The Ice Cube Club

Some people collect stamps. Some people collect baseball cards. Some people collect dolls. And some people collect ice cubes.

You might not have heard about the ice cube collectors before, but they're really not so strange as they sound. You might even run into some ice cube collectors if you visit Atlanta, Georgia in the winter.

You see Atlanta, Georgia is a southern city. And southern cities don't get too much snow. When it does snow, the snow often melts a few hours after it hits the ground.

So children in Atlanta don't often get to go sledding. Which is a real shame. Everyone deserves to go sledding. Sledding is too important to leave up to the weather.

A year or two ago a group of parents in Atlanta decided to do something about the snow problem. The parents got together at one of their houses, heated up some hot chocolate, and talked late into the night about how they could help their children do more sledding.

The first suggestion that was made was to start collecting ice cubes. If ten or twenty families collected ice cubes for two or three weeks, they could almost cover a small hill with the ice cubes.

The whole idea was not to create a sledding hill just with ice cubes. Rather, the idea was to create a hill that was cold enough so that if it did snow, the snow wouldn't melt right after it hit the warm ground.

Now, ice cubes are not that comfortable to go sledding on, so you need to crush the ice first before putting it out on the hill. Crushing ice is not so difficult if you're just making enough crushed ice for a cold soda. But if you're crushing twenty or thirty buckets of ice to spread out on a hill, that takes quite a bit more effort.

You could get some sort of ice cube crushing machine to crush a lot of ice. But the families in the ice cube didn't have a lot of money to spend on fancy machines.

So they crushed the buckets of ice cubes by hand, using a hammer and a large block of wood. When the families were collecting ice, each day they'd create two or three trays of ice in the freezer section of their refrigerators. Then each morning they'd empty out the trays into large garbage cans at the back of their houses. (You need to use plastic garbage cans because the ice sticks to the sides of the metal garbage cans.)

Sometimes when the weather got too warm, the ice in the garbage cans would start melting. That's why the families made sure there was a drainage hold at the bottom of the old plastic garbage cans. And they also made sure that the garbage cans were sitting more than ten yards away from the house, so that the melted water from the garbage cans would not seep back into the basements of the houses.

The real excitement occurred when the weather forecaster gave a prediction of snow. Whenever that happened, the families in the ice cube club would all start calling each other, making plans to put down some crushed ice on the hill before the snow started falling.

When the crushed ice was spread out on the hill, all they needed was a half inch of snow for the kids to be able to start sledding. If you didn't have the crushed ice on the hill, you would need at least two inches of snow before you could really start sledding.

The first year the ice cube club was formed, every family was very excited about the idea. Every night the kids would fill up the ice cube trays in their freezers. And every morning they'd empty the new ice cubes into the old plastic garbage cans out back.

But the part that was really tough was crushing the ice before putting it out on the hill. You needed to have some real strong adults to crush that much ice. And then you needed some more strong adults to shovel the crushed ice out onto the hill.

Soon the ice cube club started thinking of other ways that they could help get more snow onto the sledding hill. It wasn't long before one of the kids came up with an excellent suggestion. The suggestion was to listen carefully to the weather forecast, and if snow was predicted, then put out several large sheets onto the grassy areas surrounding the sledding hill.

The old sheets could then capture the extra snowflakes. After the snow had finished falling, the snow on the sheets could be dragged over the sledding hill, and dumped right on the hill. That way there would be more snow on the sledding hill.

Not everyone was excited about the idea of the ice cube club. In fact, some people were cold on the idea. After the discussions, some parents realized how much work this would be for such a brief time spent having fun.

As one persnickety parent argued, many of the children had not had their frostbite shots yet, and spending so much time creating fun was bound to give the children the wrong idea. Not to mention that the whole notion would put them on a slippery slope. Other parents felt that frivolity is too serious to be dealt with lightly.

So thatšs how the ice cube club issue started to heat up. And when the weather turned crisp, with puffy clouds rolling in over the hills, everything was ready for the first ice cube club test.

The organizers waited nervously for the families to arrive with the buckets of ice. Anticipation kept building as to whether the club experiment would work. When people arrived, however, it became clear that the instructions were mangled. Instead of bringing a bucket of ice, people were bringing single trays of ice cubes. The club members quickly learned that a single tray of ice will get you about two feet down the hill.

And only a half dozen people brought ice cubes with them, limiting the sledding experience further.

The experiment was not a total failure, because people came to realize that the ice cube club could work if enough people cared about it. So, with renewed fervor, the club members committed themselves to solidifying their preparations.

By the end of the week, ice cube reserves were accumulating, and the prospects for thrilling sled rides were just a few snowflakes away. When the sky turned overcast and the weather forecaster had that gleam in her eye, all was set for the grand adventure.

Of their own accord, people started showing up at the top of hill, each carrying two buckets of ice cubes. Spontaneously, the ice cubes started getting dumped on the hill.

Several adults were worried about the crushing problem of the ice cubes. The problem was quickly solved by the excited children jumping up and down in anticipation. Soon, adults joined in, moving their foot-stomping onto the ice cubes. In no time at all, a perfectly granular base was established for those first few snowflakes to land on. As darkness fell, everyone helped to spread the ice all over the hill.

By the time they had finished, a light layer of snow had already accumulated on the ice. Unable to contain their excitement, the parents grabbed the sleds from their kids and headed down the hill head first. The children, being the only ones with a sense of responsiblity, cautioned the adults to be careful. The littlest kids grabbed ice trays and joined their parents at the bottom of the hill. With all of the giggling and guffawing taking place, persnickety adults couldnšt help but peer out their windows to find out what the ruckus was.

One of the most fussy in this group ran to grab his snow boots, and ran to the hill with great glee. His wife shook her head, but grabbed an extra sled for herself.

Since sledding is such a rare delight in Atlanta, the kids and adults stayed out all night. As the sunšs rays poked through the trees in the morning, people sighed as they took their last sled rides.

What had once been only a whimsical idea had developed a strong following with devoted believers. Forecasts of even the lightest amount of snow had people throughout the neighborhood preparing for their next adventure. Sledding would never be the same in Atlanta, Georgia.

By the Benson Family of Bethesda, Maryland and Phil Shapiro of Arlington, Virginia. (Where the average snowfall is - -- "not enough.")

Copyright 1999 (Freely usable for noncommercial purposes.)


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