November 23rd, 2005

Egrets Reading

Skating on Bones

As a native Southern Californian, my experience with snow is almost nonexistent. I can count up all the days I’ve spent in the snow, over all the days I’ve lived so far in my life, on my fingers and toes. (And I’m old enough to have a son who turned 22 today, and he has an older brother…)

So, when I read of lives lived in places where it snows, I’m fascinated. Living in snow seems like living on an alien planet to me, especially when I hear stories from Northern Minnesota and North Dakota of “plugging cars in” so that engines won’t freeze, tying ropes from houses to garages so people won’t get lost in the snow trying to walk to the garage, driving pickup trucks on frozen lakes to go ice fishing, etc.

It's hard to believe I'm a descendant of Vikings, half-Scandinavian by ancestry…

This week’s poem in Kooser’s American Life in Poetry column, “Tintype on the Pond, 1925,” gave me a glimpse into another alien world, a world where people used to actually skate on bones. After pondering it, it makes sense that the Vikings would strap reindeer bones on their feet with strings of animal hide, but it’s something that probably wouldn’t have occurred to me if I hadn’t read J. Lorraine Brown’s poem.

I did a google search on the topic and discovered that a group of students at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan had a sort of Medieval Olympics a couple of years ago when a professor in the history department worked with several students to make skates out of animal bones and then skate with them.

boiling bones
if only the Vikings
had power tools