Anyone who is aware of weather would assume Minnesota has frozen lakes in the winter. That is most certainly true most of the time. Those frozen lakes gave 'gotta prove something' boys like me an early spring/late winter challenge.
Like every freeze, there is a thaw. The ice recedes toward the center of the lake. If I remember right, someone said something like, “Did you hear that so and so swam out to the shrinking ice at the end of ‘some’ month?”
No one seemed to remember who and exactly when, but someone added, “They do it every year,” to the conversation.
I’m sure I was looking for another level of early teen peer acceptance which led to my thinking about going with them to the edge of a lake with road access as soon as it was possible for receding ice.
One of the rules was that the participant couldn’t just walk to the edge of the ice – he or she had to swim and break off a chunk. And there had to be two witnesses.
Most of the lakes are in the final thawing process by April, but some years it’s earlier. I don’t remember my year, but it was probably 1951, the same as my first hearing about the alleged annual event. They drove me to one of the lakes that had public access and the ice was obviously receding.
On March 1st, I stripped to my Jockeys, walked into the water, and swam about 100 ft. to reach and break off a chunk of ice. When experts talk about the shock of cold water, I completely understand. Had the distance been more – well who knows.
Not one of the older boys wanted to tie the date, and I realized I’d been set up.
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