|__ First hand accounts of the harvesting of ice are very difficult, if not impossible, to obtain today. Most of those hearty souls who took part in this activity are no longer alive, and those that are must attempt to reconstruct often imperfect childhood memories. Besides, ice harvesting in the 1930's and 1940's was somewhat more mechanized than it was in the 19th century. That's why I find this "primary source" article invaluable.
__I have attempted to transcribe "word for word" the entire article and have included every picture from the original.
Settle back in a comfortable chair, then, and take a trip to a "simpler and easier" time. I can't help but wonder how Mr. Adsit would feel if he could sit here today and re-read his words from 106 years ago on this new-fangled gadget called a computer.
2nd grade teacher
Charles Fortes Magnet Academy
Providence, Rhode Island
__The rose vine which climbed the balcony thrusts a spray of creamy blossoms in at my window as if to remind me that it is midsummer. As I lean to smell of them, as one might lean to receive a kiss, there is a rumble and a clatter in the street below, and a yellow-covered vehicle thunders by, upon whose side I read the word "ICE" and straightway my thoughts revert to another and a far different scene and season.
__I see before me a wide expanse of gleaming ice upon which the sun glimmers with a thousand sparkles. Yonder, swaying to and fro as in some mystic dance, go a pair of skaters. If that athletic young man with the bold, black eyes has not yet won the petite fair-haired girl at his side who clings so closely to him, though she is evidently a practised skater, he is more modest than his face betokens. And see how like a frightened gull yonder ice-boat swoops down the wind, swift as the flight of the swallow, leaping and bounding over the hummocks like a greyhound that has sighted his prey! And hark! From yonder group of men who seem to be so busily at work, comes faintly upon the frosty air a song, a choral as robust, as resonant, as those the sailors sing when their bark is preparing for sea. These are the ice-cutters. No pleasure-seekers these, no makers of festivals, no chevaliers of the ladies but journeymen of nature, laborers who win bread from the fiercest moods of winter, who brave death itself to wrest from the gnomes of the frost the refreshment of thousands while the dog-star rages and the great cities faint under the merciless noon.
__These men sing as they saw and chop and heave, because they are overflowing with health, and because to them the fierce breath that blows from under the North Star is sweeter than the balmy airs from the South; for the midwinter is their harvest time.
Come nearer and observe them: big, brawny, honest-eyed fellows, wondering that you should shiver in your furs, though the thermometer marks close upon zero. Yonder is one with arms bare to the elbows; here is another up to his waist in water upon which the frost-needles collect as he stands; and here is yet another, tugging at a huge cake of ice. Look at him with admiration if you have an eye for physical strength; how the knotted tendons in his great arms and wrists attest the man's vast power. And do you observe he is perspiring, even in this keen air?
__"It is warm work," he tells his neighbor with the ice-saw, who agrees with him.
Even during the coldest winter there are but few days during which the ice-harvest may be reaped. The farther north, of course the longer the season; but the farther north you go the farther you get from the your market, and the greater the loss sustained in transportation and storage. So it is not surprising that these men work like engines under full pressure. Besides, as our burly friend, the foreman, observes,
__"You have got to keep movin' or freeze fast."
__Yonder, near the farther shore, where the ice-boats are flitting to and fro and the skaters are wheeling about, there is a narrow strip of ice that the wind has swept clear; but over the larger portion of the frozen expanse the snow has become packed down and partially amalgamated with the mass below.
__"All this has to be scraped off before we can begin cutting," our lusty informant tells us. "You couldn't no more cut ice with that rubbish atop of it than you could make a born liar tell the truth, -and, I take it, there ain't nothin' tougher'n that."
__A low laugh of rich enjoyment of his own aphorism comes somewhere from the good-natured human jelly, which shakes with the convulsion as if it would liquefy though the thermometer is at zero.
__A long line of horses, each drawing a framework of heavy plank shod with steel, approaches us solemnly. Over the edges of these frames, in general shape triangular with the opening forward, the loose snow rolls and foams like the froth before the bows of a ship.