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They couldn't, and neither could I. A big problem was the unexpected lack of snow for Christmas.
"O.K. Look," I said finally. "Let's just get the soccer ball and kick it around on the ice."
And like three modern-day Abner Doubledays, we invented the game of hoccer. Or sockey. All you need is a frozen lake, a soccer ball and four old automobile tires used for boat bumpers in the summer.
You put two tires at either end for goals, defining any length you want the playing field to be, and go from there. The rules sort of develop by themselves. But you do have to have hard, smooth, glare ice to really appreciate the game. Snow on the ice slows and stabilizes the game too much. Playing on glare ice is like climbing a playground slide wearing roller skates. You take four steps before you begin to move. Usually backward.
It was Jake and Darren on one side and Walter Mitty on the other. Mitty, for the first hour or so, was, ahem, outstanding. He used both cunning and guile to lure the kids out of position and then boomed 50-foot kicks between the "goal posts." He developed a shot—one had to watch closely for the opportunity—between the two defenders through the tiniest of openings. Because of the ice, you could attempt this shot 20 feet away from the defenders and watch gleefully as they helplessly tried to scramble toward the ball on the slippery surface. The best way to block a shot was to go all out in the classic goalie maneuver, throwing a leg out and sliding across the ice. I won the first two games easily, 10-2, 10-4.
Then the kids discovered teamwork. They learned to approach my goal from either side, luring me out of position, and then actually passing to each other. Still, I won the third-game 10-6. They were getting stronger and I was getting tired, but I discovered a way to gain a much-needed timeout. I deliberately kicked the ball, hard, wide of the goal and watched it skitter a few hundred feet along the lake shore, one of the kids in hot pursuit. I then collapsed on one of the tires and caught my breath. Refreshed, I pulled out the last game, a 10-9 cliff-hanger.
I went to bed early that night, exhausted but doubly victorious. Not only had I beaten the boys four games to none, but I had also thoroughly beaten snomovision for one day. The kids had spent most of the day outside on the lake, as they should have.
The next morning I was awakened early and abruptly by two fired-up ex-snomovision fanatics.
"Come on. Get up, Dad."
"Yeh, get up, Uncle Ronnie. We want to play hoccer."