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March 1, 2013
By , Lee, MA
My poppy's house is old. It was originally a colonial farmhouse. Now when most people look at my poppy's house they think “what a mess” or that it needs a lot of work. Both are true. However, to me it is a place of fun, exploration, adventure and learning.

His house is located in Tolland, Mass, which is a small hill town. My poppy has over one hundred and eighty acres of land. Most of it is woods, but he also has a beaver pond, a ravine, and a crab apple orchard amongst other things on his property. Hiking to and from these places is a given. The hikes can be long and hard if you are not used to the trails. I always feel good after walking in his woods. Hikes usually don’t occur in the winter, unlike in this story.

Winter came early that year. It was cold, icy and very snowy. At my house, down in Agawam, a suburban town, the snow was about a foot deep. In Tolland, however, there’s usually more. My sister and I had packed our overnight bags and were ready for our sleep over at Poppy’s. I was twelve. Emily, being my younger sister by two years, was ten. We couldn’t wait for the fun to start. Our cousins, Isaac and Tim were already up at the farm. I don’t know why we call Poppy’s home “the farm” seeing as how it really isn’t one any more.

Emily was a fourth grader. You could spot her in any crowd, no matter the size, because of her appearance. Despite her fiery hair and lanky height, she has a very quiet and shy personality, or at least she did then.

Tim and Isaac were both in fifth grade. Although they were close, their personalities were very different. Tim was the quiet, bookworm and video gamer. He preferred staying inside. Isaac was the loud, hyper active, troublemaker of the family. Often enough, he’d find himself in sticky situations.

The morning after Emily and I were dropped off, Poppy suggested we take a hike to the beaver pond. It had frozen solid and Emily, Isaac and I were really excited to see it. Tim, on the other hand, chose to stay back and play on his X-box. Poppy said we’d go around noon. The rest of that morning Isaac practically begged Tim to join us. Tim thought we were crazy though, for wanting to hike in the snow.

Soon Poppy and the three of us were bundled up and ready to hike. In the summer we could take the truck most of the way but with all the snow on the ground we were going to have to walk a total of about three miles, there and back.

So onward we trudged. All the way, there were puddles that were frozen over and looked a little brownish. We found that when we stepped in them our boots got soaked. About halfway to the pond, Isaac wanted to go out on his own to try to find it himself. Poppy said it was fine, seeing as how Isaac knew the woods really well.

Eventually we reached the pond. The scene was beautiful in the winter. Snow had drifted on top of the ice, making it sparkle. The surrounding trees looked like they were from a winter postcard. With the addition of the slight breeze, peace surrounded us.

My poppy had gone out on the ice just yesterday and all was fine so he started out again. After asking Poppy if he was sure it was safe, Emily and I started to follow. I still couldn’t keep a bad feeling from whispering in my ear. Poppy was probably seven feet in front of me and I was probably four feet in front of Emily. Just as that whispering stopped nagging at me, I noticed a large patch of light brown on the ice just a few paces in front of Poppy. Something inside of me said to yell: “Stop!!! Thin Ice!!!” Unfortunately, Poppy didn’t heed my warning quick enough and with one more step, crash went the ice, leaving Poppy in icy water up to his armpits and holding onto the ice in front of him. Emily and my eyes were like saucers and our jaws must have dropped as we edged very slowly over to him.

Once we had edged close enough I was too shocked to do anything but Emily bent down in order to help pull him out. Incredibly she managed to do so. In that moment I knew that we had to get back to the house quickly. Poppy was almost completely soaked in icy water in the middle of the winter and he, Emily and I were a mile and a half away from the house surrounded by woods. I was worried about hypothermia setting in.

We got out of the area as quick as we could and started our long hike back. About third of the way towards the house the breeze had gotten a little more forceful and we could hear a faint “Help. Help.” It took us a moment to realize it was Isaac. Poppy told Emily and me to go and find him. Emily took off as quick as someone could possibly run in the snow. I, on the other hand was hesitant. My mind was torn. A large part of me, didn’t want to leave Poppy, still worrying about hypothermia; while the other knew Isaac apparently needed help. When Poppy noticed that I was hanging back he urged me to go on ahead so I started off to find Isaac with one swift, concerned look back at Poppy.

I caught up to Emily and together we ran ahead, trying to find where Isaac was. After a while we turned back because we could no longer hear him. So we started back in the direction we came and found Poppy, who was climbing into some bushes. He had found Isaac and was pulling him out of some Mountain Laurels. When Isaac was free from their grasp, he claimed that the bushes were actually pricker-bushes.

Then I noticed another problem. Poppy’s pants and jacket were no longer soaked through. Instead there was ice build up about an inch thick. When we knocked on them it felt and sounded as if we were knocking on plywood.

When Isaac noticed Poppy’s new iceman look he questioned it. Emily and I explained what had happened, as we started walking. We still had a long way to go.

The longer we walked, the more Poppy wanted to keep stopping. I wouldn’t let him stop. Somehow I knew he needed to keep his body heat up. The only way I could think to do that was to keep walking. I also knew that he was getting tired, probably from the extreme cold. That thought of hypothermia scared me as much as it kept me going. I knew what could happen if Poppy didn’t get warm soon, and that was not on my agenda.

We eventually came to his once flourishing, but small, blueberry patch. I knew it wasn’t far now. Emily and Isaac decided to go back through the small cemetery. That path was the harder choice. It required more work because the path was not as well used.

I, however, stayed with poppy and took the easier and more direct path. I don’t think that Isaac and Emily fully understood the situation and what dangers were possible. I had only just watched a documentary, in school, that had a case of hypothermia in it. I was only in sixth grade at the time, which wasn’t much of an age difference compared with my sister and cousins, but in this situation I realized more than they did.

After what seemed like forever, we made it out of the woods. The house was in view now. Thankfully, this time we could walk on the main road. Emily and Isaac exited shortly after us as we headed to the warmth of the house.

As soon as we entered the house I said to poppy: “Get out of those clothes, take a hot shower and then go to bed!” I assured him we would be fine for the time being. Poppy, not paying my advice any attention, just changed clothes. Then he went about his day as if nothing had happened. That night he strongly regretted not listening to me. He was beginning to feel the effects of the day’s events. I remember him telling me that he wished he had had that hot shower, as I suppressed an “I told you so.”

The next day was the day that Poppy would drop us all off at our homes. Within a short amount of time the whole family knew about Poppy’s little icy dip. They were concerned at first, but now these events are just considered a family story.

When I look back now, I think of the lessons that these events taught me. One example of this was learning to trust my intuition. Often times it’s those life lessons that are of great value and they can only be taught by experience.

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