Mrs. Smart Learns to Skate

Note: This story used to be popular at Buchanan family reunions.

Don't you think skating is dreadful good exercise? I do, and Ive been trying of it lately, so I have as good a knowledge of how it operates as anybody else.

Joshua said I was rather old to go into such childish business; but I don't see no earthly reason why an old married woman shouldn't enjoy herself if she can. Goodness knows, most of us has troubles enough to put up with - if we have a husband and children and hens and things. And if we can't get any enjoyment out of life, I say we'd orter, I calkulate to, myself; and I'd like to see anybody hender me! It'll take mor'n Joshua Smart! He never growed big enuff! No Sir! not by a long shot!

All the folks round about here has gone into skating. That hain't nobody but what's had a spell at it. Even old Grandmarm Smith, that's gone with two canes this dozen years - she's tried it, and fell down and smashed her specs, and barked her nose all to flinchers; and old Deacon Sharp, that's been blind ever since Wiggin's barn was burnt, and he's got to be a powerfyl skater. Only you have to clear the track when you see him coming, 'cause he don't turn out for nobody nor nothing. And he's apt to git to using words - big words - if he happends to hit against anything. The other day he skated against a tall stump in the millpond, and a madder man you never seed. He took it for somebody standing there; and, if he is a deacon, I'm ready to give my Bible oath that he came at it and hit it several licks with his fist, afore he found out that it wasn't no one.

All the wimmin folks has been out on the ice this fall. I never seed such a turnout afore. The way they've done, they've cooked up enuff Satterdays to last throug h the next week, and then they've skated, and their husbands has staid home, and swore and eat cold vittles.

Law sakes! how things have changed since I was a gal! The world is gitting more and more civilized every day. In a thorsand from now, at the present rate of gitting along, this airth will be too good to live in, and most of us will have to leave, if we hain't already.

Why, I can remember when a gal that dared to look at a pair of skates was called a Tomboy; and you might as well have served out a term in the State Prison as to have been called that! It was an awful name! It used to be a sin for a gal to do anything that a boy did, except milk the cows, and eat pudding and molasses.

As soon as it got cold enough to friz up, I made up my mind to see what I could do at skating. I had an idea that it wouldn't take me no time at all to learn. All the gals was an awful spell a-larnin; but all in the world taht made 'em so long was 'cause they had fellers showin' 'em how, and they kinder liked the fun. If there hadn't been a feller in the neighborhood, a'most any of 'em would a larnt the whole trade in three days.

I went over to the bridge and sold five pounds of butter, and got me a pair of skates. Hain't it astonishin' how butter has gone up? Never seed the beat of it all my life! We don't pretend to eat a mite of butter to our house, thoughwe've got three farrer cows and a new milk heifer. Joshua grumbles like everything; but I tell him 'Taint no use - I'd as leaves he'd spread his bread with fifty cent scripts as with butter. And 'twon't make no difference a hundred years from now whether a man has spreaed his bread with butter or hog's fat. Not a speck!

I sold the butter, and took three dollars worth of skates. Miss Pike, the milliner, said I ought to have a skating costume - it wasn't properous to skate in a long-tailed gown and crinoline.

So one day I sot myself down to fix one. I took a pair of Joshua's red flannel drawers, and sod two resettes of green ribbon onto the bottoms of 'em; and then I took a yallar petticoat of mine, and sod five rows of blue braid round the bottom of that; my waist I made out of a rea and brown shawl, and for a cap, I took one of Joshua's cast off stove-pipe hats, and cut it downa story. I tied a wide piece of red flannel around it, and pulled out an old crower's tail, and stuck that into the front of it. Joshua laffed at me. He said I looked jest like an Injun, but as he never seed one, I dunno how he knowed.

Sam Jellison sed he'd larn me how to do; but I told him no; I didn't want nobody a-handling me round a-findin out whether I wore corsets or not. I didn't like the style. I guesses I could take care of myself. I'd allers managed to. I'd took keer of myself through the jonders and the dispepsy, and the collery morbus, and I allers made my soap, and did my own cleaning and I guessed I could skate without nobody's assistance. I didn't want no little upstarts a holding onto me with one arm, and laffing at me t'other sleeve at the same time.

