“You call this cold, little brother?” was Scott’s reply. “Back in Boston we’d likely have three feet of snow and the harbor might even be frozen over. I know for certain that all the lakes and ponds are, and probably have been since Thanksgiving.”
“Well it feels cold to me, big brother.”
Scott gave his brother a bemused look as Johnny pulled up the collar on his heavy jacket. The brothers were returning from a trip to the high country to check on stray cattle that should have been moved down to the lower valleys a month ago. Deep in the San Joaquin valley, where Lancer was snuggled among the San Benitos mountains, the weather would be cool, maybe, but not as cold as it was where they were.
“I sure could use something to warm me up,” Johnny complained. “Can’t we stop to build a fire?”
“You want to get home in a few days or do you want to be another week?” Scott wasn’t entirely unsympathetic for while he’d grown up in Boston with his maternal grandfather, Johnny had spent much of his childhood in towns along the Mexican border.
“The sooner the better,” was the answer.
“Then we need to keep going,” Scott said.
An hour and a half later they made camp for the night in the shelter of some large boulders with tree branches laid across the opening between them to keep the snow off.
When morning came the sun shone like a big yellow ball in a bright sapphire sky. All around them the snow glittered and shone like diamonds. Scott, taking one look at the frozen pond now swept clean of snow by a brisk breeze, and falling back on memories of Boston, had an idea about how to warm his little brother up.
He walked over to the edge of the pond and, before his brother realized what he was up to, he was out on the surface checking for weak spots in the ice. Five minutes later he was back and dragging his little brother with him.
“Hey, what’s the big idea?”
“You said you were cold,” Scott said.
“How’s dragging me out on the ice gonna help that?” Johnny wanted to know.
“You are about to have a skating lesson.”
“A skating lesson. Watch.”
Scott got a little bit of a running start and then, suddenly, he wasn’t running – he was gliding. And having a grand time of it too. Sliding wasn’t quite the same as having skates but it was fun and it was exercise that got the blood flowing.
“Come on Johnny! It’s fun! And it’ll warm you up.”
Protesting all the way, and taking a few tumbles, Johnny did as his brother showed him. In spite of himself he found that he was enjoying it and he was getting warm. Maybe there was something to this “skating” business.
A few days later the brothers arrived home. It was quite cool so they were glad to turn their horses over to the care of one of the ranch hands and get into the house. A couple of hours later, after a hot bath and clean dry clothes for both, they sat by the fireplace with cups of hot cocoa provided by their foster sister, Teresa O’Brien.
The physical warmth of the hot baths, warm clothes, cocoa and the fire was now accompanied by an emotional and psychological warmth of being safe, warm and contented by their own fireplace.