It was in the winter of 1931 when a bunch of children were playing out on the ice that covered the pond on the Walter’s place south of Wellsboro. It was a cold winter and the ice had frozen quickly and hard.
Under such conditions, the ice will be very transparent, almost as transparent as air.
When that happens, it gives the children an opportunity to lay on the ice and watch the little minnows play just under surface of the ice, skimming along the bottom of the pond.
This is always fascinating, providing the children with restful diversions from the much more active play involved in skating.
There were quite a number of children out on the pond one Saturday morning, all eager to take advantage of being out of school and having the chance to play out on the pond.
It had been cold enough long enough that there should not have been any thin spots in the ice. But there were.
And, a thin spot over near a bank where it was particularly deep proved fatal for Jesse Coleman who fell through while skating across that area.
Jesse plunged deep into that pond. Unfortunately, when he came back up, panicked and deathly cold, he ended up under the ice, not where he had fallen through.
It was a terrible experience for the other children watching poor Jesse clawing desperately at the underside of that ice in a vain attempt to break through it. As most of the children watched in horror, one of the older boys ran to the nearest farmhouse in an effort to get help.
Well, help came in the form of two men, but it was far too late for Jesse Coleman. By the time they were able to break through the ice and retrieve the body, it was already stiff from the extreme temperature of that ice water.
That proved to be a day that most of those children never were able to forget. The horror of watching their companion die eight inches away was far more than any child should have to bear.
That, of course, put an immediate stop to any further playing on that pond for the balance of that winter. By the following year in 1932, the memories of the loss of Jesse Coleman were still far too fresh for anyone to have any interest in playing on that pond that year, also.
The following year, the winter of ’33, was not a good year for playing on that or any other pond. The ice was rough, and overlaid with a layer of hardened snow most of the winter. It wasn’t the sort of conditions that would encourage anyone playing out there that second year after the death of Jesse.
By the winter of 1934, the memories of the local folks had softened the blow of the loss of Jesse, and a number of children were all ready to go out on that pond again. This was especially true since the ice was again of the extremely thick and very transparent variety.
It was ideal, not only for skating, but for laying on one’s tummy and watching the little minnows playing around just under the ice.
So, once again, the pond rang with the voices of excited children doing all those things that children will don on a nice frozen pond in the winter. Again, the children would skate until they were tuckered out, then rest, many of them laying on their tummies so they could watch the drama of the little living things there under the surface of the ice.
Then, suddenly everything was different. Suddenly there was a different image there down under the ice. There was the image of a young boy. The lad was obviously in agony, his face distorted by pain and terror….
Part two of this story will be in next week’s paper.