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By Billy Raymond Walsh

It was a Sunday, and I was almost twelve.  It started, like many weekend adventures do, with a phone call.  “Mrs. Walsh, can Billy come out to play?”  (Billy was my nickname growing up).  On the other line would be my best friend Ronnie – my chum of chums, and the ringleader of our little troupe of troublemakers.  He thinks today we should go downtown.

“Ronnie, it’s Sunday — there’s nothing open.”

“We’re not going to the stores,” he says. Then the dramatic pronouncement, “The ice is in.”

In Newfoundland that means “ice pans” — small pieces of ice that have broken away from their Arctic birthplace and meandered down south with the current.  They have made their way into St. John’s harbour.  Ronnie’s idea is that we should have a look.

The looking lasted about 10 minutes.  Ronnie put one tentative foot on that first pan, and he was off.  Fearing school recess stories of my name paired with the word “wuss”  more than an icy grave, I gave in and followed suit.

These mini-icebergs are not famed for their stability.  And being an active harbour, the ice here was not as tightly packed as in other less-frequented coves.  Slowly jumping from one to pan to the next we make our way to a concrete marker partway across. Ronnie decides we should climb it.  Settling in atop the structure, we begin to proudly survey our accomplishment. And that’s when we saw it. A boat.  A big one.  We both knew that a boat that size would shift the ice.  And in all probability not in our favour.  Ronnie jumps and exclaims, “We’ve got to make a run for shore!”  All I could think was, “We are going to die.”

Cautiously hopping from one pan to the next is one thing.  Running for your life across a minefield of moving ice pans is quite another.  The adrenaline is indescribable.

Thankfully, no one died that day.  But we did get a good soaking.  And a good scare.  So much so we never did it again.  And we didn’t have to wait very long for our second life-threatening experience either.  That came later that night when our parents found out.

Read More Stories > GO

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“Dying is a very dull, dreary affair, and my advice to you is to have nothing whatsoever to do with it.” — W. Somerset Maugham

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Writer’s Bio: Raymond is a man, and he’s on the lam. Well, not really, but I he’s a ranting raconteur, travel enthusiast, responsibility-shirker, aspiring dandy, and deferential drifter. Travel website with the upbeat, the offbeat, and the word on the street. He gives good blog. Follow him on Twitter.


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27 Response Comments

  • Torre DeRoche  March 29, 2011 at 1:17 am

    How did your parents find out?

    Reply
    • Raymond  March 29, 2011 at 1:52 am

      Some people who lived nearby called the police, who in turn called the Port Authority. When we got ashore they nabbed us, took us to the “station” and called our parents. That was the longest ride home ever.

      Thanks for including me in here Torre! I am flattergastered!

      Reply
      • Torre DeRoche  March 29, 2011 at 5:05 am

        Dang. Well, I guess it would’ve been handy if you’d fallen in.

        No problem, it was a pleasure to post your story!

        Reply
  • Justin Hamlin  March 29, 2011 at 11:30 am

    And to think, I would have been more scared of my parents finding out than the thought of potential death, considering the fact at age 12, how often we did stupid shit that could have really gotten us hurt. 🙂

    Reply
    • Torre DeRoche  March 29, 2011 at 11:31 am

      I used to stick a knife in the toaster every single time I cooked toast (to try and heat up the knife tip, of course!) Why am I still alive?

      Reply
  • Debbie Beardsley  March 29, 2011 at 4:55 pm

    This was a great story! I’m loving your Holy Sh*t stories and can’t wait for more!

    Reply
    • Raymond  March 30, 2011 at 12:07 am

      Thanks Debbie! I’m “dying” to read the rest of the series as well…hee hee….

      Reply
      • Torre DeRoche  March 30, 2011 at 12:25 am

        Bah ha! I love a person who gets into the festivities.

        Reply
  • ayngelina  March 31, 2011 at 8:17 am

    I had no idea you were from Newfoundland! I think out East kids just aren’t afraid of things like that, no wait, I would have totally been afraid. I wouldn’t have gotten on in the first place!

    Reply
    • Torre DeRoche  March 31, 2011 at 9:30 am

      You’re not scared enough of peer pressure, Ayngelina!

      Reply
    • Raymond  March 31, 2011 at 10:19 pm

      Newfoundland was an awesome place to be a kid! All kinds of gettin’-into-trouble possibilities! I think you are an N.S. girl correct?

      Reply
  • robin  March 31, 2011 at 9:24 am

    All very exotic to me – the ice that “came in” around our way when i was little could be found on the surface of puddles…

    Reply
    • Torre DeRoche  March 31, 2011 at 9:29 am

      That’s more ice than we had in Melbourne!

      Reply
  • Jillian  March 31, 2011 at 11:45 am

    I can’t believe you jumped across the ice. I had to re-read the paragraph to be sure. I’d call you fearless, not a wuss!

    Reply
    • Raymond  March 31, 2011 at 10:23 pm

      Haha — thanks! I think I was more the naive follower though, but from now on I will file it in the wicked/fearless rebel column. :>)

      Reply
  • Jozef @ Where Now  March 31, 2011 at 3:39 pm

    Ooo! I love and hate these moments! We had a similar one a few weeks ago where we almost got killed in a landslide in Peru! Very scary at the time but will always rember it!

    Reply
  • Jozef @ Where Now  March 31, 2011 at 3:39 pm

    Ooo! I love and hate these moments! We had a similar one a few weeks ago where we almost got killed in a landslide in Peru! Very scary at the time but will always remember it!

    Reply
    • Raymond  March 31, 2011 at 10:29 pm

      Yikes! Now that would be scary! You should write a post for Torre about it…:>)

      Torre — look at me floggin’ yer blog…hahaha

      Reply
      • Torre DeRoche  March 31, 2011 at 11:09 pm

        You da best, Raymond.

        Reply
  • adventureswithben  March 31, 2011 at 8:34 pm

    That was a fun story. I’ve heard of the icebergs in St. John’s and would love to see them. But I never knew you could run out to them! Yikes.

    Reply
    • Raymond  March 31, 2011 at 10:28 pm

      These are sort of the mini-ones that jam the harbour. Lots of ports around Newfoundland are clogged with them in late winter. Makes for great fun! You should check it out sometime! As for the icebergs, I have friends that do winter sea kayaking and sometimes they can get right up close. Now that’s dangerous!

      Reply
  • Andrea  April 6, 2011 at 3:22 am

    Wow, that must have been a major “Oh shit!” moment when you saw that boat. Now that you made it alive I can say, sounds like fun! =)

    Reply
    • Raymond  April 6, 2011 at 3:47 am

      Oh it was fun in a “if I ever get outta this I’m gonna turn my life around” kinda way. Seeing that ice in your latest post took me back let me tell ya…:)

      Reply
  • Ted Nelson  April 10, 2011 at 12:44 am

    I do some skiing in Minnesota and often cross large bodies of frozen water on skis. Breaking through into the icy water is always a great fear, so I can relate to this article.

    Reply
    • Raymond  April 13, 2011 at 2:56 am

      Ted, now that’s just crazy! 🙂

      Reply

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