Late winter ice harvesting

Basic category for information pertaining to Lake Minnewaska's history.
Ken Phillips Sr

Late winter ice harvesting

Postby Ken Phillips Sr » Fri Sep 06, 2002 1:27 pm

[Original date = 3/13/2001]

Jason Decker was in charge of filling the ice houses. He would arrive at daybreak and call for me to help him get started. We would scrap the ice clear of snow with a scraper made for this purpose. We would then take a horse and plow the ice using an ice plow. This cut a groove in the ice about six to eight inches deep. Once the field had been cut one way we would go across the other (in a checkerboard pattern) thus making cakes of ice. The first row was sawed out and, once there was open water, the others could be broken apart with a spud.

I noticed that there was water in the grooves we had just cut. I called this to Jason’s' attention. "Just a crack in the ice," was his reply. On we went. Finally it was time to go the other way. Jason pulls a folded ruler out of his pocket to check the thickness. He keeps pushing the ruler down, but no bottom. We were sawing through the ice… If we had continued, the horse and we could be in the bottom of the lake about 60 feet deep!

We had to fill the ice houses at Wildmere, Cliff House and at Awosting Lake. One morning before daylight we arrived at Awosting and as we drove the team onto the ice they went through into the water. Some snow had covered the ice and melted the good ice underneath.

We did some fast moving around and got the one horse unhooked from the sleighs. We pulled that horse far enough so he got his front feet up on the ice. With a lot of help from us out he came. We got a good ice cold shower as the horse shook himself off.

I took the horse to shore, tied him to a tree, covered him with a blanket and went back to help get the other horse out. Yes, it was cold and windy and the second horse had been in the water for a long time. He was thrashing about still fastened to the sleigh and we couldn't get to near him. Jason told me to go get the horse I had just tied to the tree. This horse wasn't at all sure he wanted to go near that hole in the ice, nor did I. Jason got a rope around the neck of the animal still in the water and together we managed to hook the horse we had gotten out to the rope.

We all pulled together, two men and one horse, and out came the frantic swimmer and a part of the bobs. We blanketed the team, hooked them to the submerged sleigh and pulled the rig out onto solid ice. We lost no time getting started back home. Wet, cold and hungry we rode back the three and a half miles to Minnewaska.

This was an experience. I can almost see the steaming team as they got warm underneath the heavy water soaked blankets. We put the team in the stable, covered them with stable blankets and made sure they had food and water. Jason went home and I took a good hot bath.

I thought Jason was a little careless and I suggested that we bore a hole in the ice before we ventured on the lake with a team!

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