Sam he whistled and sed nothing. It's dreadful the hateful way some folks have of insulting of ye - that whistle of theirn!

On Tuesday morning, bright and early, I got my work out of the way, and dressin' myself in my skating costume, I took skates in one hand and a long pole to steady myself by in the other, and set sail for the mill-pond.

I shouldn't have dared to begin such an undertaking any day but Tuesday. Wednesday is allers a dreadful day for me! Why, I've broke more'n ten dollars worth of crockery Wednesdays; and I've sot three hens Wednesdays, and one's eggs all addled, and one she broke up afore she'd sot a week, and T'other one hatched out three chickens that was blind as bats, and never had no tail feathers.

I went to the pond so airly, that I thought there wouldn't be no speckletaters to see my first attempt; but, lawful heart! the pond was lined with'em. I felt rather down in the mouth at the idea of trying my skill afore all them people, but I was too plucky to back out.

I sot down on the ground, and I strapped on my skates; and grabbing my pole firmly in both hands, I got onto the ice. The minit I got on, I sot rite down flat, in spite of all I could do, and it was as much as five minits afore I could git up agin. And when I did my left foot run right around tother one, and I run right around after it. The fust thing I knowed my heels was up and my head wus down, and I thought it was night and all the stars in the firmary was havin't a shooting match.

Sam Jellison he seed me fall, and come and picked me up. Sam is dreadful attentive to me, because he's tryin' to shine my daughter Betsey. I can see through it all. He wanted to help me stiddy myself, but I wouldn't let him, and started off on the dog-trot. I could run a good deal better's I could slide. I thought I's go over on T'other side of the pond, where Miss Pike and some friends of mine was; and, sticking my long pole into the air holes, I made out to get under way. And after once I got started, the difficulty was to stop myself. I went rite ahead like a steam engine down grade. I found it wasn't no use to fite against fate; and, concluding that this was the fun of skating, I drawed my pole and let it stick out each side of me, and sailed on. I had the wind at my back, and it filled my yaller petticoat so that it floated out afore me like the Star-Spangled Banner on the Fourth of July.

I was a'coming to where the skaters were at it pretty thick; but I didn't think to take my pole in, and the fust thing I knowed I was mowin' of down with it, rite and left, as a two-hoss mowing-machine takes down the grass in the medder.

The ice was lined with ruins! Muffs, and hoods, and gloves, and false teeth and waterfalls, and rats, and mice, and curled hair, and men and women and children - all mixed up together. You couldn't tell which from t'other!

Old Jim Pratt he went down among the rest; and as he went, the toe of his skate ketched into the beautiful braid on my yaller petticoat, and in less'n a minit, tore it clean off and wound it all among the understandings of all the scrabbling people.

I was madder'n a hatter! I riz my pole to let 'em have some; but before I could strike, the strain on that illigant trimming upsot my equalibrius, and down I went, striking my crannium so hard that for a minit I thought my skull was broke clean across. I could hear the rough edges grate together.

Just as I was a-risin' to get up, along came a feller at a two-forty rate, without any eyes in his head, I expect, for he didn't see me, but undertook to skate right over me, and away he come, head first, onto the ice, with a grunt that sounded like a pig's when he's jest goin' to sleep after eating a whole pail of swill.

I grabbed hold of his coat-tail to hist myself up by, and, law sake! the cloth parted like a cobweb, and left him with a short jacket on, and letting me back onto the ice harder than before!

He esquarted me to the shore, with all that blue braid a-trailin' after me. And when I got my breath, he went home with me, and I heard him kiss Bess behind the pantry door. Well, young folks will be young folks, and 'tain't no use to try to hinder'em.

I was so sore for a week that I couldn't git my arms to my head without screeching, and I felt all over as if I'd been onjointed and jined onto another person's understandings.

As soon as I got better, though, I let Sam help me larn, and I can skate like the master now. You never seed the beat! Its the grandest exercise! And so healthy! I've froz my feet, and my nose, and my face has mostly peeled, and I've got rumatiz tremenjus; BUT I'VE LARNED TO SKATE, AND WHAT DO I KEER!

-- Clara Augusta

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