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.
“Dying is a very dull, dreary affair, and my advice to you is to have nothing whatsoever to do with it.” — W. Somerset Maugham
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.
Torre DeRoche is the author of two travel memoirs, Love with a Chance of Drowning (2013) and The Worrier’s Guide to the End of the World (due out September 2017). She has written for The Atlantic, The Guardian Travel, The Sydney Morning Herald, Emirates, and two Lonely Planet anthologies.