Do you copy? Get ready to jump
In the spring, when the sea ice came in, it was like living in a freezer. The fortunate thing for us kids was, back then, we didn’t know what a freezer was.
Sometimes, the ice floes would freeze together from one side of the harbour — even from one side of the bay — to another. It was a good place to play hockey if the ice pans were frozen together and if you could find a pan large enough.
But you had to be fast. Outport kids knew that salt water ice didn’t last long once it started to come apart — it was mere minutes sometimes — before you were standing on a single floating pan of ice and almost always, some distance from shore.
But, when the ice floes did separate into individual pans, that was a whole new and daring sport — copying, or clumper jumpin’.
Copying was best carried out on the high tide. The rising water lifted the pans off the bottom and set them afloat. We would all run to the nearest flake and grab a lunger each. Actually, they were “ longers,” but “ longers” takes longer to say even though the same number of letters are employed; lungers it is.
Saving time, or at least not wasting it, on making words longer than they needed to be, seemed important when we were young and on a mission. A lunger? Oh, just a long pole of dried wood used as a floor for the flake, upon which salted fish were placed to dry. I thought you knew; sorry.
The objective of copying varied with the crowd you were with.
“Lets go out as far as the second Whaler.”
“ See who can get to the ridge first.”
“ Let’s see if we can find the wreck of the old Duchess.”
“ Let’s all get on that ice pan there and see if we can make it to the island.”
The objective decided, the fun began. The Brits call it punting, but what do they know? Some even call it rafting, but we rafted too and this wasn’t it. We were copying. You would pole your pan of ice as fast as you could and, as soon as you got close to another pan of ice that was nearer the objective, you were allowed to jump unto it and begin poling anew.
If your pan of ice happened to break into two or more pieces you had to be quick to decide where to jump next to keep from getting wet. Everyone referred to it as getting wet. With ocean temperatures at about 2 or 3 C at that time of year, “ wet” was a juvenile euphemism for “drowned,” though no one ever was.
Some would take off their logans, leave them on the beach and copy in their sock feet. This was not as bad as it sounds since most everyone wore two or three pairs of homemade, wool socks at that time of year.
Once the outer layer of socks got damp, they would freeze to the ice just enough to give you a much better grip than logans ever could. The other, and main advantage, was that if you did happen to get just your feet wet, you could still go home with dry outside footwear and parents would almost never know the difference, at least for several minutes.
As with most of our ad hoc sports, copying was terminated either by:
• reaching rarely;
• some adult threatening to tell our parents — sometimes;
• wind and/or heavy seas — frequently; or
• by darkness — almost always.