All this frigid cold, ice and snow bring thoughts of days gone by and a favorite pastime of winter.
Winter brings drastic change, especially to the creeks. By the first of January, the surface of the water was frozen solid, thus offering a new form of recreation. On the weekends when school was not in session, the younger residents of Brown County could be found skating on the creek. The stretch of Salt Creek from the old iron bridge south of Nashville to the old Mill Dam a few hundred yards up the stream was a favorite spot, as was the bluff. The latter was a long, clear stretch of the creek extending west from the bend in the stream just below the crest of Town Hill. Kelp Grove also knew the ring of ice blades now and then.
A typical day or evening skating on the creek was not to be forgotten. Keith Taggart, proprietor of the Sinclair Gas Station, saved his used tires for the occasion. Together with the abundance of driftwood to be found along the creek, they provided the fires to keep the skaters warm. Keith, an excellent skater, was there to see that the fire was kept going. From the overhanging limbs along the creek, gas lanterns were hung to give light if the skaters needed it, although bright moonlight was much more desirable.
No words can adequately describe the pleasure and the peacefulness of skating on an isolated stretch of the creek in the stillness of the night. The muffled ring of the blades echoing from bank to bank stood out in sharp contrast to the wintry silence in the open, and the eerie shadows cast by the skaters in the soft moonlight as they moved in twos and threes up and down the ice, left one with an indescribable feeling of contentment.
A heavy snowfall would add to the pleasure of skating, although it meant that we would have to take our shovels with us to the creek. Hours would be spent skating up and down with our shovels pushing the snow in long rows three or four feet high. Not only did this clear the ice, but it also gave us hurdles to jump, a feat at which we became quiet adept. Ice hockey was a game we frequently played, using a rock for a puck, and sticks cut or broken from the limbs along the shore.
On pleasant winter days, skating on the creek was a community affair. Young and old alike donned their skates for the fun. “Daddy” William Woods, our school custodian, never felt too old to join in the skating, though he was well past the age when one normally joins in such activities. Parents, teachers and whole families joined in the fun.
While on the west end of Salt Creek, the Nashville residents were skating, on the far east end of Salt Creek, young people from east of Gnaw Bone were skating as well. Pearl Roberts-Hoover told stories about ice skating on the creek. Saturday or Sunday was about the only time they could go skating because they all lived and worked with their families on the farm. Her boyfriend, Wilbur Hoover, and other young people would skate all the way from the Mackey Bridge to Gnaw Bone.
With an unseasonable warm-up in midwinter, or with the first spring thaw, ice skating on the creek was brought to an end. But as long as there was a bit of ice left, the die-hard ice-skaters persisted to the point of getting wet now and then.
Part of this story is from “Brown County Remembers,” part from memories.
— Pauline Hoover, Brown County Historical Society