How deep is the swamp?

By Paul Murray | Feb 10, 2021
Source: Paul Murray

I didn't want my fame to come this way. I would have preferred to be noticed for something else, but it is not to be.

There I was, sitting on my tractor with its four-foot snow blower, stuck in the icy pond in Owls Head Village. I was working out how best to get off the tractor and back to land without swimming. What made me think this was a good idea? I thought the pond must be ready to skate on, because my wife and I were skating up at Hosmer Pond.

I’d been checking a corner of the Owls Head pond for three days in a row. On the third day, I jumped hard on it. Yes. Solid. Then it went down to single digits that night. Surely, we’d added another inch of ice. I was positive we were all set to go. Kids could start skating soon. It wouldn’t take me an hour to clear off that pond.

I started to take a turn near the outside edge, since the snow blower won't throw snow right off the pond from the middle. I’ve cleared a pond for years in Connecticut where we used to live that used to be a hockey hub for local kids and adults. Kids against the parents, I couldn't wait to have that here. Aaron at the General Store and I talked about hockey on the pond. He'd fallen in one day, checking the pond. We laughed about that. I thought, 'too bad he doesn't have all the experience I have in taking care of a pond in the winter. He could have avoided falling in.'

Right. He got one foot wet. I was driving happily along watching where the snow was being blown, when all of a sudden, my front end went under, the machine quit and I was in the ice, not on it. Oh boy.

I’d just dunked a Case Ingersoll tractor, weighing 875 pounds. I’d done it before with my 70-year-old 9N, but got my car near enough to haul it out. There was no way to get a vehicle near this in the woods. I thought as I walked home. Line, come along. Tie onto the front axle, get the line back to shore. Hook up the come-along. Pull her out. Easy. I can do it before dark. It was after four. I came back and tried to approach the tractor. No way could I get on that ice near the machine. How did I ever get off? I needed boards.

With the boards, ones from Bill Buckminster, who used to take care of this pond, I got back to the tractor and got a line fast to the high side of the front axle. Looking it over from land it looked awkward; I'd just tip the tractor over pulling from that side.

I had to tie onto the other side of the axle, too, the one that was under water. Back out onto the ice. While I was slipping around the frozen fenders trying not to go into the drink, someone yelled from a truck, "Do you need a hand?"

Well, I was flummoxed. I didn't know if I needed a hand or not yet and said so. He left. I continued flubbing around trying to get a chain on that under water axle. By the time I got back to shore, the fellow who offered to help was there, Matthew. A boatbuilder who lives nearby. Nice. We can all use a hand really, even if we don’t always know it. Then John showed up. He lives across from the pond.

Well, you probably don't want to hear every last little bit about it, but between Matthew crawling out there to chop ice, and John's suggestion to put the winch up higher in the tree so it pulled up on the tractor instead of straight in through the ice, we did it in a couple of hours.

Matthew went in over his boots twice doing ice/mud duty, and was unfailingly cheerful. John, too, calm and reasoned, took a trip home to get a battery operated Sawzall to get rid of a sapling that was right in the way of hauling the tractor ashore.

By this time, of course it was long past dark. Bill stopped by for a minute to say hi from the far side of the pond. F.J.’s son Chris saw the tractor in the ice. Even though we did most of the work under the cloak of darkness, the word was out. My fifteen minutes of fame.

When we finally had the tractor on solid ground, I had to try. Remember the scene with the VW bug in Woodie Allen movie "Sleeper?"  I climbed on that tractor, mud everywhere, ice on the seat, steering wheel caked with frozen gunk and turned the key. It fired right up and I drove it home. You gotta love it.

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