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Palabras Pintorescas - The great lessons of the skating pond

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By Editha Bartley

Well, what do you know ... I have now written about 300 columns, plus or minus, and I thought I could paint a word picture of sorts. That was before I was invited to our Rio Gallinas Charter School to share some history with their fifth- and sixth- grade students. They can paint great word pictures, too!

Turns out they were studying the now non-existent skating pond, and someone suggested they ask me about my recollections of skating there and my personal take on where we’ve been and where do I think we are going with bringing skating, as in ice skating, back. This is a subject that is near and dear to my heart, and I’m delighted to learn that my readers remember this. I was surprised that the students already knew so much about the skating pond, and they actually traveled up there to visit the site in person.

They were then asked to find a person in our community who had skated there and who had some favorite memories of this experience. They also had to write a paper on this cold and slippery subject, and some of them read their papers to all of us, including some visiting faculty from other classes.

Of course I’d give all of them an “A” because this is such a special subject to me. They asked many good questions. One that was asked more than once was: “Why do you think we should resurrect the skating pond?” That is so easy to answer and I hope the powers that be are listening.

The skating pond brought together all ages in our community. We had tiny kids on double blades skates gliding along the ice with grandparents who skated just for the fun of it. They had obviously been skating almost all of their lives. And we had some very good figure skaters who entertained all of us. There was also a big group of hockey players, and the student priests from Montezuma not only worked the ice if it needed it, but they also would teach the neighbor kids how to play hockey as well. I’ve seen hockey games played with brooms there more than once ... not everybody had a hockey stick.

They were also concerned about health issues: “Did the skaters fall and did they get hurt?” That’s a good question, and yes, there were some broken arms and wrists, but I don’t recollect any serious injuries.

And because our Montezuma skating pond was the largest outdoor skating pond in the state, and because Public Service Company installed huge lights up there, we had skaters from all over the state glide on our ice. The 20-30 Club maintained the ice, with their 1946 Willis Jeep, and if the ice got really bad the fire department would bring up a pumper truck full of water and spray the ice. Talk about slick! That was slick ice.

And when the skaters (and the observers/guests) got cold and hungry they could always go into the 20-30 stone cabin for a warm-up by the fireplace and some hot cocoa or coffee and a hot dog or two.

What a community and a tourist draw the skating pond was! I still can’t believe it no longer exists.

Who cared how well (or badly) you skated ... all you needed to do was lace up those skates and take off. If you fell down, someone was right there to help you up again. That is a big lesson that we can all learn from in life.

Thank you, Rio Gallinas for sharing your afternoon with me, and I loved hearing your “word pictures” of one of my favorite sports.

Yes, we need our skating pond back, ASAP! You all really did a great job with this project.

Editha Bartley lives in Gascon in Mora County. She may be reached at 454-0563.