rick Brockway writes a weekly outdoors column for The Daily Star. Email him at