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A Good Time to Skate

The winters had been mediocre in Ohio, especially for ice skating. We have a shallow lake beside the air strip, that years ago was used for an ice business, but that is a different story. In later years it was used for an irrigation source for our familyís potato farm. And that was also years ago. PI think it was the winter of 2000 that we had a very cold, clear spell that froze the lake with out melted snow mixed in the service, roughing it up. During this one cold night, we got an 8-10 inch snow that hadnít melted into the ice yet. I got up that day and decided that I need to go ice skating, after a 10 year absence. What to do about all that snow?? Well I didnít think of the light weight 4x4 Polaris ATV that had a snow blade. No, I thought of the 4x4 85hp White farm tractor that had an 8 foot hydraulic blade mounted on the back, ready to roll.PI fire that tractor up and am cautious at first, testing the ice. It felt good. This ice pond is about 2000 feet long and 400 feet wide. It is also shallow and so what if the tractor falls through, it is not over two feet deep. PI take off in a fast gear, just throwing snow. Plan was to make a race track path about 30 feet wide. After that was done I was going to invite friends over that night and build a bond fire on shore, for a grand old time. PSo here I am hauling down the lake, minus 5 degrees, plus the wind chill, when my thoughts go to the old irrigation area and the deep hole we pumped from. Iím trying to remember where that was. Just as I realized that I was probably going over it then, the ice broke! I hit the clutch as the left side of the tractor fell through. Luckily, the tires were set out very wide. The tractor was tilted at an extremely steep angle with both left tires under water (5 feet tall), and the right side were still on top of the ice. I shut the engine off, and bailed off the high side and ran for shore. PI ran the 1/3 mile for the house and a truck. I got several chains and a long tow cable. I race back to the lake, and the tractor was still the same position. I fasten the cable and chains to it and drag them up on shore. PNow I am alone, and that tractor was the only one that was kept in a heated shop, so that it would start. Our other tractors are cold soaked in minus 5 degree temps and havenít run in weeks. I run extension cables to a Case tractor for a coolant heater and a battery charger.PWhile the charger and heater were working, I call a retired friend Rodney, and told him I was stuck and needed a tow driver, without telling him where or how. I didnít want him bringing a camera, or witnesses. He volunteered to help. He was 30 minutes away, so I told him to meet me at the local coffee shop and Iíd buy lunch. That would give the battery charger and heater time to work. PWe arrived at the lake to find the tractor had completely fallen through. It had about a three foot mote of freezing water around it. I was thankful, that I had thought to hook up the chains first! I put on rubber boots and took a 10 foot plank to bridge from the hard ice to the tractor hood. Water was up past the clutch and brake peddles, but with the boots I was dry. I knew I had to start the tractor to help drive with the tow tractor. Rodney took up the slack with the Case, while back in the lake I tried starting the White. It had ice forming around the new water line, that I had to break to get the peddles to push. Surprisingly, it started right up. The engine fan was half under water and it sprayed freezing water back on me like a run-a-way outboard. As I let out the clutch, the front wheel drive tires would almost climb up on top of the ice, then break off and fall down, and it repeated that all the way to shore. We didnít have the White 10 feet up on shore, when the Case died from the fuel line gelling. Thank God, other wise Iíd have to leave the tractor in the lake until it thawed.

That same day I put the White in the shop to drain water from all the housings, all the time thinking Iíd ruined it. The tractor was only one year old! To my surprise, there was no water anywhere! Great seals. I did have to replace the starter six months later, but that seemed minor. Needless to say, I lost all my ice skating spirit, and havenít been since. JG

John Graham, OH, entered 2007-01-09
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