Douglas McIntire

Douglas McIntire

Being a 12-year-old in Brunswick in the early ‘80s, it wasn’t always that easy to find ways to entertain yourself in the wintertime. We were in that strange place between having the first gaming systems and having spent our entire childhood outside playing. Even if we got ourselves out of the house, that three dollars you got for shoveling out of the nor’easter the week before wasn’t going to last long at the LaVerdiere’s arcade.

Sure, there were those kids; you know the ones I’m talking about. They had a ball every winter and had every lift ticket from every ski resort on earth dangling from the zipper of their super-shiny fluorescent ski jacket to prove it. They all had plastic hair that was never out of place. They brought pictures of exotic family vacations to class, leaving even the teacher with just a slight, strained grin of contempt as the whole class was regaled of tales of far off places and adventures.

That’s how we found ourselves atop a long, sloping hill on the backside of Smiley Pond. Sure, those kids can have their ski vacations and that unnerving L.L. Bean thermometer dangling off their jacket (Hey Einstein, you’re on top of a mountain in January, it’s cold). Besides, there’s no “K” rating for what we were about to attempt.

Mounting some of the best bicycle mechanics Huffy could produce, we took turns careening down the hill to the frozen pond below. Helmets — bah, I tell you! Nobody wore helmets in 1982. It was just me, Gary and Andy from down the street locked in competition to see who could make it the furthest across the ice before the inevitable digger and unknown contusions that ended our ride. We actually used the gouges in the ice from our handlebars to measure distance.

After several perilous trips where even making it down the hill was a feat, none of us had even made it to the island in the middle of the pond. Undaunted and bleeding from at least two places, Gary decided to make a final go of it. We cheered him on as he barreled down the hill with nary a wobble. He hit the ice and it was like poetry in motion. “He’s going to make it” we both shouted, eyes locked on Gary; perfectly coasting, nearing the far shore.

Then he was gone.

Gary had suddenly just been swallowed by Smiley Pond. It happened so fast, we never even saw the ice give way beneath him. For just a second, perhaps not even that, Andy and I had given in to our more base-selves and spun to retreat for fear of all the trouble that was about to befall the entire situation. Gary was gone. There was nothing we could do about that now. There’s no sense getting grounded over it. Gary would have wanted it this way.

With a sputter, Gary emerged from the watery grave we had just consigned him to. He was remarkably laughing — something we later chalked up to shock and hypothermia. We were able to retrieve Gary from the hole in the ice and with even less common sense than we had displayed so far that day, we hauled his bike out as well.

With that, we snuck Gary back into his house and never again spoke of the liquid luge.


Doug McIntire is a reporter for The Times Record.

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