The Roulette Game

The most powerful reinforcement is certainly intermittent reinforcement.  We smile faintly at the predictable birthday present, while we fantasize about pleasures snatched from uncertainty.  Every gambler knows this.  And every iceboater.   

And here we are, almost  in November:  the tomatoes have fallen to the ground untouched by the frost which used to threaten “any time after labor day”.   It’s hard to believe.  Both September and October have been broken records for warmth.  I wonder if Lloyd has been charting, as he usually does, the fall cooling of Chickawaulkie.  And then yesterday’s bad news:  our little weekly newspaper predicted a warmer than normal winter.   Hardly a surprise.  Happily, they left a little wild card in the game.  Perhaps an El Nino will cool us down.  

So I sit here in mild panic.   Could this be the year?   Could we finally have a non-season?  Could the north-creeping disaster which has hit our brothers in New Jersey and Massachusetts cross our sacred state line?  

It’s always unsettling to look too closely at the mechanics of things.  I remember as a young boy, taking the Pullman train every summer from Cincinnati to Martha’s Vineyard.   I loved to linger between the cars, in the wind and deafening click-clack, and look down at the tracks swaying beneath.   It  would stir up strong uncertainties: would the rails continue to hold, the wheels not break?   Then, with relief, I would take my seat again and enjoy the view.  Today, I must relearn that lesson: just enjoy the view.  

I also find comfort in our own iceboating history.  For me this history holds about 15 seasons.   The fat years have sometimes yielded 30 days on the ice; the lean ones perhaps 12 to 14.   And never, in all those seasons,  have I ever looked back in April and not marvelled at the magic we had.   What we’ve been losing to the warming trend, we’ve been gaining for two reasons:  we have far better weather prediction and far better spying.  These two have enabled us to keep our passion alive against the odds.

And  we’ve had another critical advantage.   Amid the aging of our community, there has remained a steady core of buddies:  Those fellow deranged beings, who have continued to lie, to exagerate; to guilt-trip,; to brow-beat; to wheedle, cajole,  entice– and  willingly  to leave their home fires.  Such that yet again, thanks to their company,  we will  do the sit-ups, sharpen the runners, improve the clothing.   We’ll spin yet again the fascinating roulette wheel of ice and…….  show up and pray!


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