`Haul away-y-y-y!'

JUST about the end of January the ice in the pond would be thick enough, and the word would go out for the crew to assemble. Harvesting the ice was considered a community urgency, so just about everybody able and willing would appear to endure a little more than two weeks of bone-chilling cold on the exposed pond. It was so much an all-hands-on-deck matter that a folksy approach prevailed, and the job was more of an outing than a chore. The mechanical refrigerator did away with the ice harvest and no doubt eroded some of that community spirit. One of the regulars in the crew was Pooky Kierstead, who stacked the cakes of ice in tiers when they arrived up in the ice house, sliding in on the runway. Another was the Rev. Waldo Emerson Thysson, pastor of the First Baptist Church. Pooky came because his strong back was needed, but the Rev. Mr. Thysson did not ask to be paid by the hour as Pooky did. Mr. Thysson was just as big through the shoulders as Pooky, but he dismissed his presence as doing his part for the good of the cause. He offered a sort of clerical immunity from crass gain, but he was practical. He knew that Mr. Bagshot, our coal and ice dealer, would keep the parsonage ice chest loaded all summer as a contribution to spiritual needs, and that a ton of coal would also appear.

Mr. Thysson's customary job was by the channel of open water at the foot of the runway up to the ice house. He and Randy McAllister stood there facing each other from opposite sides, and with hooks on long poles would pull two double cakes of ice into position for the iron frame that fitted around them and pulled them up. A cable went from the frame through pulleys, to be pulled by a team of horses. While two double cakes were ascending to be greeted by Pooky Kierstead, Mr. Thysson and Randy made two more ready. The emptied frame would come whistling down under its own gravity, jump playfully into position about the two cakes, and when all was ready Mr. Thysson would bellow out in his magnificent pulpit voice, ``Haul away-y-y-y!''

On my own, I care not to intrude misplaced levity into a situation that was at once sacred and profane. Mr. Thysson was smart, and was careful to make himself a hail-fellow amongst the men. As a cutter of ice, he didn't want his function as a fisher of men to trip things up; he didn't want respect for the cloth to slow the action. So he adjusted, and the crew appreciated that. So it was the Rev. Mr. Thysson, not I, who likened his ice-pond situation to that of a bishop at the font, and occasionally offered scriptural allusions that amused rather than redeemed.

Every now and then, perhaps two-three times a day, the iron frame around the two double cakes of ice would slip, for some reason, and halfway up the runway it would release the two double cakes so they returned all a-whoopin' to the open water below. This might have been dangerous to Mr. Thysson and Randy except that there was always a warning of impending tragedy. When the iron frame came loose, the cable went slack and the straining horses would plunge out of balance. Knowing what had happened, the teamster walking behind the horses would let go an enormous outcry. Everybody on the pond knew what that meant, and everybody would shout. By the time the cakes got back to the channel in the pond, Mr. Thysson and Randy would have absented themselves to places of safety.

The collision, when the two double cakes arrived, was exactly that of the irresistible force and the immovable object. And along with the mighty crunch would be a cascade of pond water that flew off among the workers on the ice and usually drenched those not quick enough to scamper. When this happened, it would throw the entire operation, including the horses, into confusion. After the deluge there would be a small moment when everybody looked about to see how many had been killed. It was now that the Rev. Mr. Thysson brought things back into focus with a booming ``Ah-h-h-men!'' That restored the mood and the ice harvest.

Usually, two Sundays came and went during ice-cutting, and while everybody else respected the urgency and refrained from devotions, Mr. Thysson had to preach. Accordingly, on Sundays Pooky would come down from the ice house and take the minister's place at the runway. It was Pooky's whim to tell how it was his privilege to ``supply'' while Parson Thysson was away on business.

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