[Illustration: Fig. 1. The Old Truck in the Attic.]
[Illustration: Fig. 2. The Black Walnut Box.]
This was how the society came to be formed. Bill, whom I met at boarding-school, was an orphan, and that’s why he was sent to boarding-school. His uncle had to go down to Brazil to layout a railroad, I believe, and so he packed Bill off to our school, which was chosen in preference to some others because one of the professors there had been a classmate of Uncle Ed’s at college. Bill roomed with me, and naturally we became great chums. When Christmas time came, of course I invited him to spend the holidays with me. My home was situated in the little village of Lamington, on the Jersey side of the Delaware River. Here we arrived late at night on the Saturday before Christmas. A cold wind was blowing which gave promise of breaking the spell of warm weather we had been having, and of giving us a chance to try our skates for the first time. True to our expectations, the next day was bitterly cold, and a visit to the canal which ran along the river bank, just beyond our back fence, showed that quite a thick skim of ice had formed on the water. Monday morning, bright and early, found us on the smooth, slippery surface of the canal. “Us” here includes, in addition to Bill and myself, my two younger brothers, Jack and Fred, and also Dutchy Van Syckel and Reddy Schreiner, neighbors of ours. It was the custom at the first of December every year to drain out most of the water in the canal, in order to prevent possible injury to the canal banks from the pressure of the ice. But there was always a foot or two of water covering the bottom of the canal, and this afforded a fine skating park of ample width and unlimited length, while the high canal banks on each side protected us from the bitter wind that was blowing. Toward noon, however, the wind shifted and swept at a terrific rate down the narrow lane between the canal banks. We could scarcely make headway against the blow. It was too much for Bill, who wasn’t as used to skating as we were. He sat down in a sheltered nook and commenced to think. When Bill sat down to think it always meant that something was going to happen, as we soon learned.
“Say, Jim,” said he to me, “have you got any canvas up at the house?”
“No,” I replied. “What do you want it for?”
“I want to rig up a skate sail. If you have an old sheet, that will do just as well.”
“Well, I guess I can find you an old sheet. Do you think you can make one?”
“Sure thing,” answered Bill, and off we went to the house, where I received my first lesson on the practical genius of my chum.
[Illustration: Fig. 3. Laying Out the Sail.]
“Bill’s” Skate Sail.