In this unblinking and touching reflection of Baby Boomer childhood Eddie Frye and Herbie Bierly take the reader along for their outlandish and often dangerous adventures. Set in a small Pennsylvania town in the mid-1950s Fools and Children chronicles the escapades of two young lads hell-bent on action and adventure. They and their rogue’s gallery of friends create havoc and consternation among town residents when they flood a section of town, loose a horse on the streets, and plan a bank robbery. They survive perilous undertakings in caves and streams, becoming both heroes and victims in this coming-of-age memoir. Life’s lessons come from poignant experiences with death, guns, horses, and girls. Ed Frye is nationally known for his leisurely-told tales, colorful characters, and reflections of the last years of childhood innocence, lost to us now.
Excerpt from Chapter Six
I almost froze/drown one winter day in the raging Elk Creek. The scene, my thoughts at the time, and my lasting memories of the event, are in black and white.
Of course Bierly was involved. In fact, it was entirely his fault that I found myself in this predicament. I might still be angry about that if it weren’t that he saved my life at the end of the tale.
It was a very cold winter day – it had to be February because it was that fierce cold -- the numbing, deep-frozen cold that comes in the very middle of the season, not along its edges. Everything was frozen to something else…
And Bierly and I just had to be downtown. Queeny was with us, but she wasn’t thrilled about it. She was cold from her toe pads up. She sat on the hard snow and tucked her head down into her neck as deeply as she could…
The water tumbled over about half the dam in a rush, white and frothy, cascading down the four feet or so into the creek below. The power of the dropping water kept a ten-foot-wide well of water below the falls swirling about from the constant barrage. The rest of the creek was frozen solid…
That looked like fun. Elk Creek usually froze over in the winter, but seldom as fully as this. We could just tell that the ice, away from that pool under the dam, was really thick and hard. It was no longer semi-translucent or even that pinkish opaque that ice gets. It was white on white on white. Just right for skating.
And here we were without our skates. Well, no matter. Bierly decided we ought to just climb down the retaining wall and slide across the ice in our engineer boots. I was reluctant. That thin ice near the unfrozen hole had me a bit concerned. So, down we clamored and started to slide around.
I was sufficiently distant from the falls when Bierly called from my right, the direction of the dam. He wanted me to do something. I don’t recall. I did one of my little running slides to get over to him.
And slid right toward the dam, the watery hole, and the thin ice that surrounded it. I went much further than I had anticipated; that darn ice was really smooth. The thin ice nearest the falls gave way. Into the frigid water I plunged, straight down as if I had been dumped off my perch in one of those carnival dunk tank games.
I fell to my shoulders. My arms were outstretched on the thin ice, though pieces of it nearest my body began to break and fall away. My feet were not touching the bottom of the creek as I dangled by my armpits. My engineer boots filled with water, my jeans soaked up water, along with the pockets and liner of my brown, faux leather, Sears Roebuck jacket.
I was facing the dam. I could see that white water tumbling down to the small strip of ice that separated me from the watery pond in front of me. Its current was sweeping my dangling legs downstream, almost up to the ice layer above them. I could feel and sense the thinnest ice – that closest to me -- giving way and breaking off in all sizes of geometric wedges. Naturally, I was thrashing about, trying to hoist myself up out of the hole that I was making larger and larger by my movements. The more I splashed the frigid water, the more I accelerated the cracking ice. I tried groping more horizontally for a purchase on more ice rather than attempting to pull myself vertically up and out of the hole. Neither strategy seemed to be working… But now I was getting cold – and weaker. The damn ice kept receding on me, and I was clambering after it, in the direction of the deepest water of the creek.
I knew something for sure. I knew that if I slipped away from that ice, if I lost my grip on the surface, I was going downstream under ice that was undoubtedly too thick for me to punch through. I knew the current would carry me to shallow water, but ice-covered. I could not count on any air pockets down there (unbelievably, I was really thinking these things because I had seen on television where someone like Houdini or whoever had been trapped under ice but found an air pocket.) That small hope was unrealistic anyhow, and I knew it. The water was too damn cold to survive even if I could get a breath of air. I had this vision of myself swept down the stream, under thick ice, and then wedged there for the ten minutes it would take someone to cut out my lifeless body.
I needed Bierly, and I needed him fast.
About The Author
Ed Frye has been writing all his adult life. Ticket To Oregon is his second novel, following his 2011 autobiographically-based, Fools and Children. Prior to these Ed has authored three textbooks used in colleges and high schools and more than two dozen articles published in numerous educational journals and popular magazines.
Dr. Edward T. Frye is a nationally known writer and speaker. For the last two decades he has worked in 36 states, addressing more than 77,000 program participants.
Prior to this work, Ed served as a school administrator in three Pennsylvania school districts during his 32 years in public education. His career titles include Executive Director, Assistant Superintendent, Coordinator of English and Federal Programs. Dr. Frye has been a part-time professor in two universities. He co-founded and was president of StreetSmart, a company providing sales training to business staff.
Ed is an avid racquetball player and enjoys all things involving water, pools, and lakes. He is a licensed pilot, flying a Cessna Cardinal for years. A long-time dirt track racing enthusiast, Ed treasures his opportunity to drive a Sportsman at a local track.
Dr. Frye holds degrees from Lock Haven University, Temple University, and Penn State. His professional website offers a complete resume, a listing of his publications, photos, and client responses: https://fryedock.org/